I wouldn’t recommend treating your friends as love gurus, but I didn’t have a choice so I went against my own advice.
Guru #1 was Madeleine. She joined me at my desk in the office the following day with tears dripping from her eyes.
“He stopped returning my calls and my text messages.” She dragged the chair from the nearby unoccupied desk to my space and sat on it.
I recalled all the names of the men Madeleine had spoken about in the last four months. “Tracy, right?” I asked, booting up my computer. I had just arrived at the office.
“Tracey with an ‘e.’” She dabbed the side of her eyes with a tissue. “He has a feminine name.”
“Maybe he’s just really busy. He’s an architect, right?”
“No. He’s an engineer.”
“Did you text him? Did you give him a call?”
“Yes and yes. Did I get anything back? No and no.”
“How long has it been that way?”
“A month.” She dabbed the side of her eyes again though I couldn’t see tears anymore.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you two.” I patted her on the shoulder.
Madeleine sulked, then wailed.
Later during the afternoon, Madeleine stopped by my desk again.
“How are you?” I asked her. The words came out of my mouth with no effort. Those three words had become staples in our conversations.
“Feeling better.” Madeleine placed her hands on her hips and huffed. “In time, that bastard will be forgotten, erased from my memory like he never existed.”
A strong wave of laughter surged over me. I tried to suppress it but failed.
“Your wish. I don’t believe we can Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind anybody from our memory. We can stop thinking about them but to un-know them is impossible.”
Madeleine pouted, then crossed her arms. “It’s just a freaking wish, Herbert. At least I can try to convince myself to forget every guy that let me go.”
She uncrossed her arms, held her chin up and gave me the segue to turn her into my unofficial, personal love guru. “No. I can’t. You know how many men I dated. I still remember each and every one of them, how we met, what we did on our first date, how our first kiss together felt like and even the sex. Their names are engraved in my head forever along with how they made me feel after they crushed my dream to walk down the aisle in a beautiful white dress, to exchange vows with the man of my life.”
“Is it possible you’ve already met the one?” My heart pumped harder when I asked the question.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think the one that’s meant for you slipped through your fingers? I know you’ve dated many men but I don’t mean that to offend you. I’m just throwing out the possibility for you.”
Madeleine slouched. Her eyes dampened and her lips turned into a frown. “Yes,” she replied in a soft voice, no trace of offense in her somber tone.
“Does your heart still pulsate every time someone utters his name?”
“Does his voice echo in your mind in the middle of the night?”
“Does his face appear on every stranger in the city?”
“Will you walk every street in the city to follow him around?”
“Will you inspect every car in traffic to know where he’s hiding?”
“Will you break up every dating couple to save him from the wrong one?”
“Will you do everything—”
“Yes, Herbert, I’ll do everything to be with the one that got away if only he were still alive.”
Madeleine’s revelation, putting the “away” to “the one that got away,” stunned me. All that time I played advisor and confidant to her, she never mentioned a deceased lover. Her Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind wish made more sense to me.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I put an arm around her.
“It was a long time ago.” She looked at me with earnest eyes. “But some things are still too painful to remember.”
I squeezed her shoulder.
“I was supposed to walk down the aisle.” Madeleine’s voice trailed away.
I smiled, the best kind of consolation I could offer for that kind of heartbreak.
My consultation with Guru #2 happened via the phone in the evening.
“How’s the gym sessions? Has Gina fallen over the StairMaster yet?” Francis asked.
“Not yet,” I said. “I need your bromment on something that’s confuzzling me.”
I told him about my two visits to Myrna’s Garden with Gina. “You have more experience with women than I do. I’m listening.”
Francis started a question-and-answer session with me like I did with Madeleine.
“I can turn a blind eye on Gina picking you out of the thousands of residents of Cinnabar to help her lose weight. After all, your body can turn any straight man gay, but some of the things you told me are suspicious,” Francis said, tacking on a brief laugh at the end. “Is it normal for the ex-girlfriend, who’s already engaged, to dine out with the ex-boyfriend she hadn’t seen for years, with the risk of someone seeing them together?”
“No,” I replied.
“Is it normal for the ex-girlfriend to get jealous over some girl supposedly crushing on the ex-boyfriend?”
“Amy does not have a crush on me.”
“The question is answerable only by either yes or no, dummy.”
“Is it pure coincidence ex-girlfriend took the ex-boyfriend to a table with a clear view of a sign stating ‘True love conquers all’ when there were other tables they could’ve picked?”
“No, dummy. The answer is no. If that was me, it’d be very obvious.”
I sighed. “Man, I’m confuzzled.”
“Do you want to hear my unabashed bromment, bro?”
“A bromment is never abashed, bro.” I sighed once more and waited for Francis’ next words, my grip on my phone shaking.
My best friend’s voice burned like an inferno. “The writing’s on the wall, dum-dum. Gina Watson’s still not over you.”
Herbert Novelli lives an ordinary life. Breakfast. Work. Lunch. Work. Gym. Dinner. Sleep. Plus the occasional get together with his long-time friends who entered adulthood together with him in Cinnabar City.
An unannounced visit to his apartment one ordinary night brings his ex-girlfriend Gina Watson. After leaving him with a vague letter and a broken heart in their old home town Verona, Gina’s unexpected appearance is the last thing Herbert expects to happen.
Gina hands Herbert an invitation to her wedding with another man as a strange peace offering. Herbert accepts it, a show of his willingness to bury the hatchet.
But Death has a funny way of doing his job in the city. Sometimes he makes a grand fanfare of his arrival. Other times, he comes unannounced with a wedding invitation on hand.