Cheating Hearts (Story #10)

Saturday 1:50 a.m. November 11

Old habits die hard. I guess I'll always have a soft spot for fast women.

Friday 11:50 p.m. November 10

I'm here with a mixture of her friends and mine. We're all standing a few feet away from the dance floor having a lively time, drinks in hand, our backs to the bar. The DJ drops the next track, fire! It's that song you can't help but want to get your dance on to. I'm a little tipsy and a little lifted – the perfect combination. It's shaping up to be a good night, and it couldn't have come soon enough.

The last few months have been rough. I'm starting to question this whole relationship business and whether I’m cut out for it. I know that I have a tendency to romanticize situations, but I never imagined that being in love would be this emotionally taxing. I can't even remember the last time we went out and actually had a good time. The constant fighting is beginning to not only affect my personal life, but also my work life. The majority of what I have accomplished and who I am as a person can be directly attributed to my self-confidence – or what is contemporarily referred to as 'swagger'. I have never been the best at anything, but a word of advice: believing that you're the best is often better than actually being the best. I've landed numerous jobs over more qualified candidates because of the image I project. Lately, however, I've been losing a lot of clients and – along with them – my career momentum. I guess having a person you care about whole-heartedly question your worth regularly has that affect. Now I finally understand why girls with daddy issues used to desperately seek my approval through mildly emotional connections and reassuring words. It's hard to grow as a person when you're so focused on obtaining approval in all the wrong ways from all the wrong people.

I'm in a great mood. This mixture of alcohol, good music and great friends are clouding the issues that Jessica and I have been having. Dear Vodka, thank you. My friend Dave and I are having an intoxicated (yet surprisingly profound) conversation about the inexplicable modern social phenomenon of fashion recycling. For obvious reasons, I'm on the pro side of the hipster twenty-first century eighties fashion movement. He's arguing as a third party observer, that skinny jeans and undersized jackets are not as cool on guys as hipsters seem to think they are. Basically, he believes that I should buy clothes that actually fit and avoid looking like I shrunk everything in the wash. I think that he's just never heard of a tailor. The entire conversation is ridiculous but we have fun laughing at ourselves.

Amidst our laughter and our absurd debate, I get a firm jolt in the back. I turn around and tears are pouring from Jessica’s eyes.

Sobbing and angry, she screams, “Who the fuck was that girl?!!”

The music in the bar is painfully loud, but Jessica's voice still carries over it, catching most people's attention.

Half-embarrassed and half-confused, I attempt to calm her down, “Babe, what are you talking about?”

“Don't pretend. I saw! Everyone saw! That blonde girl who just walked by! She smiled at you and you smiled back!!”

It feels like the DJ has stopped the music and we've become the main attraction. I look over at my friends, who look just as confused as I am. I'd like to say that this is the first time this has happened, but this public reenactment of a 'Dawson's creek' episode that is my girlfriend has become fairly routine. I've become well-acquainted with the judgemental head shakes from strangers and pity-filled looks from friends.

Completely confused and completely embarrassed, I begin to defend myself from her outlandish and unfounded accusations, “What girl? I didn't smile at anyone. If anything I was smiling at what Dave said.”

“You're a fucking liar!!” she dramatically shouts at me (again).

She throws her drink on the ground, shattering the glass into pieces. I grab her arm, but she violently flings it away. She storms off in a fit of rage. I grab my coat from the nearby ledge with the intention of chasing after her like a pathetic pussy-whipped puppy.

As I put on my coat, Dave grabs my shoulder and says, “Dude, you know I'm not one to ever interfere with people's relationships, but she's killing you with this shit. Let her go.”

Dave, a friend I met at university, was not soft spoken by any means, but is definitely the last person to ever get involved in anyone's personal life. His motto has always been the less personal attachment the better. I think for a second. I love her and I don't want to lose her. I'm at a crossroads. Deep down, I know Dave is right and that something’s gotta give, but I'm so caught up in making this relationship work that I've lost sight of what the right thing to do is anymore.

Attempting to justify my behaviour, I say, “I know this sounds totally corny and lame, but that girl is my life.”

