Fate, when stripped of all the poetic bullshit, is nothing more than an evil bitch with a wicked sense of humor.
* * * *After getting back home Sunday morning, after thinking about the whole weirdness of the previous 10-12 hours, I didn't want to think. I didn't want to feel guilty for simply talking to someone.
I was too damned tired to do much of anything, too tired to even sleep.
I went into the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. I went into the living room, flipped on the television for a little background noise, powered up the laptop to check my e-mail.
The plan was to simply have a few cups of joe, answer some emails (I'm so far behind it's not even funny), and then crash.
The moment the ol' IM account logged on at Start Up, I was barraged with offline message alarms.
Ten messages in all, sent within fifteen minutes of my return home. At first, I thought it was a spammer - the first message read Hey Sexy Boy Wanna Chat? I ignored the sender and went on answering emails, not bothering to read the rest of the messages in detail...something about wanting to talk using my Skype account.
By my second cup of coffee, a new message appeared in my Inbox.
An email with an Italian domain suffix attached to the domain name. In a rather rambling subject line, the sender indicated that she was intoxicated for the first time and waiting for Italy to beat the living shit out of France in the World Cup final and...
The rest of the subject line was cut off.
The body text included only one sentence: do you remember me, dear? [Smiley-Face Emoticon].
There is only one person, one woman, I could think of who would be emailing me from an account with an Italian URL suffix, a 20-year-old so technologically unskilled as to put the message of an email in the subject line and nothing in the body.
But there's no way in hell she'd be online. Not possible. No fucking way.
What are the odds of my Italian backpacker fling choosing this particular day to want to chat? I hadn't spoken to her since we said our rather passionate goodbye in the Indianapolis airport back in January, since I almost QUIT MY JOB to join her in Italy for something that I knew would never last.
Why now? Why this morning?
Fate is truly an evil bitch with one twisted-ass sense of humor.
* * * *
I emailed back, asking her to send me another IM, just to be sure. Within seconds, a window popped up, espousing a vitriolic hatred for the American Empire's fiscal policies, the protests she wanted to plan against her government's policies, and the "unhealthy" addiction to Battlestar Galactica she'd picked up while staying with me.
Then she asked if I'd bought a new headboard for my bed, since the previous model hadn't been all that, well, durable.
Oh lord...had almost forgotten about that. We broke a lot of furniture. Expensive fling, actually.
Yup. Had to be P.
I don't know any other woman who would make reference to a sexual, er, mishap, plans of massive resistance, and use the phrase "American Empire" in the same message.
We chatted online, first using Yahoo and then verbally via Skype, for more than three hours.
She'd apparently dumped the Colin Farrell lookalike when she returned to Florence; she'd been completely open with him about our fling. Despite the fact that they had an open relationship -- at his request, not hers -- the guy apparently couldn't deal with the fact that she'd been with an American who was "beneath her" financially and not even on the bullshit aristocratic radar.
How dare the independent-minded progeny of Italian wealth and girlfriend of a race car driver have a week-long tryst with a lowly New World librarian, with his dirty gray Stetson and shelves of Dover Thrift Editions, one without an aristocratic pedigree?
For some reason, P.'s retelling of her ex-beau's outright petty jealousies made me very proud to be a North American, like I'd struck some sort of blow for New World liberation against the rusty chains and bloated self-importance of the Old World.
Not to gloat, but, well, ha-fucking-ha.
P. asked me if talking about her ex-boyfriend - and the fact that she ended the relationship because of what had happened here in Oxford Fucking Ohio - made me uncomfortable.
She quickly apologized before I could answer, explaining that her friends had made her drink a few glasses of French wine to "curse" the rival footballers at a World Cup poolside party.
An evil, sadistic bitch.
* * * *
P. and I talked about all sorts of things during our conversation, including the possibility of meeting up in Indianapolis later this year and how much her parents would hate it if she used her frequent flyer miles to buy me a one-way ticket to Barcelona in October.
When I informed her that I couldn't afford to pay for a flight back, she said we could work out some sort of payment.
Um...still not sure what she meant, exactly.
I shared with her, for some reason, the night-long conversation with the local ex, the similarities between the two of them, and asked her advice on a rather interesting predicament that arose because of the previous night.
Somewhere, over the course of my all-night-long conversation with the kinda-sorta ex, D. had invited me back to her house to watch the World Cup match that afternoon. D. had also mentioned that her boyfriend would probably not be too fond of that idea.
Should I go? Should I not go? What the fuck am I supposed to do here? If a woman knows that her boyfriend is already going to be pissed off finding out that she spent the whole night talking to the one guy who's apparently off-limits, even as a friend, why would a woman invite the same guy over to watch a stupid soccer game the next day?
