I recently had to plan a dinner for an important figurehead at my university. At the last minute some seats opened up so I asked my friend Liza to come. Liza and I have been close friends for several years.
My other friend, Peter, signed up weeks before and usually was at these sorts of functions anyway. Liza knew less of the people so she stuck by my side at the beginning of the dinner. When Peter arrived, I introduced them. Soon Liza spotted another acquaintance and slipped away to chat.
“I almost forgot she was coming,” Peter said. “When I saw her name on the guest list, I almost didn’t come.”
“What?” I said, very confused.
“You know,” he said pointedly.
“Know...?” I said.
“You know. We used to date.”
“You used to date?” I coughed.
“Yeah, for two years! I’ve told you this.”
Like I said, I had known Liza for several years. I knew she dated people, but I didn’t know of any recent relationships, especially ones within the last two years. Furthermore, I had no idea she even knew Peter, let alone they dated. And they just shook hands - stone-faced to one another. What poker faces!
“You dated for two years?” I repeated. “When?”
Mind you, Peter was currently married - and had been married for over two years.
“Right before I met my wife,” he said.
I prepared to drag more information out of him, but the focal point of the dinner walked into the room. I hurried over to greet him and announce his entrance.
We all found seats shortly after this. Liza sat beside me, and Peter sat across the table near the speaker.
At the midpoint Peter asked a question that turned into a monologue critique. He didn’t say anything particularly critical, and the speaker began to agree with him.
Liza raised her hand. The speaker nodded to her. She began to speak: “I don’t necessarily agree. I think...”
I listened as she challenged and qualified what Peter had just said. I watched, braced in my seat. Liza rarely spoke at events like this.
Peter smacked his lips. “Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying.”
Another friend of mine raised her hand. “I just have a comment,” she said and backed up Liza’s point.
Thankfully, the conversation avoided outright conflict. The next question changed the subject. Soon the speaker had to leave and people began to filter out for the night.
I hung around to help clean up as did Liza and as did Peter. I had almost forgotten they used to date until Peter came up to me. “Wow, that was almost bad,” he huffed. “When she spoke, I don’t know, man.”
“When who spoke?” I asked dumbly.
“When she spoke. My ex.”
“Oh, right.” Your ex who is standing right behind me as we speak.
“It was really bad. I haven’t seen her in years. And it was bad when it ended. A lot of tension. A lot of anger. There’s just lots of negative energy.”
That negative energy is right behind us, I thought, but instead nodded. “Mm, hmm…” Did he know Liza was right behind us?
“She seems like she’s doing well, but still. You don’t date someone for that long... and I think she’s still bitter.”
I couldn’t take it any longer. “So you two,” I said, “dated? For two years? How did I not know this?”
“Man, I told you this,” Peter said. “I think a while ago. That one other time she came to a meeting.”
“I don’t remember,” I confessed, “but you know I forget. But... for two years? She’s never brought it up…” I looked at Liza. She was looking away.
“I mean, she probably wants to forget,” Peter said.
Why was he speaking so loud? Could we stop talking about her like she wasn’t in the room?
“What happened?” I couldn’t help myself.
“Let’s talk about it another time, when other people aren’t around. But she’s evil.”
And I have to walk home with her tonight, I thought.
“I’ll see you later, man.” He waved goodbye.
As soon as he exited, I whirled around to the only person left in the room: Liza.
“You dated him? You dated Peter?! For two years?!”
“What?” She looked bewildered.
“You two dated! For two years. You had such a good poker face!”
“What are you talking about, Cazey?” she demanded.
“You dated - “
“Who? Him?” She indicated Peter’s absence.
“Yes! Peter! For two years!”
“I didn’t date him. Where is this coming from?”
“Are you lying?”
“I forgot my jacket.” Peter reappeared in the doorway. I turned from Liza to Peter and back to Liza.
“You two dated for two years and I didn’t know about it?!” I burst out.
“What are you talking about?” Liza returned.
“You think I dated her?” Peter said simultaneously.
“Yes! That’s what you said!”
“Cazey, I just met him tonight!” Liza said.
“Are you lying? I’m so confused,” I replied.
“That’s not who I dated,” Peter said. “We just met.”
“Then who have you been talking about?”
“Ohmigawd, you dated Natalie? What?” Natalie had been at the dinner and spoke at the one point to agree with Liza. “I am so lost and confused and...you two didn’t date?”
“No, we just met tonight,” both Peter and Liza emphasized.
“Oh, good. I was just so confused.”
“I told you,” Peter shook his head. “I dated Natalie for two years.”
“This makes much more sense,” I agreed. I knew Natalie far less than Liza, so who knows who she dated for two years during the Obama years?
“I feel like an idiot,” I went on. “But I’m glad we cleared that up. I was about to interrogate you, Liza, on the walk to your car.”
“No, no, we never dated,” Liza laughed.
“Well, I’m glad you two met tonight. And I made it supremely awkward.”
“You did,” Peter laughed. “Well, I’ll see you both later.” And out he walked, away from the dinner and the two year relationship that never was.
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