My ex and I broke up a few days before Valentine’s Day, which also would’ve been our four-year anniversary. My heart hurt. I kept randomly bursting into tears (at home, at work, driving, eating, wherever). I went home to my parent’s house to be consoled by my mom that weekend, and spent what should’ve been my anniversary on the couch, crying and watching Gypsy with my mom and freshly-minted teenager nephew. He was perplexed by the whole situation, because he is in that awkward pubescent stage and hasn’t had a serious relationship yet, thank God. The fact that he’s a teenager alone is terrifying to me; once he starts seriously dating I might pass out.
My nephew wanted specifics. “Why? What happened? What did he do?” Well, my darling nephew, those are questions your dear aunt was trying NOT to think about at that moment in time. Still, he consoled me with stupid YouTube videos, and let me sing “Rose’s Turn” at full volume in his face. It helped a little bit. “Aunt Nikki, were you in this musical?” “No.” “Oh. Because you know all the lyrics to this song, and you sing it well. And really loud.” “It’s just the exact song I need to sing at this moment, that’s all.” “Oh. Ok.” Teenagers.
I went to the hairdresser I used to work for. She touched up my hair color and brought back the bangs I had grown out a year or so prior. My mom hugged me any time I asked, and kept reassuring me that this is what I had wanted; this is what was best for me, and I knew that, but it was still fucking hard.
When I got back to Buffalo, my friend B took me out for celebratory “hooray you’re free!” margaritas at one of my favorite Mexican bars/restaurants. (95% of the restaurants in Buffalo are also bars. Fact.) We met up a few times a year, specifically for tacos and margaritas at this restaurant. It was a Tuesday night. She arrived before me, and held down a spot at the bar for us to sit, drink, and eat the most delicious guacamole in the world. A middle-aged man was talking to her when I arrived, but he seemed pretty harmless. We began pounding down margaritas. Now, this restaurant makes them strong. Two and you’re pretty tipsy. Three and you’re hammered. We had finished our first round, discussing relationships and horrible exes and those fun conversations you have when you’re newly single, and the bar started to get busy. The middle-aged man was joined by a middle-aged male friend. Okay, fine, whatever. Henceforth, they shall be known as MAM1 and MAM2. B leans over and tells me that, actually, MAM1 had been warning her that MAM2 would be arriving, and he could be a bit…unpleasant. Oh, fantastic; look, a second round of margaritas appeared! We could live with them as our neighbors with enough tequila in our systems.
Midway through the second round of margaritas, MAM2 decided to start chatting us up (mostly B to be honest, because she was closer, but I was definitely a participant). There was talk of tequila shots, attempts to get us to bar-hop with them, handing out of business cards, and the loud and proud declaration of, “I’ve already had six beers today!” While this is all going on, a handsome man in his mid20s walked in and sat down at the only spot open at the bar…right next to me. How convenient. He orders a drink, and listens in on MAM2 and MAM1 feebly hitting on us. I nearly turned to him to just start talking and get out of the conversation with the MAMs. Fortunately, though, they got the hint and left, no tequila shots necessary.
Right after they left, cute man turned to us and said, “Wow, I’d like to apologize for every man on the planet right now. That was terrible.” I immediately liked him. He asked why we were out drinking on a Tuesday night. B responded, “What else is there to do in Buffalo?” Not much, as he was realizing for himself. He was an English teacher who had just moved to Buffalo and lived nearby! I made a Dead Poets Society reference that he understood. We talked about Sylvia Plath. He told me my hair was “perfect” and that I looked like Francoise Hardy. He was tall, thin, charming, well-spoken, 28…pretty much an ideal match for me. I was kicking myself. Thanks, universe! And then.
He seemed drunkish when we first started talking. B and I had finished our margaritas; I was contemplating getting another one and staying to talk to this handsome gentleman. B was over the whole situation and wanted to leave. She was not nearly as enamored with this guy as I was. I agreed to settle the bill and depart. As we were figuring this out, he had finished his drink, and I think a second one, and was now definitely good and drunk. AND THEN.
He started going on a sad, drunk tangent. He wanted us to come back to his apartment, both of us, because he didn’t have any friends yet, apparently. We declined. I had started writing my phone number down for him at this point on the back of my receipt, and then this gem came out of his mouth: “Now, now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but… You remind me of my ex-girlfriend.” Protip: never tell someone you just met that they remind you of your ex, especially if you are trying to pick them up.
I told him I was not offended, even though I was a little bit. I was tipsy, he was cute, and I still thought the universe was trying to help me out. He got my phone number. AND THEN. He said something along the lines of having a rough time, being sad lately because of the move and also because, “My ex…she killed herself less than a month ago.” OH. OKAY. No wonder you liked me so much. Shortly after this revelation, he ended up bolting out of the restaurant and into another bar. I didn’t hear from him for over a week, and then one day I got a long, rambling text message from him asking me out. I was overwhelmed and freaked out and didn’t answer back for almost a week myself, and only did after encouragement from friends that I would at least get an interesting story out of it. I never heard from him. I do hope he’s alright. He seemed sweet, just going through a particularly rough patch.
This was the first man to get my phone number after the break-up. A man who told me I reminded him of his dead ex-girlfriend. (And, to be fair, that I looked like Francoise Hardy, which is such a great compliment!!) This was just the first in a string of strange encounters that we call ‘dating.’
Welcome to my life.