straight to portland in a handbasket

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On Friday, I drove to Portland with a girl in order to meet her best friend and kids. We were to stay the whole weekend. Friday night, I flew back alone.

Ingrid is a waitress, curiously never mine, and 80% of our relationship has occurred between her seatings. I was looking forward to the intensive quality time that the long car ride would afford us. As the date grew closer, however, she noticeably withdrew. She wasn't as happy to see me, and affection vanished. Reports started to appear that she was euphorically humping the leg of every guy who came into the restaurant. I was, of course, deflated.

Last week, her girlfriend and I and went out to breakfast to discuss the situation. I was inclined to just quietly wash my hands of her and disinclined to go on the Portland trip.

"No one here has met her kids or best friend," she said, making the case that I needed to go for data-collection purposes. She knows me well.

With four days to go, Ingrid told her friend that she intended to blare music the whole trip just so she didn't have to talk to me.

"That would be so rude," the friend replied.

"Fuck her. I'm out," I said upon hearing of this.

"You guys need this trip," the friend said. "You have got to sort this out."

"We're either going to come back healthy, or we're going to end," I replied.

And so we embarked on the trip. I proposed we fire questions at one another. Mine were probing, and I asked follow-ups. Hers were perfunctory, and she asked none. She couldn't even make herself listen to my answers. It eventually petered out. She blared the stereo incredibly loud for the next two hours. That, I fumed, was that. I would ask her to drop me off at the Portland airport, still two hours away.

She noticed that I was tense and turned down the music. "What's up?"

I wanted to talk about it when we were 15 minutes away, not when we were two hours away. I begged off. She was having none of it. I said "Not right now, okay?" and that really set her off. I was adding to her stress on an already horrific day, she snapped. Just spill it. So I did. I started by talking about how she'd been distant. And that would be our last moment of civility.

She adamantly disagreed that she'd been distant, then out of the other side of her mouth said that February was always a hard month for her. I let it go. I tried to concentrate on my own feelings. Basically, they kept getting hurt.

"The story of my life!" she raged. "Great. You're just another guy who's going to quit on me because his feelings keep getting hurt." You read that right. The pattern is our fault.

She railed at me for the crimes of all men until the next rest stop, where I remained in the car while she talked to a homeless guy for at least a half-hour. I picked up her phone and deleted myself from it. 90 minutes to go.

She got back into the car and blared music once more. That was fine with me, but an hour out she turned it down. The argument resumed. "Just drop me off at the airport," I sighed.

She refused. She would refuse two more requests. We picked up her kids and checked into separate rooms in the hotel. I had done a little work when they knocked on my door. "You coming to dinner?" she snapped. I said I didn't think it was a good idea. "Just come," she said, and for some reason I did.

In the parking lot we met Brandon, her best friend of many years. He did not know I was coming, so he looked at me quizzically. "This is John," she said. There was still no recognition. "He's the guy who bought me the Taser," she said, and then he vaguely remembered my existence.

Not for nothing, but if Ingrid and I surprised Allie by knocking on her door, Allie's first words would be "Oh, hi Ingrid! Nice to finally meet you!"

Dinner was atrocious, with Ingrid criticizing my quietness and lack of appetite throughout. Brandon and I attempted conversation, but her palpable rage made everyone uncomfortable. As we left the booth, he and I lagged. "I'm sorry, man," I said. "I shouldn't have come. I didn't mean to ruin your time together."

"It's all right," he said, and then Ingrid yelled across the room, demanding to know what we were talking about. I told her. It pissed her off. On the way back to the hotel I was criticized for looking out the window. For texting Mariko. For picking up bags. For dropping them. On the elevator, her eight year old daughter stood rigid, eyes welling. "What's bothering you?!" snapped her mother, scaring the child more. I ducked into my room without comment, sadly waving to Brandon, who nodded.

That's when I bought a plane ticket, checked out, and Ubered to the airport. I wouldn't tell her until I was on the plane.

90 minutes later I got a text from her girlfriend, saying Ingrid was trying to find me. I told her where I was, and she asked if I was okay. I noted how unusual that felt. That was the first time all day anyone had expressed the slightest concern for my feelings.

Deleting my phone number having been proven ineffective, I texted Ingrid that I was flying home and needed space. "I think everyone will be happier for it."

She railed at my rudeness and, amazingly, demanded an explanation. 20 minutes later, my jaw would hit my seat-back tray-table.


Just how many bridges does a guy have to burn?