Saturday, October 4, 2008

GIVING UP EASY

Years ago, my mother, my best friend and I were in a taxi on the way to my 28th birthday celebration in New York City, and Mom said something that I've never forgotten. We were talking about love and understanding, love and anger, love and pride and all that jazz when she dropped her bombshell: "Jeremy," she said, "sometimes you give up on people too quickly." I silently disagreed but wondered if perhaps she had a point. Years of experience eventually led me to the conclusion that she did. She'd hit the nail on the head.

I once went on a Fourth of July first date with a guy whose cell phone rang during dinner. I couldn't believe that he had the gall to interrupt me mid-sentence to answer it. I vowed then and there never to go out with him again. And I didn't. After the fireworks, he invited me to have a nightcap. I politely declined and went home, deleting his number from my phone en route. Now I look back and think how silly I was for reacting to a simple call in such drastic fashion.

"I break up with him before he dump me," Missy Elliott rapped on her first hit, "The Rain." Me, too. I also weed out undesirables before they get the opportunity to really cross me. It's what I do, as anyone who's violated my golden rule knows all too well. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are late, and I never wait more than 20 minutes for anyone. Even if someone is picking me up at home, I will purposely leave after 20 minutes, just so that when they arrive, they'll see that they've made the trip for naught.

I did it in Santiago de Chile when Marcelo had the nerve to show up 45 minutes after he was supposed to without so much as a phone call. I didn't even wait that long. At 9:30, after a half hour of waiting, I went to dinner alone. When I returned to the apartment, he finally contacted me (via IM, natch!) with an excuse so lame that I can't even remember it. Why he didn't call to let me know he was running late, I'll never know. I didn't give him a second chance. I figure that anyone who really wants to--or deserves to--see me will move heaven and earth to get to me within five minutes of the appointed time. Or at least call. (Coming soon: People Who Ask You Out And Then Never Call: The Alejandro Story or From Perfect Saturday Afternoon Picnic Date To Complete Asshole In Less Than Three Weeks)

Now before you go branding me a cold, heartless SOB, let me amplify. I suspend my rule for people who bother to let me know that they are running late--of course, this is clearly asking too much of Argentines, who are chronically late and can be chronically ill-mannered as well. Last night I promised this guy whom I had met the previous night named Javier that I would be in front of a certain bar at 11 p.m. He must have sent me a dozen text messages over the course of the evening confirming and reconfirming our plan. Geez, I thought, this guy will probably be there at 11 sharp. I'd better be, too.

Flash forward to 11 p.m. I arrive at the bar, and there is no sign of Javier. I wait 15 minutes before sending him a text telling him I'm by the door. He says he'll be there "en 5 minuto" (he's a native Argentine, but correct Spanish grammar and spelling are obviously not his strengths)--just in time, I thought, to make my deadline. Five minutes later, he still hadn't arrived. I sent him another text, this time telling him that I was about to leave. "ESTOY YEGANDO (sic) ESPERAME AFUERA." I figured that since he was coming all the way from Tigre, I'd let him off the hook and not give up on him so quickly.

I'm glad I stuck around, because I got a great story out of it. It wasn't as entertaining as the episode of Friday Night Lights that I was missing to be there, but few things are. After one of two jumbo beers (I drank orange soda), he started to loosen up and got up close and personal about his life. He told me that five months ago, his live-in girlfriend of four years left him and their two kids, aged 2 and 3, and moved to Italy. (I know what you are thinking, but he's not the first guy I've gone out with here who has ex-girlfriends and kids.) Her departure came without warning. She just announced one day that she was leaving, and since everything they owned (including their home) was in her name, she took it all. He, in turn, lost everything--which is actually how he began the story: "Hace unos meses, me perdí todo." That, I thought to myself, would be a great opening line for a short story: A few months ago, I lost everything. Who could resist reading on?

I also wondered what kind of woman does such a thing to her kids (or what kind of fool lives in a home with someone who owns everything in it and in the driveway). Now, Javier and the kids (whom I imagine must be beyond adorable) live with his parents in Tigre. At 28, he's living a life that's pure soap opera. Personally, I think he's kind of fortunate to have two kids without having to deal with the baby mama. I didn't tell him this, but I did tell him that he's lucky that she didn't take them with her. I can't help but think that her role in this story is far over. I predict an Act II straight out of Kramer Vs. Kramer (see photo above). She'll eventually come back looking for her children. Isn't that what would happen on One Life To Live? I wonder what the Argentine courts would have to say about that.

When I left Javier around 1:30 to go home, he was on his way to a nightclub. Father of the Year, I thought. He told me that he goes out practically every night. I'm not sure what's in a nightclub that's more important than his kids, and something tells me that he doesn't know the answer to that one either. I just hope those little ones turn out okay, and that his actions don't come back to haunt him in a custody case.

Mom would be proud to know that I'm not giving up on Javier. I've never been able to resist a good soap opera, and I'm dying to see how this one unfolds.
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