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I could sugarcoat it, but why bother? Things weren’t going well in our relationship. Neither of us was invested in the other’s interests, and that really led our romance to a screeching halt. We never nurtured our initial spark. I consistently dreaded our next date.

Accordingly, I asked Jessica to meet me by the park. Near her favorite Applebee’s, the one she always chose when it was her turn to plan the night. The late November chill drove down the park’s popularity so it would be an easy place to make a good, clean break while still being in a public enough space to encourage a subdued reaction from the aggrieved party.

Jessica, in classic Jessica fashion, was late. Some excuse about her Uber driver, and then another excuse that would have been impossible to coexist with the first one. I didn’t need the reassurance, but I welcomed the confirmation of my decision.

I made it simple, explaining that this just wasn’t working for me.

She took it all in, thought about it, and nodded a little too affirmatively when I told her she had to move on. We went our separate ways—me, back home to have a quiet, reflective night, and her, probably, to get riblets and as many $1 Long Island Iced Teas as she could convince the bartender to serve. Basically, the same thing she would have done had we not just broken up. But in this reality, I didn’t have to watch another very special episode of The Jessica Show.

A week later, I got a call from Jessica and figured the adult thing would be to pick it up. So I did. Jessica explained that she had taken my words to heart and had moved on, and hoped we could work out some of our problems. Did I want to come over to talk?

Oh, and also that she had literally moved on. My suggestion had catalyzed her to making some bigger, wholesale changes. She told me she moved out of her group house and now lived alone, in the fancy part of town.

Had stubborn, self-centered Jessica really undergone a metamorphosis so quickly?

I was no longer as sure it was the adult thing to do, but I really liked the fancy part of town, so I hopped into my car and drove to her new digs.

As she greeted me at the door, slovenly dressed like she had already forgotten I was coming, I registered all those old, familiar pangs of dread. The smell should have been a dead giveaway, but it wasn’t until I saw was a styrofoam Applebee’s to-go box, that a tidal wave of regret knocked me off my feet. Looking around for something to anchor to, I found a brand new leather recliner, and took a seat. Jessica took my cue and sat across the living room from me, in front of a television big enough that I felt it would be polite to hear her out. Plus, I had already become one with this chair.

It’s not that I wasn’t listening to what Jessica said, as much as it was hard to hear her over the incredible surround sound. I think I agreed to take a tour of the place, but was lost in the 4K Ultra-HD episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County. I hated the housewives. But I really loved that TV.

The rest of the place place was equally incredible. The kitchen—fully updated with gas lines, stainless steel, and a beer fridge packed with local IPAs—was straight out of my 5-year plan. Based on her prior ignorance around the kitchen, I was not sure Jessica knew how to use any of her appliances, but here we were, finding common ground. Luckily, the renewed sparks between us didn’t ignite the kitchen in flames.

Jessica’s master bath could have been re-created, stone by stone, from a Mediterranean spa. It was the kind of shower that could make a man reconsider his hasty pledge to swear off shower sex. Seeing such a room made me hate my own bathroom and just about everything else I owned.

And then there was her new bedroom.

Like everything else, it was massive, with exposed brick, high ceilings, and a luxurious four-poster bed that beckoned. Maybe it was just perspective against so much square footage, but had Jessica lost weight? Perhaps the natural light of the room just made her angles pop and her curves more voluptuous. I couldn’t remember her ever looking so ravishing.

I had remembered hating Jessica’s friends and roommates. They were boorish simpletons who never wanted to try anything that wasn’t vodka-based. They were still the worst, but now, at least they were miles away! On one hand their absence put the onus of conversation on me, but on the other hand, damn, that TV must have been 80 inches!

They say it’s not where, but who you’re with that really matters, but they also say location, location, location! My conflicting feelings were confusing, but maybe I could have a think about them, back in that recliner. I wondered if Jessica would mind leaving me alone here for an hour or so. The building had a great walk score, and I was sure she could busy herself for a bit.

All those things I’d said in the park, just a week ago, seemed so trivial now, like a set of short hurdles we had already cleared. One day at our wedding, or on our 50th anniversary, one of my friends may tell that story of the time I thought I didn’t love Jessica, and almost ruined it, in the park near our favorite Applebee’s.

Josh Bard

Josh Bard is a guy. A sports guy, an ideas guy, a wise guy, a funny guy, a Boston guy, and sometimes THAT guy. Never been a Guy Fieri guy, though.

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