So, it will probably surprise exactly none of you to learn that my friend the Married Guy is no longer my friend the Married Guy, but my friend the Legally Separated Guy (which really doesn't flow off the tongue, but is a much more accurate representation of his current status.) As far as the permanence of the matter, his wife has picked up and moved to an entirely different coast, and they have split their assets right down the middle, so it looks like this just might be the real deal. And, in yet another turn of events that will probably shock exactly no one, it turns out that Separated Guy is just as much of a tool as Married Guy ever was.
We made plans to get together for a drink last Wednesday night, as it had been a while since we had seen each other. I noticed that it also conveniently was the day of his wife's departure. I figured he might be need of a friend and an ear, and so of course I agreed to meet him. He seemed in good spirits, hopeful, optimistic, implying that he thought she would probably come back eventually, though he also seemed fine with the idea that she might not. He still loved her of course; he would always love her. But she needed to do her own thing, now, out on the left coast, and he needed to do his, here. And he got to keep the dogs, so, win-win.
Then, "Just to get this out in the open," he said, (No, don't, I thought), "I want to let you know that just because my wife is gone, I'm not going to, like, try to get you into bed or anything." File that under things that really didn't need to be said, I thought.
"Umm, ok," I said.
"I just wanted to address the elephant in the room," he said. Leave it to you to shoot a mouse with an elephant gun, I thought, when it probably would have scurried away on its own.
"I really wasn't thinking about that at all," I said. As if I would sleep with you, I thought. As if I was just waiting for your wife to leave you. As if I haven't had months to see what kind of guy you are and as if I don't breathe a sigh of relief every day for having dodged that bullet.
With that out of the way we went back to discussing lighter matters, but soon, though, he was putting his hand to his mouth, yawning. I went to the restroom leaving half a beer on the table. When I came back the glass was empty, and his coat was on. "Did you just drink my beer?" I said. "Really? Are you trying to rush me out or something?"
"I'm so tired," he said. "I had to get up early to drive my wife to the airport this morning."
"We've only been here an hour," I said. "It's only 9:15."
"I really didn't sleep much last night," he said. "We were up all night, she kept clinging to me and telling me she didn't want to go."
"Ok," I said. "Ok. So go get some sleep." And so we each went home.
On Friday he had a bunch of people over to his house. There was a campfire, hot dogs, marshmallows. First it was fun. Then his boy gang showed up, loud, late, with handles of liquor instead of six-packs of beer. All single, the kind of guys who hang out at bars every night in search of easy prey. They were laughing, sharing stories, talking about James chatting up the ladies on Wednesday night, then again on Thursday night.
"Yeah, you were telling that girl that your wife left, and you were making it sound like it was weeks ago, and I was like, weeks ago? It was like thirteen hours ago!"
Then the party moved from his backyard to a bar downtown, and I was suddenly in the worst kind of mood. I said goodbye to the group at large, to whom I had previously been invisible, anyway, but James was involved in a conversation, and didn't even see me go.
I nursed my anger, debating what I would say to him if I saw him, or if I would say anything at all. I decided I would let the circumstances decide. Yesterday he sent out a mass text about trivia night, asking us to get there early to get a table, as he would be a little bit late. No one knew it was a mass text until we all arrived early, and realized we'd been had. He finally showed up an hour and a half after he'd said he would be there, the game nearly over, and looking like hell. Bags under his eyes, haggard, like he'd been going out every night of the week, which he probably had. Late arrival notwithstanding, he then spent most of the time not with our team, but at the bar chatting up a couple former students of his. Sweet young twenty-somethings gazing up at him in shy awe--a professor! A handsome, young professor, at that, talking to them! When he did come by, I avoided all eye contact and went for the cold shoulder treatment, not that he noticed, and gazed with studied devotion at Andrew, who'd come over to say hello, sitting next to me.
The ultimate irony in all this: that his marriage, and all the restrictions that it imposed, had likely been the one thing that had made our friendship possible. His wife was the one thing keeping him tethered down to the earth, but now she is gone and he is floating free, and he is a mess, and he is everything he was before, only more, now. And while I can put up with a lot in a friend--flaky, undependable, selfish, you name it--the one thing I can't tolerate is a liar. How can I?
So do I accuse him, call him out with wrathful anger? Or do I just let it, let him, fade away? If I stopped calling I somehow doubt that he, with his new found blitzkrieg social scene, would even notice.
I hate losing friends. It's been happening too much, lately. It's like all of a sudden no one can live up to anyone's friendship standards without fucking everything all up. So what do we do? We are all so human, after all. So what in the world do we do?