I met a couple of people last weekend, and when we had to deal with an awkward situation, we all started sharing our most awkward stories. I heard about a houseguest accidentally unlocking all of the porn channels and failing to add a password again (hint, its usually four zeros), and then being confronted by the host family.
A guy’s father walking into a strip club while the guy was getting a lap dance and didn’t manage to get out before being forced to make conversation.
Someone showed me a GIF of a dude getting beat up by a tree, which was pretty awkward for the dude.
I was a bit surprised when it was my turn to speak, when I wasn’t able to name one awkward situation. I mean, I write about this stuff, you know? I should have at least one good story to tell. And then the quiet buzzing sound turned into a rumble from the stampede of awkward situations running back into my mind from where they graze during the winter. Suddenly –I caught one. The weakest of the pack. And here it is now:
I had gone to pick up my girlfriend at the time to take her somewhere, I can’t remember where right now, but I was driving her back to the school campus. The car was climbing up a steep hill in the dark, when I reached for her hand and said:
“Thank you for coming with me, Melissa.”
My hand went a little cold, and my heart rate sped up. Suddenly the humming of the road against the tires got louder, and the reflections of the lane markers in front of me increased in brightness. I felt everything. Even the cold leather seat on my butt because the seat-warmer from the driver’s side was broken.
Melissa was not her name.
I could hear my head making noises like a Rubik’s cube trying to sort itself out. I imagined scrambled eggs in my brain, lots of bubbles floating on a bathtub, and a huge school of fish swimming around in circles making the shape of a gun aiming at me. I needed to find something to say, immediately.
Melissa was the name of my ex-girlfriend.
“So, did you have a good time?” I asked.
Kim looked out the window, with her elbow against her passenger window.
“Yeah, did you?”
She decided to pretend she didn’t hear me properly and save us the awkward moment. Or did she really not hear me? It is always ten times worse when there are only two of you pretending like everything is ok. If you have ever farted in an elevator that has only you and one other person inside of it, you will know what I mean. One person farted, the other can smell it. Both of you know who farted, but you save yourself a lot of awkwardness by not bringing it up.
Fast forward one year.
We had broken up, and in one of the last conversations to clear our consciences and seal the deal to part our separate ways, we brought up many things, and of course, I decided to bring up the whole calling-her-by-the-ex’s-name thing.
“I once called you by the wrong name –” I began.
“–You called me Melissa.” she replied.
“Yes, sorry about that.”
“That was a little weird, I didn’t know what to say,”
“Me neither, I wanted to believe you didn’t hear me, whoops.”
“I once did the same thing,” she started, “remember?”
Of course I remembered, we had been listening to an album by The All-American Rejects, the song that was playing was “Mona Lisa” and we had just eaten some hawaiian barbecue in a cold dorm room because there was something wrong with my heater. I remembered that she didn’t drink her Sierra Mist and I took it. She was talking to me about her classwork and how she felt like she needed to participate more in class, but that there was nothing she could contribute. I remembered asking her about it, and to one of those questions, she answered “I don’t know, George, it’s just that.. I mean–” and then me interrupting her to avoid having to talk about her ex-boyfriend. I remembered her confused eyes searching for some type of reassurance from mine. Then the song ended, and another came on. I began to hum it. Yeah, I remembered.
“..remember?” she asked again.
“Hmm.. you did?” I asked back.
“I thought I had, but now I’m not so sure.” she replied.