Three Sides (Part 1)

This is the first part of a three-part story with a twist. It continues with Parts Two and Three, and ends with an afterword discussing the piece.

He hadn’t done anything. Maybe that was the problem.

It was almost a year, it was only a year. Much longer relationships ended in heartbreak all the time. Marriages weren’t even guaranteed anymore—with the way some politicians were carrying on these days, it seemed like an outside lover was almost a requirement in the late stages of holy matrimony.

Mostly male politicians, he couldn’t help noticing.

That was the trouble. As much as she had tried to assure him—all the usual things, like “it’s not you, it’s me”, where did she learn to break up, daytime comedies on Lifetime?—the real reason was another man. He could feel it, in the way she was…just a little distracted throughout the whole breaking-up process, as if she wanted to be somewhere else.

Come to think of it, he’d wanted to be somewhere else, too.

When it was clear it wasn’t working, she had tried things that were not typical. About how their relationship had gotten mundane, as if it was something they were doing because it was expected, like having three regular meals a day, or a diurnal sleeping schedule.

Those had actually been her examples, and there was a moment of incomprehension where he couldn’t understand how the two of them had worked together in the first place.

The moment passed, and he calmly—not shouting, not crying—calmly asked what she expected marriage to be like.

He hadn’t necessarily meant with him, he was really being hypothetical, abstract “marriage”, but he saw her face close up almost immediately—

And then it had gone back to typicalities—he said she had a fear of commitment and she hadn’t denied it, only told him that that wasn’t what this was about and that there was hardly a commitment, at which point he could have bashed his head against a wall if they weren’t outside.

(She didn’t ask him what he thought of getting married, which would have wiped out his righteous anger for sure. The idea still seemed so alien that he couldn’t imagine it—the concept just bounced off his mind.)

He had tried to tell himself this was just another part of the story, the three-episode arc in which the hero’s girlfriend misses him everyday, regretting her decision more and more until she shows up late at night with a bouquet of flowers.

Instead, he saw her the next day at work, and she seemed perfectly cool. He couldn’t concentrate at all that day, instead stealing glances to see how she was holding up, but she seemed as focused as usual, and he never saw her do the same.

He had never been good at reading girls, and now this one, who he had been so close to for a year—ten months—had become inscrutable.

Wait. There he was.

No, there they were.

The two of them came into the cafe—she held the door for him—and he could tell right away this wasn’t their first meeting. They were already in mid-conversation, he even smiled at her drink order, and they headed naturally for a free table at the window, never looking back into the darker couch area where he sat watching, where they had sat many times.

They weren’t holding hands. Give it time, he thought bitterly. How long do you need anyway? If you plan ahead, do you get a head start on your soon-to-be-ex?

He paused at that. He hadn’t realized that he didn’t believe she had cheated. They never believe at first…but it really didn’t fit her, even now.

But she had broken up with him to be with someone else, and right now that was almost as bad.

He leaned forward now, trying to get a good look at the two of them…no, at him. Average height. No glasses. No freckles, no dimples, medium-short hair…actually one of the most average people he could imagine.

He thought, What does he have that I don’t have? and then more simply,


(continue to Part Two)