In the past I would have burst out laughing at the idea of those words coming out of my mouth in that sequence, but here I am acting a scene straight out of an eighties John Hughes movie. At least I’m dressed for the part.

Surprisingly, Dave didn't laugh. Instead he says, “Maybe that's the problem. I'm not a relationship expert, but I believe that if you love someone, you should make them a part of your life, not your entire life.”

And there it is; words of wisdom from my drunk, emotionless, tailor-free, old university friend. It’s enough to shake me out of my 'Inception'-like dream state.

Maybe realizing that I'm semi-awake from the bad dream that is Jessica, Dave says, “Why don't we go outside for a smoke.”

I don't even smoke, but I agree. We exit the club and make our way to the unmarked, designated smoking area. We don't say a word, we just occasionally nod our heads at each other. I guess this is the guy version of consoling. We stand there for what seems like an eternity. I'm sad, admittedly, but also relieved. Several head nods and a few cigarettes later, an unconventionally beautiful girl makes her way to us. She takes out a cigarette from her burgundy pseudo-vintage fringe purse and motions towards me for a light. I look around to see if Jessica is in sight. The last thing I need right now is to give her more fuel for her madness. She's nowhere to be found. I take out a lighter from my pocket and casually oblige the stranger's request.

“Do you feel that?” she says as I lean in closer to light her cigarette.

“Feel what?”

“The intimate moment we just shared. It feels a little like it’s been lived before. It's a little serendipitous, don't you think?” she responds.

“How so?” I ask, confused.

“Well, it doesn't look like you even smoke, yet you just happened to have a light just when I needed one,” she says as she waves her hands and arms pointing to the sky intending to prove some sort of cosmic connection between her statements and the act of lighting a cigarette.

“I don't think that's slightly serendipitous at all. Just good timing.”

“Are you sure? You shouldn't be so quick to cast off these transient life moments. You have to embrace them when they happen.”

“Oh really? And why is that?” I ask, suddenly curious.

She smiles, leans in close and confidently whispers in my ear, “Because no matter what, these moments right here,” she says as she points to the both of us, “May never happen again. They're literally once in a lifetime.”

She takes one last long drag of her smoke. She tosses it to the ground, crushes it with her brown worn-in ankle boots, then confidently and seductively says, “You're cute and this has been entertaining, but let's skip all the bullshit. We both know where this is going...”

Temptingly bewitching. She’s right, I do know where “this” is going. Although not any time recently, I have been here before. In fact, I’ve been here many times before. “This” and her are the life I swore off the moment I said those three problematic words to Jessica: I can commit. I have never cheated on anyone, nor have I ever entertained the thought. As 'friendly' as my past might have been, I have always maintained a certain code of ethics. I've always judgementally looked down on those who cheat. My first experience with love/commitment ended with someone betraying my trust in that way. Since then, I’ve sworn off relationships and have had an indubitable disdain for cheaters. Yet here I am, seriously considering an offer from this charming seductress.

I love Jessica. I really do, but she's probably halfway to Africa by now, and I just don't know how much more of this I can take. When we first got together, she made me realize that my 'live fast, die young' attitude didn’t really lead to any sustainable happiness. She made me want more out of life. I gave up the late night parties and easy women in lieu of board games and fixed-rate mortgages. I let go of my past to build a future with her. But right at this moment, standing outside this trendy dive bar, in front of this girl, it started to all make perfect sense to me – I'm not the problem. Sure maybe at first, but it takes two. She knows my baggage, and she's aware that as hard as it might have been, I've moved past it. I left it behind, but she hasn't moved past hers; her father abandoned her when she was young for a new family, and she's never gotten over it. As it turns out, she has the biggest daddy issues of them all and, unfortunately, the help she needs is far more complicated than reassuring words and strong emotional connections can provide. She needed a father, not a boyfriend. She carries her history around like a contagious disease, infecting everyone emotionally close to her. When she started to tell me about her past I was determined to save her from it, but at the end of the day, I'm the one that ended up needing saving from her. It might seem insensitive to think about myself given her disturbed history, but sometimes you just have to save yourself. This unconventionally beautiful girl with the fringe purse and charming words might not be Jesus, but tonight she's my personal saviour.