#1 – Self Inflicted – 8/16/15

August 16th, 2015

“Self-inflicted”

I’m in a Starbucks eaves dropping on presumably a couple’s first date, while I’m actually supposed to be planning out every day of my life for the next three months. Or, rather, laying in bed self-medicating this annoying summer cold. But as this unlikely pairing’s unusual exchange intensifies, I’m compelled to continue my surveillance …

It started out cute — it did. A little flirtation and light conversation about body grooming. Harmless until she joked about his manscaping rituals. He became more serious. He continued. The more he revealed, the darker he became.

He was tall, slender, white, and in his late 30s, I suspect. He was framed by bland glasses, short graying hair, and smooth-shaven arms with veins present and bulging from each forearm.

The woman was age appropriate. Her skin, a medium brown, and hair black as night with steaks of gold. Her makeup: part Chola, part modern office associate. I wager an older sister taught her to apply makeup in her youth, and her environment forced it through a necessary evolution. Her designer jeans accentuated her full-figured curves, which drastically out-shined the rather dull coverings of her beau. How did these two meet, I wondered. And would it end here, in this crowded little mainstream java hut?
The man seemed “off.” I could see it. Could the woman? I could tell by glances of nearby patrons that they, too, picked up on something muttered through subtextual dialogue. They knew, as well as I did, this wasn’t right.

Bottom line: This lady needs to run.

As the man progressed, his speech painted him as narcissistic and unstable. I gathered that in only ten minutes of invading their privacy. I felt such urgency as though observing the suspenseful dramatic irony of a finely crafted horror film. “He is seriously going to hurt her,” my mind exclaimed, “He’s going to make her life a living hell!”
Does she see it? Does she hear it? Is she ignoring it? Couldn’t be certain.

Wait — the man just whispered something to her that completely changed the tone of their conversation. Awkward becomes grim. Whatever it was, I didn’t hear, but it was followed several times with his admission that (whatever his secret is) makes people uncomfortable. She stammered in her forced reply, following his reiteration. It was less concern and more fear. Or was it?

To a degree, when people get into something abusive, there are subtle red flags that often go missed or overlooked. But this — this was a HUGE red flag! Mother fucker is waving it so close to her face he might hit her with it! Or something else at some point. He has a history. It’s apparent in his demeanor.

Thing is, he knows I’m listening as I tap each key of my phone, relaying his “private moment” into cyber space. Who’s the bad guy? In this situation, it’s obviously both of us. And she knows that he enjoys making their banter carry across the room past myself and others. She thought it was funny at first, but at this point she takes no joy from the experience.

The man abandoned her briefly to fetch himself another coffee. This Starbucks is busy tonight. He was in line for quite a while. I half-expected the woman to sneak out unnoticed, however, she didn’t. Nor did she fumble with her phone in desperate search of an excuse or alibi. Was he watching her? She didn’t dare risk a glance behind her. Instead, she stared out the window, no doubt contemplating where this may go …
I wrestled with the thought of sending her a signal of some sort. Shaking my head. Pointing her to the door. Tearing out a leaf of notebook paper and jotting a quick note. It’s really none of my business … but isn’t it? I’ve been in some situations I wish I could have avoided. Had some anonymous angel of intention passed me a warning scrawled crudely on a small sheet of paper — to which the fringe hadn’t even bothered to be removed — would I take take it seriously? And what would it even say? No. For one thing, I could be wrong. For another, I am not to interfere. Everything she needs to assess the situation is before her — radiating from his very core. The choice must be hers to recognize and act upon, and hers alone.

The man returned several minutes later as though the awkwardness had never existed. She played along. Perhaps she’s on board. Perhaps she comes from a string of relationships with psychopaths, sociopaths, and men from every earthly realm of fucked up. This guy might seem like a better option, considering.

They made further small talk, and then a moment of silence. “I’m just so frustrated right now,” he grunted to her unexpectedly. Then he complained of someone wearing expensive shoes with something or other, or a complaint of the price — of what I can’t be certain. But before he finished his rant, the man was out of his seat and heading to the exit. The woman reluctantly collected herself and followed, not even fully aware they were going somewhere.

And then they were gone.

Visually an odd couple, not that that matters, there were many other factors between them that seemed to be mismatched. So what WAS between them? Heartbreak? Danger? Pain? Perhaps worse. Or maybe the woman has her wits about her and has an exit strategy all worked out. Whatever fate that woman has in store for her is none of my business. But I hope it isn’t a tragedy that will be publicized over the news, should her new found companionship go awry. After all, that is often a gruesome consequence — if not extreme — of bad decisions. But who would have made the wrong call to avoid such such a brutal, fatal catastrophe? Would it have been her? Or I?

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