Missy, part 3

03 Jul

If you’ve seen someone shirtless, it’s bad form to break up via text message. Another rule of internet dating is that politeness makes you feel like less of a dick.

Possibly that’s why politeness was invented. So you can say terrible things to people and feel okay about it.

Missy’s flight had just landed somewhere . . . west. Denver, maybe. Already I couldn’t keep track. She’d texted me to tell me she’d landed safely. Of course I was pleased she was safe, although for a selfish reason. If she’d died in a plane crash while I was thinking about breaking up with her, I’d feel enormously guilty. I didn’t text back right away. Driving gave me plausible deniability.

Polly lived with her new husband in a fashionable suburb of Dayton–the one with the good schools, quaint shops and heavily patrolled streets. I’d spent money I didn’t have so I could visit her. Gas cost $4 a gallon, but I’d already decided to swipe food from my roommates that week. I hadn’t seen her since I left for Japan, but she’d invited me over for lunch that afternoon.

She lived in a generically pleasant two-story house. Despite its bedrooms and basement, it gave the impression of being a bungalow. She smiled when she saw me and gave me a tour of the house, airily sashaying through the rooms, bodily communicating intense self-satisfaction. Her daughter was off at school. She wore something new and quietly fashionable. My clothes looked the same way they did the last time I’d seen her. At least I’d lost weight. Economic pressure to ride a bike and buy less food does have limited and horrible advantages.

She introduced me to her husband, a bland and bewildered man with acres of bare scalp beneath a central strip of long, thin hair, sort of an inverted comb-over. I hated him instantly. He was home for lunch. He left again for work, and I hung around for maybe twenty minutes more, nominally talking to Polly but really coveting her legs, her lips, and the life she’d suddenly built without me. She’d pressured her husband to propose after they’d known each other for five months, they’d bought a house together at nine, and they were on their honeymoon just after a year of acquaintanceship. While I was gone, she’d bought the Ikea “suburban bliss” flat pack and assembled it. Unaccountably, I felt abandoned, even though I was the one who’d gone to Asia rather than marry this woman. I believed she was living the life I deserved.

Here is another rule. It’s more of a general rule than a dating one, but I’ll share it with you anyway. Never hope to get what you deserve. Probably, what you think you deserve and what you actually deserve are grotesquely dissimilar.

She made lunch for us. I left soon after. Polly kissed me goodbye. We stood behind her front door, using it to block the neighbors’ view. We kissed a lingering kiss that was thirty seconds and a flick of the tongue too long to be chaste or friendly or nostalgic. She pushed me out onto her front porch and closed the door. Later she’d tell me that her husband refused to sleep with her once they’d bought the house together, and so she went months at a time without sex. Later than that I would learn that, like me, she was unable to let go of things and especially people she’d decided were hers. Even later, I would learn that she used truth creatively, constructing something that no longer resembled itself and instead resembled her. Most people are able to fabricate the truth. It’s called lying, and it’s easy. She was able to fabricate sincerity. I don’t know what that’s called.

I drove to the nearest gas station to fill up. My phone buzzed in my pocket and would continue to do so for the hour drive back to Columbus. The messages themselves were irrelevant. Each time it was Missy, wordlessly reminding me that she wanted to be with me. I didn’t answer. I used the time alone to decide how we were going to break up.


Leave a Reply


  1. relaxing

    January 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    “most people are able to fabricate truth/she was able to fabricate sincerity” is brilliant.

  2. Dan

    January 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks. I appreciate that.