“I thought we should talk about seeing other people,” I said.
We were sitting on the sofa. My boyfriend, the aggressive one who’d found me at JC Penney three months before, was leaning against the armrest his legs stretched out in front of him. I sat facing him, perched on the other armrest my elbows on my knees and my hands clasped.
“You don’t have to worry,” he said. “I’m not seeing anybody else.” He patted his hands on his hands on his chest. Pat-a-pat-pat.
“I didn’t think you were,” I said. After that walk for ice cream, dating had turned out be him showing up at 10 pm and leaving at 6 in the morning. My roommate had hassled him into taking me out to dinner, but that made me feel worse. Like it was quid pro quo. Like being paid.
Pat-a-pat-pat. “Well, I don’t want to see anyone else. I’m happy.” He smiled up at me.
He’d told me he had to work long hours. He and his partner had just started a computer company. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to take me out–he really didn’t have the time. That’s what he’d said.
“Okay,” I said, now from my perch, wishing I could stretch my legs but too anxious to move. “But that’s not what I meant.” He’d not introduced me to any of his friends or family. Though I hadn’t told him, I was sure he didn’t want to be seen with me. My one high school date echoed in my head–I want someone who will impress my friends.
Pat-a-pat-pat. He looked like someone who’d forgotten why he’d walked into a room. Pat. “Oh,” he said. His hands were still. “You want to date other people.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I do.” I felt guilty and annoyed. I also felt pleased I’d been able to surprise him.
Little did I know I was dumping him to date the tactophobe. Is that irony? I’ve never been that good with irony. I know that when I rid myself of the boyfriend who didn’t want to be with me in public, I was thrilled. Optimistic. I had a date with a good-looking guy who was going to take me to an expensive restaurant…and not be attracted to me whatsoever.
Maybe it’s just bad luck. Or bad choices.
I read a lot about irony, but I never think–this will be an ironic thing to do to my characters. I turn things around on them. I give them what they want with a twist. I give them things to regret, to screw up, and to wish they could give back. They realize that all along they’ve been going in the wrong direction, traveling the story with a stranger, and reaching for the wrong thing.
If I were looking for an example of irony, what book would you tell me to read?