P. laughed so hard I had to turn the volume down on the PC speakers.
According to P., I know nothing about what motivates women. And jealous boyfriends apparently offer ample motivation simply by being control freaks.
When I enquired as to what, exactly, P. thought was motivating D., my question was met with silence, then more laughter.
P.'s advice was that I go to D.'s World Cup party, if for no other reason than to watch P.'s countrymen humiliate the almost elderly French squad... and to be polite, of course.
Crazy. You're too crazy, boy. Just go and have fun. It's her boyfriend and her business. Let her worry about it.
P. and I agreed to keep in touch, and I logged off to get at least a few hours sleep. Woke up at about ten, blogged over breakfast, then did laundry and played a quick pick-up game of basketball.
I didn't give a single thought to any controversy or jealousies that my presence at a damned soccer party may cause.
P. was right, of course. Honestly, why should I bother with feeling guilty for someone else? I know my motives; I have no clue what motivates D. and I probably never will.
Why waste my energy pondering such stuff?
* * * *
So I showed up at D.'s house a half hour before game time.
D. and her roommate were sitting on the porch, drinking margaritas and talking. D., for some reason, barely acknowledged my being there, and I found it damned near impossible to keep a conversation going with her beyond a few minutes.
She seemed bothered by something.
Every few minutes during the first half, D.'s cell would ring and she'd step outside. Each time she returned, she seemed nervous and uncomfortable.
And then, during halftime, things started to go from weird to just plain batshit.
D. would pick up her phone and begin texting. Then the roommate's phone would ring and she'd start texting. It took me all of 30 seconds to figure out that I was the topic of conversation. Periodically, the pair would disappear into the kitchen together or go out on the porch.
At one point, D.'s roommate came in, plopped down on the couch next to me. D. had stayed out on the porch to take an "important" phone call. I asked the roomie if everything was okay. She just nodded and said something about how D. just couldn't go with it and be happy in the moment.
Doesn't take a rocket scientist (or an information scientist) to figure out that somebody really didn't want me there.
Understandable, sure. I wouldn't be too happy, either. But why call during the game? Do ya think I'm going to steal your girlfriend while watching the world's biggest sporting event?
Soon, D. returned and asked me to step out on the porch to talk. The roommate rolled her eyes. The other guys (there were two other guys watching the game) just gave me that "what the fuck?" stare, and went back to watching the game.
Well, I'll be damned. The boyfriend had called from New York to say he wanted me to leave.
I didn't even put up a fight. I told D. that, well, it's her choice and if I made her uncomfortable, then I'd leave. D. was almost in tears, eyes watering. I could tell she was in a hard spot, and I wasn't helping things.
I guess she figured this might be the last time, because she kept asking me, repeatedly, if I was mad and apologizing for my having to leave before the end of the game.
Then she hugged me. Actually, it wasn't a hug. A hug lasts a few seconds. An embrace, on the other hand, tends to last a bit longer. She held on tight, so tight I could barely breathe, and kept squeezing until I couldn't speak.
As I pulled back, I realized that, yeah, there's a reason "let's just be friends" is a damned near impossibility. The natural instinct of most human males, at least this human male, is to kiss someone after an embrace. That reaction, for me, kicked in somewhere around the time I felt D. lean her cheek into mine as I withdrew from the "hug."
When the great bitch Fate and her partner Temptation meet on an Ohio porch on a hot July afternoon, they make it damn near impossible to remember that "just being friends" means not letting someone you care about use you as an excuse to fuck up in a relationship for a second time.
Been there, done that. I even threw out a box of ex-lovers' clothing last month that proved I collected my fair share of tee shirts.
I chose not to let lightning strike twice and fought back Temptation and Fate. As I pulled back, I told D., simply, that I needed to leave anyway. Maybe we could hang out another time.
Sometimes, ya just have to do the noble thing, ya know?
But hey...I think I'm getting the hang of this "understanding body language" shit.
* * * *
By the time I arrived home again, I discovered that I'd missed Zinedine Zidane's now infamous red card, earned for a head-butt delivered to Marco Materazzi's chest, and the rather lackluster Italian shootout victory.
But I did receive an email from P.
A group photo of about 20 bikini-clad women and a few bare-chested men, dancing around a pool, waving Italian flags, smiling and cheering.
In the center, I saw a familiar face. My Italian backpacker fling was topless, with ITA painted on her right breast and LIA painted across her left.
On her head, I recognized something else.
My lucky baseball cap.
P. stole my lucky ballcap.
And I'll bet that guy standing next to her, with his arm around her, primping like a Versace model, probably has no clue where she picked up that beat-up piece of headwear.
I wonder if that's why she's winking in the photo?
I guess some women are motivated to define their actions; others wait for their actions to define their motivations.