The Bachelor Party Guys
As I recall and write my stories (and there are so so many of them), I’m forced to confront the biggest burning question, “what the fuck is wrong with me?” There was no one holding a gun to my head forcing me to stay in the humiliating, abusive relationship I was in with Tina. There were many times when it would have been obvious to any outside observer that I should have ran fast and far. So why didn’t I?
I felt an emotional connection to Tina that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life. It was powerful.
When Tina wasn’t being a complete asshole, she was smart, witty, charming and complimentary. She flattered me. She stroked my ego. We never ran short of compelling conversation. She was an intellectual match. I loved her. When we were alone together, it seemed like impossible magic. Introducing other people into our world brought out a different Tina, or Tinas. She changed her personality like a chameleon changes colors around some company. Now I wonder if I ever really knew her or if I was just enamored of the chameleonic reflection of myself I saw in her as she adapted to my “colors.”
It wasn’t more than a month after she’d accepted my first marriage proposal and the two of us were spending some time alone in the top-floor apartment of the Buffalo Hotel. Newly engaged and excitedly planning our wedding, we drank copious amounts of whiskey, smoked a lot of cigarettes and had a lot of great sex. It was a blissful, care-free time. It was winter and we’d been spending a lot of time in the small apartment. We were quite happy, but decided to brave the cold and get out for a while.
I drove her to the Buffalo Bar and Grill, where we were becoming known as regulars. There are a few pool tables there and another of Tina’s favorites: A claw machine game.To my amazement, had I won her a stuffed animal on my first try on our first visit to that bar. I found some cosmic significance in that. It was meant to be.
We got our usual order to start the night: Two Nordeaster beers and two double shots of Windsor. The bartender was always really friendly to us and poured rather too generously, but we weren’t complaining! I always tipped really well.
After we shot a game or two of pool and tried our luck at the Claw machine, we went out for a smoke in the chilly night air. When we got back inside, there were a couple guys shooting pool at the table adjacent ours. We struck up a conversation with them and wound up taking them on in doubles eight-ball. They were very personable and decent players. Tina and I admired the custom-made cues they’d brought to shoot with.
At some point in the night, it came up that Brendon and Sam were only visiting the area for a friend’s bachelor party that was coming up.
Tina took a tremendous interest in the bachelor party, pressing them on what they had lined up for entertainment. It became apparent that it wasn’t going to be the cliched strippers and hos kind of bachelor party and the guys didn’t seem very interested in discussing that any further but when drunk as Tina was, she lost any ability to read social cues and pressed on. Insisting that they had to at least have a stripper if they were going to show their buddy a good time before he tied the knot. She said she could hook them up with a dancer.
“You know a stripper?” I asked, a little surprised. I remembered her talking before about thinking about trying it out herself. Some of Scott’s friends had told her, “I’d pay to see that.”
Tina just nodded, barely acknowledging that I was even there anymore, so wrapped up in the bachelor party discussion that she wouldn’t let drop.
We’d bet a round of drinks on the outcome of our last game with Sam and Brendon and we’d lost. I excused myself to the restroom and stopped by the bar to order a round of beers. I went back to the pool tables to tap Tina for help carrying all the drinks back and saw her doing the thing she “never does,” for at least the third time since I’d started dating her. She was exchanging cell phones with Brendon. It appeared that they’d each just finished adding their contact information and they were just then swapping phones back.
I was a bit drunk myself at this point and didn’t make anything of it at the time, but recalling this night on the following St. Patrick’s Day led to a pretty big blow-out between Tina and I on the subject of obtaining other guy’s phone numbers.
We’d gone to Rich and Thea’s to have corned beef and cabbage and go out bar-hopping in White Bear Lake. It was a pretty small group. Chris was with. His wife stayed home with the kids. Richard’s kids were out around town, too, but we didn’t really see much of them.
I was probably fairly drunk by the time the argument started. I started asking questions about why Chris and Tina were texting each other. I think that night, her excuse was getting weed from him, but later she told me it was about arranging for all of us to go shooting together (something he later vehemently denied when casually I brought it up).
Chris, hearing all this as we walked between bars admitted to texting her. “Yeah, I texted her, but I would never…”
“Fine. You wanted to buy weed – even though you’re well stocked and I thought your mom bought all your weed for you, but whatever. What was your business with those other guys at the Buffalo Bar I saw you exchanging numbers with, then?”
She usually had explanations, but she didn’t have a ready response. She did remember their names, though. “Oh, you mean Brendon and Sam?” She said their names with a certain fondness, a sly smile curling her lips.
Rich, who’d been walking ahead of us suddenly turned and hollered, “shut the fuck up, Dan!”
Rich was very slow to anger. He’d never raised his voice to me in the decades I’d known him. I respected and trusted him. That stopped me in my tracks, stunned. If Rich turned on me in anger, I must be way out of line, I concluded. I clammed up, shamed. I must have been wrong about all of that.
Tina looked approvingly at her new defender and we continued on our way to the next bar. More whiskey will solve all this!
Why didn’t I leave her then and there? There were many times that question should have been seriously considered. I always gave her the benefit of the doubt. I preferred to assume there were innocent explanations. She often had excuses or scapegoats. I tended to believe her, but never entirely, I suppose. I drank away memories of embarrassing moments. She reassured me of her devotion with sex and flattery (yes, disappointingly, it appears that I am that stupid). Our relationship carried on, but I’ve actually lost track of how many times we “broke up” over incidents like this, always to reunite. We didn’t immediately call it quits after that night in Buffalo, but when it came up on St. Patrick’s Day and we argued, we were separated for a few weeks afterwards and then it was me, doing all the apologizing.