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Pumpkin Patch, A Race and the Friend from Baton Rouge

December 1, 2015

I know I said I would stop talking to him. I knew I needed to get over the idea of him. The lost possibility of him. I was trying. I resurrected the Iraqi who showers me with affection and platitudes. I’ve felt the warmth of his embraces and attention.

But….we were still facebook friends and he was constantly liking almost everything I posted. Tired of seeing his comings and goings, I blocked him but I still couldn’t bring myself to unfriend him. I didn’t want to be mean. Or maybe I just didn’t want him to know that I needed to unfriend him. I didn’t want to show that he still affected me.

And I hadn’t let him go, entirely.  If I heard a song I thought he might like, I would send him a link. And we would chat a bit. The last time, he told me he missed talking to me. I told him I missed talking to him too. Then I remembered that he blew me off three times when I tried to meet for coffee.

We were having our annual 5K fundraiser at work. Pumpkin Patch said he was running it. That didn’t mean I would see him. I would be busy with other things. My boss asked me to help alphabetize the race bibs. I went to the P’s and found his. I wrote on a sticky note, “Run Fast Pumpkin Patch! ~Little Bit.” The day before the race, people were streaming into our lobby, picking up their packets. The receptionist called my office. “There’s a Pumpkin Patch here to see you.” (She used his name, of course.) I laughed and walked to the front desk and there he was with two race packets in his hand.

We smiled at each other and he seemed touched by the little gesture. “I didn’t expect a note on my bib, but I guess I should have,” he said. I walked him back downstairs and we stood a little awkwardly on the sidewalk, making small talk. “Who’s the second packet for?” I asked. “My friend from Baton Rouge is running with me,” he said. He asked if he could hug me goodbye and held me closer than I expected. “Come find me and introduce me to your friend,” I offered. He agreed.

The next night, at the run, I was at the starting line, checking out the big signs I had made. I offered some direction to a volunteer about how she should be holding the sign and she abruptly corrected me. I immediately regretted the advice. She was right, the sign should be pointing the way she had it.

I walked around the people gathering, just getting a sense of what the start was like. I didn’t have time to experience it last year. I was about to walk back to the little park where the after-race party was going to be, where most of the work of the past few months was displayed, when I heard my name. I turned around and there was Pumpkin Patch, typically nerdy with glow sticks in his hair, the blinking bracelet and ring that came with his packet proudly displayed. I said hi and he introduced me to a woman who came up behind him. Stacey or something? I said hello to the plain-looking, mousey woman and picked on Pumpkin Patch, helping him break his glow sticks for full affect. Stacey-whatever seemed mildly impressed that I was a designer. Pumpkin Patch complained that his bracelet wasn’t working. I sarcastically promised to hook him up with a replacement, making fun of him for being whiney.

I walked away and it occurred to me, Could that be the Baton Rouge friend? Would he introduce me to her? 

Amy and Liz were manning the hot chocolate tent. I sought them out to confer. “He’s with a (air quotes) friend from Baton Rouge. But I don’t know if it’s (air quotes) the friend.” They feigned disgust.

It was about 8:30pm and I was exhausted, having worked outside all day and non-stop for the past few weeks. I was still walking around with nothing really to do until it was time to tear everything down. I passed by a bush with two blinking bracelets left sitting on top of its manicured surface. I picked them up and decided to give them to Pumpkin Patch. I pulled out my phone to text him. I had trouble finding his number. I had labeled his contact, “NO!!!STOP!!!DONE!!!,” which of course had no affect on my behavior. I texted him, asking if was still around. “Yes. Where are you?” he responded. I told him to come get his bracelets at the tent I was standing by. He walked up, I handed over the bracelets and he tried to chit chat again. And then I came out and asked, “So, is that the friend from Baton Rouge?”

“It is,” he replied.

My heart sank and tears emanated from my gut, threatening to make their way out of my eyes as the milliseconds passed.

“Wow.” I said.

“Was that awkward?” he asked. Was that awkward? I thought. What the fuck do you think?! I was pissed and hurt.

“It is now,” I said. I looked at him in the eyes, said “You have a good night,” and walked away.

I went straight to the hot chocolate tent.

“Huddle up,” I said to Amy and Liz. One of the volunteers, a co-worker’s husband started to move in with us. “Not you,” I said. He laughed.

We were locked with our arms around each other. “That was the Baton Rouge girl,” I said.

“I knew it!” Amy exclaimed. “What an asshole.”

“Gross,” Liz said.

“Yeah,” I said.

They proceeded with the requisite pep-talk and the you’re-too-good-for-him’s. Standard issue girlfriend talk.

I know he thought there was nothing unusual about the meeting. I know he thought, She asked me to introduce her to my friend. I know he has no idea how much that hurt. But he didn’t have to seek me out. He didn’t have to place me in a situation where I was standing next to the person he chose to keep seeing instead of me, picking on him and putting his stupid glow sticks in his hair. He could’ve lied and said, “no, she’s just a friend.” Ugh. What a dickwad.

I was still busy. I didn’t have time to cry. I walked around the corner of a building, pulled out my phone and unfriended him, finally. An hour later I got a text from him. “Sorry about the awkwardness. Have a good Thanksgiving.”

I didn’t reply.

 

 

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