I have some terrible habits, including but not limited to: tweeting excessively, twirling my hair in a valley-girl like manner and tap dancing in public.
They don’t usually interfere with my life. I work for an ad agency now and part of my job title is “interactive content specialist”, which boils down to “I tweet really well”, so that habit actually helped me. Twirling my hair is only annoying because I shed like your chocolate lab, but the tap dancing thing? This involuntary private Broadway show I think I’m in all the time? That can get tricky. Especially when you’re in the fruit freezer of a Costco and some ex-boyfriend’s mom is hanging out by the grapes.
Mid-shuffle, a woman’s voice coos, “…Stephanie?”
And that’s when tap dancing interferes with my life.
“Stephanie?” she asks again and I suddenly realize I’m kick ball-changing and holding a bag of avocados and I stop immediately and pretend like everything is totally Normal.
It totally sucks, right? I look insane, when in reality I might have been the only self-actualized one when I was in a relationship with her son a few years back during our second year of college. The story goes as follows: Jacob dropped my ass so he could drop some acid instead. I haven’t spoken to him much since because that ain’t my cup o’ tea. (Actual tea, however? Specifically Earl Grey? I’m all over that.)
He explained his game plan to me one day over mediocre ice cream that I kept wishing was frozen yogurt. “So, like,” he laughs a little and his eyes are all red and looking back, one could assume he was Seth Rogan-ing it up. “Like, I dunno. I just feel better when I’m not being me and I have a reason not to be me,” he says. And then I calmly explain to him that it sounds like he’s depressed and might need help, and he manically explains to me that if I didn’t support his new habits, because I “choose to lead a boring, sheep-like life”, I didn’t have to stay with him. So this adorable little sheep left. But before I did, Jacob says to me. “You can email me questions or whatever if you want to and we can still be Facebook friends.”
It was my turn to laugh.
“Hi, Mrs. Deacon,” I say, as if I wasn’t tap dancing .2 seconds ago.
Oddly enough, the last time I saw Jacob was at the same Costco. (I like Costco, okay? It’s where all the country’s culture overlaps; coffins AND coffee AND eight pound tubs of Greek yogurt? Where do I sign up?) It was Fourth of July weekend, a few months after we broke up, and his cart looked like it had just gone hunting in the butcher’s section. We locked eyes for an instant before he broke out into a very nervous, very loud, very scary, boisterous laugh. It was the kind of laugh that someone cackles when they make a complete fool of themselves at a party and they don’t know how to hide it. Any more than twenty seconds laughing like that and you automatically begin to cry. Those are the rules. I stood, motionless (read: not tap dancing) like a deer caught in his shopping cart’s headlights and I didn’t eat for a week after that. Next to the stomach flu, AKA God’s Celebrity Weekend Diet, anxiety from heartbreak was the best meal plan I’d ever been on.
“You look great,” Mrs. Deacon says to me, alluding to the fact that I had shed about 90 pounds (properly, not from stress) and grew seventeen inches of hair. “I like your hair. That style is coming back,” she tells me. “There’s a singer with that hair. Do you know who I’m talking about? She’s on a show? She acts, too.”
I thank her and she asks me what I’m doing now and we sum our lives up in five words or less (“I’m fine thanks, and you?”) because our ten pounds of frozen chicken is thawing out in our carts. She hugs me. Tells me that she still asks Jacob about me just to annoy him. “We miss you at our house,” she says with a sad smile. “I remember you tap dancing around our kitchen, too.”
Oh, great. So, I was tap dancing even back then? I don’t even remember that. I do remember the email I got from Jacob about a year or so ago though. “You were my single best friend at the time and I messed up. I don’t know why I cut you off,” he writes. “And then I really missed you. I needed to treat you better. I understand if you don’t even want to be friends or if you don’t reply to this.”
I did reply. I said we could be friends. Forgiving is a good thing to do, and every now and again he reaches out to me- usually to ask for a favor or to see if I’m going to a concert. That’s pretty much always the way.
“Sorry for all the tap dancing,” I say feebly. I realize now I’m holding the bag of avocados like a baby. They just needed a bonnet.
She pats my shoulder and then says, “By the way, if you need strawberries, get them here. They’re the best.”
“Thanks for the tip!” I say, and then I do buy the strawberries, because they’ll go really well the fifty-pack of instant oatmeal I just bought.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Brand.