Dancing at what was most likely the edge of her sanity, Helena was putting off the final touches on closing the bar. She wasn't sure she could handle being alone in her own apartment just yet.
She had managed, somehow, to not
burst into tears while they were still open, and was actually pretty proud of
that fact, but she wasn't doing such a bang up job of holding it together
The night, for want of a better description, had really just sucked
a little more than she was used to things sucking and in a year of full bodied
suck. It was, in fact, one of her least favorite nights this year, and that was
saying a lot.
When she had first seen John standing at the door of the
bar her initial reaction had been excitement, followed by nothing short of
complete panic when she recognized that Max was also at the bar.
It was a
mutifaceted, multi dimenstional panic. Not only was she not prepared to see
John, in general, but she most certainly was not ready to see Max and John
together, and she was even less ready to have Max "discovered" at the bar in
such a fashion.
She realized that she wasn't really ready to be the bad
guy. If there was one thing she was still enjoying, albeit in increasingly small
dosages, was the sense that she had emerged from her break up "the bigger
person". And even during the initial stages of her friendship with Max she could
still hold onto that sense. They were still just friends, after all, and she
was still the woman whose husband had left her for another woman. And so when
John burst out with that crude, direct question she was very aware of the
catapult she had taken off her pedestal.
But even that was tolerable. In
the back of her mind she had been preparing for John's rage, for John's complete
and total sense of betrayal.
What she had not been able to anticipate,
had not ever imagined herself to believe, was that she might incur John's
ambivelance. And once the original altercation had passed, once the questions
had been answered and the tables had turned, once she had invited John to sit
and have a drink, she began to really understand her role in this
That is, she began to understand her own impending
Watching John and Max bond over Ann, watching them reestablish
their friendship and act like boyscouts earning their new found divorce badges,
forced to listen and play friendly barkeep she finally understood how this all
was going to go.
Ofcourse, quite naturally, John and Max would stay good
friends. And ofcourse, even more naturally, John would completely move on, grow
even closer to Jessica, and take on a role he was very comfortable with: stable
and dependable friend as Max's went through yet another painful break up. And,
ofcourse, Jessica would be at his side as Helena became the ex wife on good
terms and occasional bartender.
She also hadn't realized how ill prepared
she was to listen to Max talk about Ann. He hadn't said word one about Ann, to
her in, weeks and although she had been observed, first hand, his emotional
state as Ann threatened to leave, prepared to leave and then finally left, she
hadn't known, or wanted to know, the details. Listening to his stories she
realized what a bit player she had been in Max's life, as well, as he went
through the initial stages of his divorce.
And so what had very briefly
felt like comforting "old times" had devolved into a ball of rage and depression
over her own impotence as she watched John get Max's keys, as she HUGGED them
goodbye, and as they left, and she went back to tending bar.
infact, replaying this broken record in her head, devising a variety of
speeches to Max for the next time she saw, should he have the audacity to
casually drop by again, when he knocked on the door.
For some reason
her rage and dissapointment came out as casual annoyance and she found herself
making a joke of it
Oh good, my couch was almost lonely.
she was completely and totally unprepared for that kiss.
probably why she burst into tears the second it began and shoved him
She walked over, sat on the low end bar and began one of the many
speeches she had been preparing all night, a speech that sounded much less
dignified through tears:
I am not interested in being someone you
kill time with while you deal with your real life. I am not interesting in a
creating a safety haven away from your real life in which I can be your sort of
companion and your sort of friend and your sort of girlfriend while you keep the
main important details of your life to yourself and you continue your real
friendships on elsewhere.
He walked over to get closer to her and
she slid even further away.
I'd like to at least try to pretend that I am
a real human being and that is not my role to help other people move on with
their own lives.
This actually seemed to make
him a little angry and he approached her further. Speaking like a parent he
noted: then I'd like you to pretend that I am not some sort of
ogre, here and I'd like you to pretend that I wasn't the one who started this.
I'd like you to pretend that you, maybe, had apart in the role you are now
playing when you came to my house, that first time, and over and over
She didn't know what to say.
He came in even
closer, and he was staring and she couldn't avoid eye contact without looking
over his shoulder, directly, or without looking down, and so she started at his
hands until he asked, quietly:
Why do you think I
I've been asking myself the same question: because
you are lonely? because you can't stand to be alone? Because there is nowhere
else to go?
He was very close. Standing close enough that
he was, basically, standing between her knees as she sat on the
I come here because I want to see you. I come here because I
want to be around you. I come here because I don't exist anywhere else. Even
when I am at home, at work, I am here, talking to you. I tell stories to you. I
save things to tell you, anecdotes, jokes, thoughts, they are all yours. They
belong to you. I have conversations with you even when you aren't in the room
and then I look forward to having that conversation
You came to tell me things? You want to sleep on
my couch and tell me things?
He shook his head, leaned in,
and whispered in her ear, I think I am very tired of just telling you
things...but if I am going to see you naked, you,atleast, are going to have to
allow me kiss you.
That made her laugh, a little too hard. But when
she was done laughing she very much allowed him to kiss her.
She was pretty
tired of stories as well.