Balconies, Britney Spears, & Becoming the Villain
I am breaking up with my fiancé this weekend. But tonight, I’m sitting at a cast party in a divey bar on the Upper West Side. My fiancé and his parents are my wardens in this corner on these stools, their discomfort an invisible barrier between me and the rest of my cast. They sip their beers and shout the small talk that will undoubtedly be repeated on the car ride back to Virginia tomorrow morning as we head down for my best friend’s wedding.
Usually, I would throw myself onto the fires of social propriety and sacrifice quality time with my friends for their comfort. But tonight, I am petulant. Like a four-year-old denied the cash register Snickers. I want them to go, and my usual Southern façade has cracked and faded under the stage lights of so many shows with this cast. And after the eternity of thirty minutes, they decide to call it a night and head back to our apartment. My patience is suddenly restored!
“Oh, please, take our bed and we’ll sleep on the pullout! I’m going to stay out and wouldn’t want to wake you.”
I sweep them out of the bar, but not quite out the door. Because as soon as they’re gone, Brian waddles over.
“Dude, your fiancé was just a total dick to me.”
“Yea, it was gnarly. I was all, you’re leaving? And he was all, some of us have real jobs in the morning.”
“He’s a gem.”
“So…that text you sent me.”
I take a deep breath, the kind of breath that preempts earthshattering news and Donizetti coloratura passages. But I swallow it.
“You’re calling off the wedding, aren’t you? Don’t. Shut up. Just come talk to my sister.”
What his sister said hummed in the background as I watched Matt. Always hovering around. That precise hover that had prompted our first real fight a few weeks ago.
“Don’t go home with her.”
“You said you didn’t want to do that kind of thing anymore. You said you didn’t like how it made you feel.”
The proper southern gentleman was drunk enough to take an unceremonious leak off the penthouse balcony of the West End apartment.
“Why do you care?”
“I don’t care!’
“Why do you care?”
“I’m your friend!”
Suddenly, Sam has made us the bread on his awkward sandwich.
“Hey guys. You’re shouting. And drunk.”
I stormed out and dumped myself into a cab, mortified and furious. This was the first night all year I’d been out without my fiancé that Matt hadn’t insisted on walking me home…before he went to text the hook up du jour. Well, I guess not du jour. But around 2 AM, the text messages poured in.
“Did you get home okay?”
“Sarah, answer me.”
“Sarah, I’ve called like 10 people and no one knows if you made it home.”
“Sarah, answer me.”
Brunch with Sam the next day was a delightful tango around the thing no one wanted to say directly. If I’d been able to admit to myself that I was in love with someone who wasn’t my fiancé, it wouldn’t have been possible to utter the sentence…because the constant barrage of text messages sounded like an overeager Jeopardy contestant.
By Sunday, I sat calm as could be, trading the millennial version of Jane Austen pleasantries with Briana, when he came off the elevator in a storm of dust and fury.
“You can’t answer one text to let me know you’re safe?” “YOU ARE NOT MY BOYFRIEND! YOU ARE NOT MY FIANCE!”
“BUT YOU CAN’T ANSWER ONE TEXT THOUGH? I CALLED TWENTY PEOPLE!”
“IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO MAKE SURE I’M…”
Briana is practically crawling away before I recognize how inappropriate this exchange is.
And yet here he is, doing that hover, while I try to listen to Brian’s sister tell me it’s okay to call off my wedding. I’m sure what she’s sharing is wise. I’m sure it is relevant. For all I know, she’s lecturing me on the value of commitment. But I sure as hell can’t hear anything she’s saying when he’s purposely flirting in my line of sight.
Nickolai buys me a bucket of beers. Nickolai gives me a lap dance in honor of my upcoming nuptials. Matt does not approve and leans into Kim’s leg. Before I know what’s come over me, I have my hand on his back and have inserted myself as the meat in their seduction sandwich.
“Who wants to go dancing?”
Our friends tell us they’ll be in the next cab. There is no next cab. There’s just me and Matt. In a cab. With a hand on a thigh. Headed to the Ritz, the cheesiest club with no cover. Just Matt and I, in an empty club with one other guy asleep on the bar, dancing to Britney Spears, of all fucking things. There’s just Matt and I, dancing too close for the hundredth time this year. And tomorrow, I will be in Virginia and will not have an excuse to see him every day. But right now, there is just Matt and I, and Britney Spears rasping about the world ending, and glitter coming out of the ceilings, and frosted air blasting to cool off the empty dance floor.
But it is just Matt and I. And I hover in front of his face, foreheads pressed, terrified to be the villain, but more terrified of a lifetime of missed chances. Of phantom limbs and soul withering regret.
So I kiss him. And son of a bitch, if Britney wasn’t right. The world ended.