Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Can't See You

Yesterday I had the kind of New York moment that I thought was reserved for Seinfeld and Sex and the City exclusively: I ran into an old high school classmate in the waiting room of – wait for it – my therapist’s office.

It gets worse (or better, if you’re amused by extreme awkwardness): this was a guy who I pretty much hated. He was a giant dork, he had a crush on me, and when we acted in the annual musical together someone thought it would be funny to replace his prop comic book with a porn magazine in which all of the bodies had our faces on them. Oh, it gets worse. To top it all off, the night after graduation when I drank too much and puked all over myself and had to go to the hospital, he rode – against my wishes – in the ambulance with me.

All of this flashed through my head in the split second that it took for my brain to register that he was sitting in the chair opposite of the one I would be forced to sit in. I thought he saw me, too, but he was busy talking to – wait for it – his fiancée, who was sitting next to him. And, yes, it gets worse: He pretended that he didn’t see me.

I understand the ‘I-don’t-really-see-you’ brush-off when it happens in the street; hell, I do it all the time. Who wants to have that awkward, pointless banter with someone they hardly know apart from having suffered through puberty alongside them? But we were in a waiting room. A waiting room the size of an elevator. With three chairs in it. His pretending not to see me (he pulled the classic, but easily fallible ‘I’m scratching my head, so my hand obscures my peripheral vision’ move) just made me feel bad. In certain situations, you just have to suck it up and say hello, so that’s what I did.

The funny thing is that when I said hi, he replied, “Yeah, hi. I didn’t know what the protocol was for old high school friends,” thereby acknowledging that he had been pretending not to see me. Um, the protocol? When trapped in a small room, it’s say hi. He then introduced me to his fiancée, who said hello and mentioned that she’d heard my name. He immediately interjected: “Just, you know, old high school stories, nothing … you know ….” Had he not spoken up, I would have assumed that I had been mentioned in old stories and nothing more. Now I knew that I was probably referred to on a regular basis as “Una the Fucking Bitch”.

To add to everything, I had a huge wad of gum in my mouth that made me slur my speech, and, lest you forget, we were in my therapist’s office, so, really, the cherry on the cake was the fact that I was wallowing in my own depression. You know, before I walked in the door.

It didn’t occur to me until they both got up and went in together that they were there for couples’ therapy. That made me kind of sad. I may have wanted to pummel him for the past five minutes – not to mention the duration of high school – but I’d been glad that he’d found someone who loved him ….

Or, at least, who would want him along in her ambulance.

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