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A Tale of Two Women
by Adam Graupe

One day I found a plastic engagement ring in the lobby of the restaurant I worked at. It was the kind of ring that coin-operated games puked out as prizes. I decided to kiddingly ask the next waitress who passed to marry me with the ring. Krystal was the next to pass and I got down on my knees.

Krystal cried, ‘o, yes, yes, yes!’ and flirted outrageously with me that summer and yet for some reason she wasn’t real to me because I was a self-absorbed jerk. It turned out she saved that plastic ring for years, but I didn’t find about that until Penny.

Penny was anemic with bleach blonde hair. I mean she really used bleach. I thought it was just going to be an easy-to-break-off fling and a quick rite of passage to manhood.

Yet it wasn’t as romantic as it sounds. She once cried, “The thought of having sex with you gives me a poopy stomach.”

Penny soon showed her dark side: screaming with crying hysterics. She found out about Krystal and threw a pumpkin with “die bitch!” written in black magic marker onto her yard.

I tried to break it off with Penny and she threatened suicide. Fool that I was I believed her. That fall she begged me not to go to college—she thought I would meet someone else, which would have been the best thing for us. I went to college anyway and she begged me to drop out and get a job so she could have a baby at 18 and be glued together like logs of crap for 50 years.

Penny always accused me of cheating on her when I never had. I didn’t learn until much later that the things you accuse others of are really in you. Unbeknownst to me, toward the end she cheated on me and the next time I tried to break up with her she didn’t fight it. Then I was sorry: I wanted her back when she didn’t want me anymore—she had this other man but I didn’t know it. This was what really attracted me (at that time—not now) was a woman who didn’t want me. Before, when she wanted me it repulsed me. Suddenly, I wanted her but she wanted nothing to do with me. What a sick fool I was. When I found out about the other man, I didn’t want her anymore so she started calling me daily and hanging up, but I was done with it and met another.

Twenty years later, I sat across from my wife and looked past her left shoulder at someone staring at us from outside a restaurant window. It was Penny, her face glued against the window, staring bug eyed, we made eye contact, and she turned and scurried away. I hadn’t seen her for two decades and yet this was somehow a fitting coda.

By the way, Krystal lucked out by not dating me and found a good man who married her instead. I had a great marriage too, so it was a happy ending after all. I like happy endings and Starbucks too. Do you?