“Can I interest you in the dessert menu? The the special this week is a single-origin chocolate mousse.” Our server asks.
“None for me thanks, but I’d like another Mule please,” Miles points to his near-empty glass.
“For me as well, please,” I say.
“Excellent, I’ll be right back with that,” she says, making notes on her pad.
“Hey, do you wanna go see this pop-up exhibit downtown? Sean went and he said it’s really cool! It’s a look at the ways mainstream media has portrayed women over the last century and–”
“How that tracks policy and social issues.”
He looks stunned.
“Babe, how do you know about it?”
Is this where I remind you that I told you about this weeks ago, when it was first announced and I got excited about it and tried to make plans to go with you, except you completely dismissed the idea?
Thankfully our waiter arrives with the drinks, giving me a momentary reprieve to consider my response. I’m starting to pick up on a theme with this type of response from him, but I also remember what my mother always says about picking your battles.
“Yeah, Sophie told me about it. Her, Emily, Joanna, and I made plans to go next weekend,” I say as the waiter sets our drinks down.
“Wait, next weekend? I thought we were gonna go kayaking?”
“We talked about kayaking but not for next weekend,” I shrug.
“I wanted to surprise you, I’m planning a little getaway, just the two of us.”
You don’t have the monopoly on my time.
“That’s so nice! I’d love that. Just let me know what days you’re thinking once you figure this out.”
“I was thinking next weekend….”
“You gotta give me a little heads up. I get if it’s a surprise but you have to tell me the dates ahead. I already said yes to the girls and I haven’t seen Joanna since she started the new job. Plus Emily is making a themed brunch, too. No boyfriends allowed, sorry” I add and take a big sip of my Mule. I just made this part up, but it has the desired effect.
“Alright, but you gotta tell me how it is,” he shrugs and turns to his drink as well.
“You should go with some of your friends!” I suggest, walking the line between encouragement and an ambivalence. Because I can’t try to control his life but if he misses this and it becomes a big deal, he’ll hold that over my head.
“Well, Elias already went with Sean, but I’ll see.”
Yep, he’s already resenting me for not going with him.
Pick your battles, Nicole. Change the subject.
“But what about Friday night? I heard the new play at the theater on 3rd that you like is really good.”
“I don’t know about Friday, I think Mark’s having a party.”
We sip our drinks in silence. I check my phone for time.
“We should head out soon,” I tell him.
“I don’t even care about the movie anymore, let’s just go home.”
“I wanna go. It looks really good and the director will be there in person.”
“It’s gonna be one of those typical self-appointed art films that’s full of itself and all the clueless critics will eat it up because none of them is willing to admit they either don’t get it or think it’s boring and stupid. I can tell you right now: it’s gonna be boring and stupid.”
“I still wanna go and see it for myself. I’ve been excited for this movie for months and this is the perfect way to see it. And if you’re right you’ll know exactly how stupid and boring it is and you can tell everyone exactly why they’re wrong when it wins a bunch of awards.”
“Alright, alright, we’ll go.”
He waves over the waiter and gets the bill. I pull out my credit card but he refuses.
“I got this.”
“Really, let’s split it.”
“I wanna take care of this.”
“Okay, I’ll get our drinks at the theater.”
“Okay,” he shrugs, but his face betrays that it bothers him.
How dare I have and spend my own money.
On the walk to the theater, he’s very quiet, sulking even. I want to break up the silence, his mood, but I’m struggling to come up with an engaging enough yet neutral topic. I bring up one trivial thing after another, hoping to spark a simple, friendly conversation, but I only elicit no more than three words at a time.
“What a nice night!”
“It’s LA,” he shrugs, clearly annoyed.
“Oh wow, this new restaurant looks so good, we should try it sometime!”
“Yeah, sure,” he says, not even looking in the right direction.
I point out a few vanity license plates we walk by, amused by the creativity of horrible spelling they use to get their point across.
