Eight days. Eight days was the length of time my 2015 was Seth Grady free. Day 1 was spent nursing a petulant hangover. Days 2-7 were business as usual. But on the eighth day of this promising new year, my life changed forever.
It seemed as if it were a regular Monday. Cynthia, my best friend, was over, and we were hanging out in my Tolbon living room watching Gilmore Girls. In between episodes, I stood up to wipe the expected tears from my eyes and grab more tissues, when I noticed my phone flashing on the kitchen counter. I had a new text message from Seth Grady. My heart rate quadrupled. My stomach started doing somersaults. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’d ended it. I’d gotten my closure nearly three weeks back.
“I got into a car accident on Saturday night, and I thought of you,” was all it read. Oh God. I worried I might throw up. The blood rushed from my head to my feet. My vision was blurry now, as I collapsed onto the couch next to Cynthia and urged her to read the bitter-sweet message from my shaky hand.
Her eyes grew wide as she snatched the phone out of my cold fingers and examined the text more closely. She squealed excitedly, as if it were happening to her, “he thought of you!!!”
“He thought of me twice!!!” I emphasized, as if this automatically granted him qualification for a Nobel Peace Prize. Cynthia nodded along enthusiastically. “He thought of me first on Saturday night when he crashed his car, and then again 17 minutes ago, so much so that it made him message me!!”
“Yes!!” Cynthia supported my insanity. “Answer him!”
I tried to regain my composure. It had been over with Seth Grady. I’d ended it. But with this one message, all of that had been undone. He’d reached out to me this time. He’d thought of me. Twice! Clearly, he was harnessing some undying love for me.
“Oh no!” I replied, as if it wasn’t at all odd to hear from him. I kept it calm, cool and collected. “Were you okay?”
“Yeah. Let’s just say, I was a little too okay that night, if you know what I mean,” he replied. Red Flag Number One: open admission to reckless behaviour. I knew exactly what it meant. He was probably too drunk or high to be operating a vehicle. It was perfectly in line with his character. Classic Seth Grady, all over again.
“What about the car?” I wondered.
“It’s a little bumped and scratched, but it’s okay. I was going way too fast, didn’t notice there was ice, hopped a curb and wound up in a snow pile on the sidewalk. At least it’s not totalled like yours.”
“He remembered!!!” I exclaimed to Cynthia. I’d told him about my car accident the last time I’d talked to him. For him to remember such an event was serious character development for him. Maybe he was growing up. To Seth I said, “tell me about it. I’m still driving the rental, until I get the insurance cheque to get a new car. It’s such a headache.”
He asked about what kind of car I’d like to get, and I told him I was debating between a second Mazda 3 or a Toyota Prius. I was mostly just interested in the Toyota because it came in the most adorable shade of bright orange. He told me Pruises look like toy cars. I made some lame joke, he answered a one word answer, and I put the phone down. We were done talking. Car trouble was all we really had. I wasn’t going to let this start all over again. At least now, it could end on a high note of him messaging me first, for the last time. Cynthia agreed that moving on was the right decision, and I started the next episode of Gilmore Girls.
Eight minutes. For eight minutes, we were able to watch Jess and Rory flirt with each other on the screen. Then my phone lit up again beside me on the couch. Luckily, Cynthia was cool enough to realize how monumental this moment was and did not oppose to pausing the show again. It was him again. He’d double messaged me! He really was in love with me. He wanted to broach a new topic. He’d asked, “so how was your New Years?”
“It was okay,” I replied honestly, resigning to the fact that this thing with Seth Grady was very much not finished yet. “I worked at The Tap until 11:30 and made it home just on time to celebrate the new year.”
“You’re living in Tolbon now, right?” Seth questioned me out of nowhere. “With Paul?”
Whoa. My throat went dry and Cynthia, still loyally reading along, sat up straighter. I demanded, “how do you know that?”
“You told me,” was the lie he came up with a few minutes later. I explained to Cynthia how that couldn’t possibly have been true. We’d talked once in the past two years, a few weeks back, and I had been very vigilant to avoid the mention of Paul or Tolbon. Not because I was hiding anything necessarily. But because it wasn’t really a topic I wanted to get into with Grady. So I was sure I hadn’t mentioned it.
“No I didn’t.” I responded firmly.
“Oh, well, then Olivia told must have told me when I ran into her at the mall a few months back,” he reasoned. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Did you know about that?” Cynthia asked warily as she read his message. I absolutely did not. It took me a second to process the information. I shook my head slowly.
“So, are you seeing anyone?” I shifted the conversation, since my cat was out of my bag. Not that it mattered anyway. We were just two old friends catching up. Now was as good a time to ask as ever. That’s the nice part about talking to someone you never really expect to speak to again. You can be a little more direct.
“Well, me and my crazy girlfriend finally broke up about six months ago.” I noted how funny it was that he was finally referring to her as his ‘girlfriend,’ only now that they’d broken up. He continued, “and I’ve gone out a couple of times with this girl I met on Tinder. But she’s young. Really young.”
“19. And the last time I saw her, she said she wanted me to meet her mom. So I’m pretty much out at this point.” Red Flag Number Two: clear aversion to any type of commitment. An involuntary surge of unfounded relief rippled through me in spite of it, though. It shouldn’t have. I know that now.
“Anyway, I gotta go to the gym now,” he announced after telling me some more minor details about this Tinder girl. She was artsy. Peruvian. They went skating once. So what?
To mask the inappropriate disappointment I was now feeling, I typed, “have fun!”
“I won’t.” He replied.
“Well, then at least break a sweat.” I suggested.
“I won’t.” He replied.
“Well, then you’re just too hard to please.” I countered.
Eight words. His eight word response collided with my brain and heart so ferociously and caught me so completely off guard. I almost fainted from the intense emotions. It read, “well, you’ve never seemed to have any trouble.”
Red Flag Number 3.