On this post-Christmas night, as my sugar buzz recedes and my fat-to-muscle ratio is alarming, it's time for another Nick Asshat story.
A date. We were having a cocktail or two at an outdoor patio of a local club, LaSalles, back in the days when they still served lunch and dinner there and tried to make nice, like a respectable establishment. Beautiful warm evening, sitting outside on the pleasant patio, twinkle lights strung from the trees, smell of cigarette smoke light on the air, smell of beer heavy on the air, and the sound of a loud Chico band thumping away inside the packed and sweaty, grungy club. It was my version of Heaven back in the early 90s, when I was single, a small business owner, largely broke and with not a care in the world other than my store.
I'd been seeing Nick casually for a few months. He had been a volleyball player in college, and he had the confidence and swagger of an athlete. He was everything I was not -- loud, cocky, tanned and good-looking, and totally sure of himself. I was his "good ol' Laur" (and if anyone else, then or since, had called me that I would have head-slapped him). I was completely in love with him by this time, but also quite aware of all of his pitfalls. Essentially he was one big pit, and I had fallen in, head first.
I'd first met Nick because I worked with his mother, a delightfully quirky woman who had passed away about a year before. I thought the world of her, and, from what Nick told me, she thought a lot of me, too, awkward and naïve dumpling though I was when first she met me.
Maude was a fascinating lady. A tiny, birdlike woman in her early 60s when I met her, Maude lived on coffee and cigarettes and little else. She often made a cafeteria carton of milk last a week. She was a walking contradiction. On one hand, she had been a successful small business owner, divorced mother of one child, hard as nails, clever, frugal, self-sacrificing, and shrewd. On the other hand, she had been an idealist, a Communist, an actress in the era of Ronald Reagan and a very young Dustin Hoffman (whom she once knew), a free spirit and a permissive parent, and an aging hippy. She had a mystical streak, as you can probably imagine. She enjoyed astrology, and was very superstitious.
Small town life was not her style; still, she had moved to Chico to be near her only son, Nick. She drove as little as possible, and had figured out how to drive without making any left turns. If she couldn't get there without a left turn, she didn't go there. Nick missed her terribly after she died, and so did I. Maude was probably the only thing we had in common.
As I sipped my beer and gazed around the patio, Nick's sloshy drunk act was beginning to take hold. At first it was charming, but it quickly became embarrassing. Still, when you're somewhat young and naïve, and you're irrationally hooked on a guy who really isn't into you, it doesn't seem to matter how big a bozo he is -- you're not done until you're DONE. Or is that just my own failing?
"You know," he began, slurring his words a little and focusing intently on me, "My mom was psychic."
"Really?" I asked, skeptical of such things, but willing to believe anything about dear Maude.
"Yeah," he said, and downed some more beer. He paused a moment, then continued. "I can't count how many times she'd predict something, and then it'd come true. She was never wrong, either," he said. Whatever she predicted ALWAYS came true." He had my interest now, for sure.
"Like what?" I asked, intrigued. Nick rattled off a couple of quick and meaningless stories, set-ups for the punchline. Then he delivered.
"Like your first day of work with her," he began casually, never taking his eyes off me. My pulse quickened -- a prediction about me! Nick continued, with purpose now, letting the words sink in. "She came home that day, and said, 'Nick, I met the girl you're gonna marry.'" Nick drunkenly held my gaze for a long time. His expression was not tender, or shy, or even searching; it was a challenge.
I have no doubt that Nick liked me, maybe was even fond of me. But he didn't love me, at least not at this point in the game. He was daring me, probably trying to see what he could get out of this strategy. It was his killer serve, drunk or not, and it was up to me to return it.
I spiked it. "[UNCHARITABLE WORD], don't you EVER say anything like that again."
Ball hits sand.
Stunned, Nick stared at me. Who was this shrew, and what had she done with Laur?
"That is SO manipulative! Don't you EVER drop anything like that in my lap again," I hissed, and I meant business. I knew I was in a ridiculous relationship, with no control over anything, and it was only a matter of time before Nick destroyed the relationship anyway, but he had better not toy with my affections.
Nick just blinked. The beer had made him cocky enough to dangle a carrot in front of me, but the beer hadn't equipped him to handle my utter rejection of the carrot.
I drove his car home in silence, left him, and walked the few blocks home to my apartment.
If Nick ever understood the exchange, or even remembered it, he never let on.
At least he hadn't picked a fight with anyone that night.