I woke during a part of the morning I normally consider part of the prior night. The Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist was headed to the other coast for a month or so and I was driving him to the airport… the really far away airport. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement he wouldn’t have to pay cab fare or parking charges and didn’t have to worry about leaving his ride sitting on the same street for that long, and I got use of his convertible for a few weeks.
After I dropped him at the curb, I was quickly reminded how much I hate the suburbs, their sprawl, and maddening traffic. As I was already that far away from the city, I decided to reward myself with a trip to Misha’s, the best coffee within a hundred miles of DC*. There are two rooms in Misha’s. If you head to the left of the counter, there is a smattering of two-tops (affectionately known as deuces in industry parlance.) To the right, is what used to be the smoking room (smokers where banished to the patio about a year ago, and cigar smokers two years before that.) Sitting in the smoking room means that you take a seat at the large communal table and, by custom, sitting there indicates your understood agreement to participate in conversation with your tablemates. This morning was no different.
A Brit, a retired Navy Captain, a law student, and I discussed economics, the ascension of Elena Kagan to the high court, and a smattering of other topics too. And then a woman I once dated walked into the room.
“Good morning, Refugee” she said in tone that had a patina of friendship that barely masked the hostility beneath it.
“Good morning, Ava; would you care to have a seat?”
“Actually, I just decided not to stay, but walk me to my car – I’d like to talk to you for a minute.”
The other gentlemen in the room gave me sympathetic looks as I rose from my chair. “Be back in a minute, fellas” I said with the false bravado of a man who knows that he’s about to have a difficult conversation with a pretty woman.
Once we were safely out of earshot of innocent bystanders, Ava said “You know, it’s not nice to just stop returning a girl’s phone calls. Don’t you think you owe me some kind of explanation?”
As is my habit, I took a deep pull of air to think for a moment. “Ava, we’re both adults, so I’ll let you determine my answer. On a scale of one to ten, how candid of an explanation would you like – with one being me thinking of some random platitudes that will be true but only because they’re so vague that they could apply to anything…”
“And ten?” Ava interrupted.
“Ten would be the answer I would give to one of my closest friends if they asked the same question?”
“Let’s go with 8, you can always ratchet it up if you don’t feel like you’ve been mean enough.”
“It’s not about being mean, just skipping the steps where I say something that probably wouldn’t be as much answer as you would want. The level 8 explanation is that we never liked each other enough to call before the party, only after it was over… and I really didn’t like what that said about me. I don’t want to be the man who calls in the small hours of the night.”
It was Ava’s turn to take a deep breath. “Well, at least I know… was that really so hard to say?”
“Yes, yes, it was.”