I have been single since seventh grade. This means when I hang out with my coupled off friends, I third wheel. This is not usually a problem unless they a.) are mushy-gushy or b.) are in a fight. Today we’re going to talk about the latter.
A few years ago I visited one of my best friends in Chicago. At least she said she lived in Chicago. She actually lived outside the city, but that’s another post. Anyhow, she was dating some doctor at the time, and she was excited for me to meet him.
We have to make something clear here: By doctor, this was not an angelic soul who went to med school to save kids with cancer. Nah, this was the type who sent to med school so he could afford convertibles and ski resorts.
I first met the doctor when he picked up my friend and me to go out in Chicago. Like I said, my friend lived outside the city – like, an hour outside the city. So we had time to chat as we drove in. I don’t remember much of what we discussed other than the doctor did not like using his turn signal on the interstate, was consistently 20 mph over the speed limit, and he kept asking my friend to let him take a shot at the wheel.
I could also tell he was trying to impress me in that way guys do when they meet their love interest’s best friend. I really gave not a hoot about him. My friend’s love life is her love life; my endorsement is irrelevant. But I played along to the small talk.
The doctor dropped us off at the bar where we were meeting my friend’s coworkers while he searched out parking. We found her coworkers and exchanged pleasantries where I was introduced as the out-of-towner best friend. As millennials always do, the women started discussing whether we stay at this bar or go to another one.
Then another guy joined our group. He was the portly, next-door type: Totally nonthreatening. Apparently this was one of the coworker’s friends, but my friend looked like she had seen a Dementor.
“Oh no,” my friend whispered. “[The doctor] will not be happy.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“He hates Jackson. He’s just annoying, and he tried to hit on me at a party last month.”
“Does [the doctor] know?”
“No, but he thinks he’s annoying, too.”
Thankfully, the doctor showed up having chugged some bourbon in his car. He seemed unfazed by Jackson. At first.
We end up at a club where we all are dancing - except me. I’m like, “I need more alcohol to dance, but I can’t afford these Chicago prices.” The doctor keeps trying to talk to me, but I can’t hear him over the music. And then he’s asking me what I want to drink. I hate this scenario because I know he’s trying to win me over – and there’s nothing to win over. So I said I don’t want anything, but he returns with something alcoholic. I sip it while my friend and the doctor retreat to a booth. I attempt to mimic dancing because I don’t want to interrupt their kiss tiff. They both look agitated.
My friend rejoins the dance party. “[The doctor’s] mad about Jackson,” she says.
I sip deeper.
The doctor remains in the booth.
Discussion turns once more to whether we should travel to another bar. I listen with a straw in my mouth. We begin to make moves – either to another bar or to get more drinks, not really sure – and then some noteworthy beat comes on. We recommence dancing (well, they do). I don’t even see it happen, but Jackson slaps my friend’s butt. She turns and tells him off.
But too late. The doctor saw.
He launches into the group and into Jackson’s face, shouting. My friend pulls him back. Jackson shrugs and acts like he’s done no wrong. Jackson’s friend – my friend’s coworker – takes Jackson's side. The shouting continues. I gurgle on ice.
We relocate to the sidewalk so we can make out what every party is shouting. Everyone is on Jackson’s side, it becomes obvious, except my friend who is just embarrassed. She tells the doctor to stop, but of course he won’t.
I stand between the plaintiff and defendant, recognizing the reality: We are an hour from my friend’s home. The doctor is our only way out of this city at 2 AM. This car ride is gonna be something.
The doctor breaks away abruptly. “I’m leaving,” he declares and marches away.
My friend and I stand there. I am waiting for her to make a decision. The coworkers invite us over. “Don’t go with him,” the Greek chorus sings. “He’s a jerk. You can sleep on our couch.”
My friend to me: “What do you want to do?”
Me: “I think it’s really unfair to ask me. This is your life. I say cut the baby in half.”
My friend: “We have to go home.”
We run after the doctor. He is already in his car peeling out of the city. My friend doesn’t get into the car. She begins screaming at him. By this point I had no more drink or straw to distract myself. I look around at all the passersby gawking at us.
“We should probably get in the car,” I suggest.
She agrees – but she refuses to get in the front seat. This leaves me standing outside the car. Do I get into the backseat and declare sole allegiance to my friend or sit in the front seat and questionably align myself with the doctor/remain neutral?
I opt for the latter.
My friend: “What are you doing? Sit back here!”
Too late. We are barreling out of Chicago and an hour west home.
The fighting continues. Then it devolves to crying. I sit in the resounding quiet. The doctor asks me what I think. Did he really just ask me what I think?
Me: “I think I’m going to be sick.”
Both my friend and the doctor: “What?! Do we need to pull over?”
Me: “No, I just can’t talk. I feel nauseous*.”
*The technical phrasing is, “I am nauseated.” But this was 2012 before I absorbed such knowledge.
The doctor: “Let me know if I need to pull over.”
Me: “I will. I’d hate to throw up in your Audi.”
They pause their fight for my sake. I hunch over in my seat and rock back and forth.
My friend: “Did you drink too much?”
Me: “I must have.”
The doctor turns on his Spotify. He begins blaring violin rock. We listen to this for the next hour. I make this sound like the ride passed in a snap. Make no mistake, reader, this was an hour with me hunched over in the car, my friend sniffling in the backseat, the doctor shuffling between ever-aggressive violin rock, and the speedometer touching 80.
We finally reach my friend’s apartment. I know what’s coming: A debriefing. A “where are we? What happens now?” I could not be part of this. I rushed out of the car to the nearest parking median, fell on my knees, and began hacking up…nothing. But I made sure to violently raise and lower my head and keep my palms on the ground.
Did I fool you? I wasn’t sick at all. I faked being nauseated to escape: You can’t speak if you’re trying not to throw up.
My friend hurried over to help, but I shook my head. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” I groaned. “I just need to go to bed.”
She gave me her key, then she remained with the doctor to talk.
The next morning she asked how I felt. “Are you hungover?”
Me: “No, I feel great. It’s weird. I must have thrown it all up.”
My friend and the doctor did rekindle their romance, but only for two weeks. Then it ended for good. Just like my vomiting spell.