Allie was my first girlfriend in the post-Fucking Amy era. She's the most empathetic person I've ever known, and as such she attracts broken men like my dog, Ed, attracts stink. So was it with me. For our ex-ship, I like to say, we retained the best and worst parts of our relationship. The best part is our friendship, which has only gotten closer. Much to her lament, she's the person with whom I speak about everything—hopes and fears, boasts and insecurities, projectile vomit and diarrhea. She, not her successors, is the one with the housekeys and passwords. One could certainly read into that—no wonder it never works out; you trust another woman more!—but for me it's a matter of hard-learned pragmatism. I give her the keys simply because I know I won't later have to change the locks. Stand by me for a decade and you too can have a key.
And now for the worst.
You know that one ex with whom you argued constantly? She's mine. Drove me positively insane. "Slavery was a bad thing," I might observe. "And chlorophyll makes grass green."
She would bristle. "I don't know why you say these things. You just generalize without thinking things through. You need to stop watching cable TV news. Not that you're entirely wrong, but I can think of 187 reasons why you're oversimplifying, and now I'm going to enumerate them in excruciating detail until you beg for mercy. You'd better sit down."
"Oh, I know you're right," I would offer hopefully. But it was too late.
"No you don't. You never know. When I'm done enumerating the 187 things you overlooked about slavery and grass, I have many compelling illustrations of how you never admit I'm right."
"I just did!"
"I mean internally, John. Jesus H. You're really obtuse, sometimes."
This was every debate with her. Tales of three notable battles follow.
Round 1: Allie wins
We're in the Kingdome watching Rick Mirer suck, and our minds wander. Allie nudges me and gestures toward some 19 year-old failed pole dancers. "Which Sea-Gal do you think is prettiest?" she asks.
(Yeah, I know. Rather, I know now. You don't answer this question, or you pick the homely, uncoordinated one and call her "real." What you most decidedly don't do is think that your girlfriend is actually interested in which cheerleader you'd most like to see naked. Nevertheless...) I meticulously survey all 32 women and silently evaluate their appeal. I undertake this assignment with all due gravity, first prioritizing the variables that comprise a hot cheerleader, then using a complex algorithm to narrow the field to four, then two, then one.
"Don't tell me," Allie says. "Let me guess." And then she points to the very same cheerleader, an apple-cheeked brunette that 99 out of 100 men would overlook.
"Wow! That was a 1 in 32 chance, and you nailed it. That's impressive."
"It wasn't hard," she shrugs, turning her attention back to the game. "I just picked the one who looks the most like fucking Amy."
It took years, but my testicles eventually grew back.
Round 2: I win
We're arguing. "You know what your problem is?" she asks. She would eventually be awarded the registered trademark on this sentence.
"You can't handle dating someone who's an intellectual equal or more. I think you seek out unformed, stupid young girls who'll look up to you and hang on your every word like it's some holy—"
"Actually," I interrupt the former B student, "You're the first woman I've ever dated who wasn't the valedictorian of her high school and summa in college."
Why is this on my top three list? Because it's the only time in a decade that I stunned this woman silent.
Round 3: I "win"
I say something pissy about something. Allie heaves an exasperated sigh. "You know, you don't have to say every negative thing that pops into your mind. It's exhausting."
"But I don't! For instance, take the last hour. When that little old lady at Safeway tripped and face-planted, I almost said 'Clean up in Aisle 6.' And then..."
I proceed to list every awful, hateful thought I'd self-censored in the last sixty minutes. I don't remember how many there were, but I remember it took about an hour to recount them. And I likewise remember watching the ever-mounting horror on Allie's face as she realized that she had grossly miscalculated. "I thought you had a soft, cuddly core underneath all the bluster. But my God...underneath the facade of sneering and piss is actual sneering and piss."
"And you think I can't admit when you're right."