"The truth is rarely pure and never simple..."--Oscar Wilde
Just a quick aside--this was something that made a shocking impression on me when I stumbled upon it during the course of the extremely drunken group conversation on the night of the restaurant's closing.
There is a party game that is just a clear plastic box full of cards onto which have been written provocative questions--everyone in turn pulls a question and answers it and then everyone else present answers the same question. Someone had the game at the restaurant and servers used to play it sometimes in the beginning of the evening after sidework was done but before guests had arrived--I had no problem with it, I just asked that the more risque questions be skipped.
Well, the game came out after the meal was finished but just as the serious drinking was really getting fired up. The answer that I gave to one of the questions has stuck with me ever since that night [or early morning, to be more accurate]--I had not thought of the incident I described in over a decade, and most odd, wasn't planning for it to be my answer. I just opened my mouth to talk about losing my temper with a cocktail waitress one time and out popped something entirely different.
The question, paraphrased, was, "What is the most regrettable thing you have ever said to someone?"
I had my cocktail waitress-based answer all ready to go when my turn came about, but instead what came out was a much shorter version of the below:
When I was in my mid-20's I was involved in a very torrid relationship--I have never been in better shape and have never looked better, and this girl was just the most beautiful and unbelievably desirable creature one could ever imagine--imagine taking Angelina Jolie's head and setting it atop the most incredible female body ever designed by God [as opposed to the anemic bag of sticks said head actually resides atop these days]. I remember seeing an interview with the model/actress Angie Everhart many years ago and she was describing her romance with Sylvester Stallone, and she talked about how she would wake up in the middle of the night and move the covers off him and just stare transfixed by his body as he slept because it was so perfect [again, many years ago and her opinion]. Well, when I heard her words I broke out laughing, because I had often done the same thing with this girl. I couldn't help it--thinking back I have no idea how either of us ever got out of the house.
We were wholly immersed in one another for over a year, and in addition to bottomless infatuation we actually had a great deal in common, a little bit of shared background, and she was tremendously intelligent. She was also extremely jealous. I probably should have taken her jealous streak more seriously and done more to make her comfortable, but anyone looking at me and looking at her would immediately realize that there was nowhere better for me to go, and as a result of that fact coupled with my youth my stock answer to her concerns was a throw away line, "Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?", or "No way! You've ruined me for other girls--if we ever break up I'm going gay just for the convenience factor." Witty, I know.
Anyway, just short of the eighteen month mark she became very suspicious of a female server on my staff and insisted I fire her or at least move her to lunches where I would see much less of her. This was an ongoing conflict, and eventually there was a misunderstood situation that led to a terrible break-up. I did nothing wrong, the server did nothing wrong, it was just one of those things. Or at least that is how old-guy me sees it. Young-guy me was pissed, because I didn't do anything wrong, and frankly because she nearly ruined me for average, everyday female nakedness--or at least for about six months or so.
After a little time passes, she picks up a rebound guy--and he is not a good guy. A little roided out before it was popular to be roided out, and a bully. Domineering, insulting, profane, etc. The guy made me look like Prince Valiant to be quite honest, and all of her friends and family were constantly on her to ditch the guy and get back with me, but neither option appealed to her.
Then one day she was late to meet the guy at a club and when she finally showed up, he slapped her. In public. And when she responded verbally in surprise and anger he slapped her again. Hard. It was at that point that the bouncers who knew me and still assumed she was my girlfriend [deeply depressed, I wasn't going out and letting people know we were finished, and as being my known associate in a bar or restaurant is always good for a bunch of free stuff, neither was she] partially dismantled this fellow and deposited him in the alley behind the place. One of the bouncers called me to let me know, and after filling the guy in on the situation and making sure she was OK, I called her dad to warn the family about the guy. Her parents had fled Czechoslovakia in the late 50's and while the two boys and the daughter were all-American, her mom and dad were old school. Dad grabbed the two brothers a few days later and they caught up with boyfriend still hurting from the bouncer beatdown and they put him in the hospital. End of rebound relationship.
About three months later this guy hits the papers--front page. Apparently after the bandages came off he went out and found himself another girl, and eventually smacked her around too. And when she screamed at him that she was going to tell her brothers [the neighbors reported the screaming] the guy freaked out and shot her to death. Then the piece of shit coward took the gun, managed to target his tiny little brain, and offed himself.
Six months later I was basically back in action, sitting at an outside bar where a friend was working. I remember it was a Sunday because I had been there most of the day watching football and I was extremely well-lubricated, and whattayaknow across the bar I see the old girlfriend with a couple of her friends. There were about forty people sitting and standing around this big, triangular patio bar and the ladies hadn't seen me. I asked my friend to offer them a round, and ten seconds after he walked away the fireworks commenced. From all the way across the bar came a barrage of invective, screamed accusations of infidelity, stalking, and lying. I had apparently improperly insinuated myself into her family AND her circle of friends, not to mention "monopolizing every waiter and bartender in town". I may have also killed President Kennedy.
Now, even in my intoxicated state I was extremely surprised by her reaction to the simple offer of a drink. In my head I already had us cuddled up and reminiscing, or at the very least discoursing in a civil fashion--having false accusations hurled at me from across a bar in front of forty people was not one of the pre-considered outcomes.
I was still angry at the original false accusations. I was still bothered by the damage the killer had done to her, not to mention the tragedy of the murder and the effect on the victim's friends and family. I was suddenly furious that I was catching all of this public recrimination for no good reason, and I was drunk, and I was young.
As I spoke my voice rose, and the more I spoke the louder my voice got, and the last six words were screamed at the top of my lungs, "I never cheated on you, I never followed you--you followed me. I never went to your friends and family, your friends and family came to me because your new boyfriend was such a scumbag. I never said a bad word about you, I never hit you, and AT LEAST I NEVER KILLED ANYBODY".
By now the entire crowd was struck dumb by the two exchanged outbursts and I'm sure my finale was lost on most of them [though my misanthropic bartender friend would tell people for years that it was the best beatdown he had ever heard], but it wasn't lost on her obviously. I immediately left the bar, walking out on a check for the only time in my life as far as I know [I came back the next day].
I feel completely justified in saying what I said. I was pushed to the point of utterance, and while I generally don't go out of my way to defend myself, I was in no way a villain at any point in this saga. Apparently however, our public exchange and my final exclamation started an avalanche within the young lady's life. I was told that her friends had to carry her from the bar that night, that she basically collapsed sobbing. She had a bad few years following with some drug problems and a failed marriage. She came out on the other side in good shape, and I heard that she made a new life with a good guy in another state and found happiness.
Up until the game, I don't think I had thought of that girl or that incident in years. I was always embarrassed at the public nature of the final "showdown", just as I was always bothered by the way that our relationship ended--after all it always sucks the worst to get punished for something you didn't do. I guess that over time I must have realized subconciously that I pulled the pin from this woman's grenade of despair, and that is just something I would rather not have on my personal resume.