Missy, part 4

10 Jul

Neal had a back porch, beer, and air conditioning, so I drove to his house rather than mine. I thought maybe it’d be better to have company while I waited to dump Missy.

Neal was a painter I’d met during one of my blips of employment. We’d been working in a meat grinder for the educated unemployed, grading standardized tests from high schoolers while weeping the bitterest of tears. Dozens, maybe hundreds of us spent eight hours a day in a long room lit with harsh fluorescents, clicking numbly through page after page of abject ignorance. Previously the building had been a grocery store, and my company was renting it. A few weeks later the company would lose the contract I worked on, and it would go out of business so hard that they (well, someone anyway) blasted the building into rubble. Neal noticed me after work one day and asked me to come out for a beer. We became friends.

Sometimes I sat with my computer at his apartment and wrote while he painted. Conveniently, I could piggyback on one of his neighbor’s wireless networks if I scrunched up close enough to his wall. Inconveniently, I couldn’t break into his neighbor’s house and reset the router when my laptop decided to be finicky, but it was better than being alone in my room.

I told Neal about Missy, and then I told him about Polly. I talked about Polly for a long time. He listened, and he laughed, and he drank cheap beer. He put a wire screen into a hollow tube that used to be part of a socket wrench and smoked pot out of it. It relaxed me to be around him. Missy planned to call me at eight. I told him that too. I wanted him to be there so that I wouldn’t chicken out and that I wouldn’t be on the phone too long.

Here is a rule of internet dumping: do not chicken out, and do not be on the phone too long.

Missy called.

I let her talk. Possibly that was a mistake, but there needs to be small talk. Etiquette demands it. She talked about Denver and whatever it was she did in Denver and whoever it was she did things in Denver with. Being a flight attendant sounded glamorous. Again, I wished I had a job. She started to make plans for when she returned. These plans included me.

“Um, yeah, Missy, about that. I’m up for hanging out when you get back, but I don’t think that we should date. I don’t think it’s working out.” Because you have thin lips. Because you kind of bore me. Because I don’t like any of your friends. Reasons for not wanting to date are irrelevant, and it is a mistake to mention them. Reductively, they are the same. Because I don’t want to.

She stopped talking, and a long and stunned silence followed. I cleared my throat.

“So, um. How is Denver otherwise?” Post breakup, etiquette does not demand small talk. I should have hung up the phone. She struggled with a half-answer and then hung up. I thought that was the end of it.

Twelve minutes later, she called back. I answered the phone.

Here is another rule of internet dumping: Do not answer the phone.


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