“That’s stupid,” he says. Or “whatever.”
Pick your battles, Nicole. You’re getting what you want, just go along with it. Let’s just go to the movie.
There is a long line at the theater bar. Not surprising given that it’s a sold out show. A renowned director is giving a Q&A for a movie with months of early awards buzz–of course it’s sold out, of course there’s a line.
Miles is impatient, rolling his eyes and sighing theatrically.
“Why don’t you go find our seats? I’ll get your drink, what do you want?” I ask, in the nicest possible tone I can muster.
“I’ll have a Long Island. Thanks,” he adds, unconvincingly.
A Miles and a Long Island means trouble, but I bite my tongue.
Just let him have it, maybe he’ll stop being such a dick.
Two minutes later, he’s walking back up to me.
“What’s our seats?” he asks. Except it doesn’t sound like a question; it’s an accusation.
“Oh I emailed you a copy when I get them, remember?” I say matter-of-factly but he gives me a look that makes it clear that I cannot realistically expect him to check his email right now.
“I already turned my phone off, but let me see.”
Yes, I really turn my phone off; you know that.
I dig up my phone out of my purse and turn it on. As it’s booting up, Miles resorts back to theatrical sighing. My phone boots up but the mail application is still loading when it’s our turn to order.
“I’ll have a Long Island Ice Tea, a 20 oz pour of the Kolsch and a large popcorn.”
“Oh don’t get popcorn it’s gross,” Miles says.
You don’t have to eat any, Miles. That will be all, and I have your rewards card,” I say to the bartender who’s now looking at me questioning. As he starts getting our order, I check the phone again and, mercifully, it has loaded my emails.
“Our seats are K 16 and 17,” I tell Miles, who snags the Long Island from the bartender’s hand and heads to the theater without saying anything to me or the bartender.
“Everything okay?” the bartender asks.
“Yes, I’m sorry about that,” I say.
“Butter on the popcorn,” another employee comes up with my bucket.
“No, thank you,” I say before adding a big tip and heading to my seat.
Shortly after I sit down, the host comes up to the podium and welcomes us at this special screening. Miles gets up, holding his empty glass.
“I need a refill, excuse me,” he says as he starts squeezing down the row. Every seat is packed and nobody is happy about Miles walking past them just as the director takes the stage to introduce the movie. I am too distraught over Miles’s behavior to appreciate the moment. The director finishes his short speech and a few trailers play. Just as the theater’s jingle hits the screen, Miles reappears and starts making his way back to our seats.
“Excuse me–it’s so dark in here–”
A few people seated nearby try to shush him.
There’s nothing you can do that won’t make it worse, Nicole. Say anything and it will cause a scene. He’s almost here.
I am finding it hard to focus on the film, as I alternate between angrily replaying his bad behavior in my head and imagining nightmare scenarios ahead.
As soon as the credits hit, he springs to his feet.
“But the Q&A--” I start to say.
“I gotta go to the restroom,” he says and squeezes past everyone again. He does not come back during the Q&A and as much I can’t really enjoy it, I stay in the theater. In part because it would be rude to leave early, in part to not let Miles see that he has power over me, and in part because I really wanted to enjoy this event and want to give myself every chance to do so. After the Q&A, I go and get my Blu-Ray of the director’s previous film signed; he seems very nice.
When I exit the theater, Miles is standing there.
“OK, let’s go,” he says, rolling his eyes.
“What did you think?” I ask.
“It was so slow and self-indulgent. Really boring. Why did you drag me to this?”
“You could have said you didn’t wanna go when I was buying the tickets but you seemed excited.”
“I guess I didn’t really know.”
Pick your battles, Nicole.
“It was exactly the kind of movie one could have expected from the director and exactly the kind of movie I like. You’d know that if you ever actually paid attention to anything I care about. Sometimes I can’t tell whether you’re just ignoring me or you really think I don’t have my own ideas and opinions.”
Pick up your battle axe.