“Detestable Behavior” – short story by Jennifer Candage

She feels so conspicuous when a man like this sits across from her, chewing his food so slack jawed & noisy. She can see how the other patrons are disrupted by the harsh noise of his after dinner belch. He then leans back in his chair, puts both hands in his pant pockets and says to her “Thanks, you got this…. right?”.  One could feel disappointment with the progress of this date. One could be insulted that on the ride home from their first date, he suggests they pull off the highway “for a quick fuck”. She could be angry, she could see this romance as going no where at all. Or…she could encourage herself to think more positively. His artistic gifts show his depth and beauty. He did after all bring her flowers. His behavior, it is not so detestable.

Tonight, she graduates! She tries on every outfit she owns. She daydreams of how all of her friends will be there, she thinks about how they will all meet him. Finally, they will all understand how great and exceptional he is. They will see what she loves so dearly about him. When he is a half hour late, she can feel the knots in her stomach tighten. He doesn’t answer his phone, when she checks her email she sees the first break up letter. The first break up letter of many to follow. She had high expectations, and expectation always leads to disappointment. She knows better than that, it is her fault. Later, she quietly cries into the phone and begs him to tell her….what is it that she has done to make him behave this way? He tells her nothing, says nothing, gives her nothing, but quiet dominance. She goes to bed, her pillow is still damp in the morning when she awakes, from the tears shed the night before.

Her expectations were to blame, “Why does she do this to herself!?” He has his reasons, it is she who struggles in relationships. It is she who does not understand. It is not his behavior that is so detestable.

Her birthday is here. She knows with certainty that he will be with her. Certainly, he must, it is her Birthday and he wouldn’t hurt her today. He sends her a text it says “happy birthday”. No capitals, no exclamation points, no smiley emoticons. This is the beginning, she can’t wait to see what is to come, “It’s my Birthday!” 2pm, there is no call, 7pm there is no call, there is no show. There is no evidence he cares. She hopes he is safe, she doesn’t want to get mad or jump to conclusions. His is car could have broken down, he could be sick, or even worse, hurt. He knows that she cancelled her plans with her friends again to spend this time with him. She understands that he has a very busy schedule. She knows that it is important to be understanding and make compromises in relationships, that is what she’s heard. He knows how important to her today is. He has good and solid judgement, he must have a logical reason. His behavior, it is not so detestable.

She decides he must be scared of being in a relationship. Yes, it is because she stirs something so acute and profound in him that he is fearful and runs away, over and over again. He doesn’t mean to hurt her, it’s just that he has a lot of fear. She really needs to be more patient with him. If she waits, he will learn to trust her and really, his behavior, it is not so detestable.

She sees things with clarity now. She must be stronger, she wants more than he can give. She decides that she really cannot trust her own thinking, and she will ask a friend. She may just leave certain things out in the telling of the story.  She may add some things, things that make her appear wise,  things that make her look sensible. When at first they met, they had so much in common. They laughed, they kissed, they watched the stars together. When he was there, it was so good, and he was nice to her. His behavior, it is not so detestable.

Finally, tonight they have a date. While he prepares the two of them dinner, the fire is crackling in the fireplace. After dinner, they cuddle under a blanket, and watch the stars. She breathes in deeply and thinks that this is the best moment ever in her life. At just that moment he looks at her, he strokes her face. He looks deep into her eyes and says to her, “You are so beautiful, and I am so in love with you”. She goes to bed that night. Her pillow is still damp in the morning from the tears she shed the night before. She now thinks to herself, “My God, this behavior, his behavior, it is so very detestable.”

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