The Karma Train

I had more than half a mind to leave Marlin’s Inn.  Two-thirds?  Three-quarters?  What had happened – or barely happened – between Ashleigh and I was sticking its toe into the boggy marsh of embarrassment.  I didn’t need to be covered in muck.  We have known each other for over six years, but we had never known each other.

We met when we were freshmen.  It took about a year of chatting her up to get her to even see me in that certain light.  You know about that light.  Not H.L.’s pink light, but that shine someone gets when your view of them changes.  I guess that shine can fade away, but it rarely turns right off.

When Ashleigh showed up for the second time at my home away from home, I had to look away.  I felt like a kid that wanted to stare at the sun so bad, he tried to do it while wearing sunglasses.  My tinted spectacles came in the form of many pints.  Maybe she was more like an eclipse and my booze was a pinhole box.

Her high-heeled boots clacked on the linoleum.  Hey Aiden.

My pals at the bar kindly kept their eyes glued to the boob tube.  I had turned when the door opened, but as she she approached I downed the contents of my glass and motioned for another one.  Santiago had one ready.  “Did you want anything?” 

She shook her head no and motioned toward the pool room.  I nodded and followed.  I always nodded and followed.

As we wandered off, I wouldn’t be surprised if my friends’ politeness went straight down the drain where the fruit flies hide.  In the pool room, she sat on one of the cushioned chairs.  I opted to sit on the edge of the pool table.  Up high.  Be strong.  Drink your beer.

I think Ryan’s cheating on me.

I laughed.  Not only at the irony, but at the… well, yeah, mostly the irony.  At catching myself acting distastefully, I scooted to her level and sat in the accompanying cushioned seat.  I planned on being supportive up to the very last second (not counting the laughter).  But this came out instead: “Serves you right…”

Her jaw dropped.  She gasped like she escaped drowning.

“…after what you did to me.”

What I did to you?  You were the one who did bad things to me!

I think I gasped the exact same way.  “Like what!”

You were controlling.  You never listened to me.  You held me to some standard I could never live up to.

“You’re being ridiculous.  I’m not hearing this.”  I stood up, so unbelievably pissed.  “You take that all back!  I only wanted what was best for you.  For us.”

She followed me as I paced.  You wanted what worked for you.  Not me.  We were supposed to be a couple, Aiden, but I always felt like I was just hanging on.

“I treated you right.”

I’m not saying you didn’t.  But you treated me with kid gloves.  Like I was something to protect.  Even when I was ready to quote-unquote – make love – you decided I wasn’t. 

“I thought we decided to wait until we were married.”

You decided that for us.  I had been active for awhile before Ryan and I… she paused to choose her words carefully… fell in love.

“Active?  Were you doing someone else?”

Ryan is my one and only.

“What about us?”

I don’t count that.

“Technically, we did.”

Technically, we almost.  You stopped me because it wasn’t the right thing to do.

“But we had sex.”

Honey, if you thought that was sex… she trailed off her comment.

We sat in silence until I knew what to say next.  “Do you really love him?”  She nodded.  “Did you… love me?”  She nodded again.  “Can we go back to the part where you said you were sexually active?”

After a little more prying, she eventually told me what she meant.  We talked a bit more that night, and since then, I’ve arrived at some conclusions to be discussed another time.

Just know this: as soon as I returned home, I threw out my battery-powered toothbrush.