The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.

The phone rang.
“Are you there?” my friend asked?
“No, I’m five minutes away,”
“OK,” he said, “I’ll wait in the car.”

It was not the first time we’d had the dialogue. Indeed, he’d been avoiding this woman for several months. Well, not avoiding her so much as demanding a buffer.

And it was all too predicable….

On paper, they should never have dated. Still, with nothing in common, smoke, mirrors and timing only delayed the inevitable. (“Smart” money, by the way, had the under). It was though, an ending that had to be. Moreover, it was proof again that life indeed imitates art.

If there is any wisdom to be gleaned from shallow television, then “How I Met Your Mother” sets the standard. In a favorite episode, Ted Moseby wants to ask out his doctor. Friends try to dissuade him—it being too close to home—- citing The Platinum Rule. Unlike The Golden Rule of “Love Thy Neighbor” (sic), The Platinum Rule, they urge, states to “Never, EVER love thy neighbor”.

My poor friends. Had they only watched more TV! Indeed, in twenty some minutes of tube time, they could have learned as Barney Stinson (catch the name. Does anybody really think it’s not our Bobby?) recited the 8 steps mandated when you love they neighbor.
1. Attraction
2. Bargaining
3. Submission
4. Perks
5. The Tipping Point
6. Purgatory
7. Confrontation
8. Fallout

In hindsight…it was all there….

I remember their first attraction. He’d seen her at the coffee house (where they both hung out). She’d been dating an extremely nice guy for a while, but it didn’t pan out. As such, when that matter fizzled, my friend sought my thoughts on his calling her.

“You’re too tough for her,” I said. “She wants a relationship.”
“You’re crazy,” he responded. “With you everything’s about magic! No one else thinks that way. We’ll just take things for what they are.”
“Just saying…” I continued. He tried to cut me off, but I finished:
“You’ll never agree on ‘what things are’.”
“You’re crazy!” he affirmed. “As long everyone knows the rules it’s all fine.”

He was, (looking back), in the bargaining stage. Forget the “magic” thing—men and women don’t go by rules; they never work. Jerry and Elaine had “rules” before hooking up. How’d that turn out?

So they dated.. The period of submission went well of course—until it didn’t. In fact, there were perks. I’d meet him for coffee and he’d share how nice it was to be with someone without scheduling baggage or family baggage. They could just be together.

The tipping point came on a Saturday in May. We were sitting on the patio, sun shining, and I remember it vividly. Approaching our table, much like anyone dating a guy would, she, without hesitating sat down with us.

His eyes met mine as the temperature dropped. Worlds were colliding, but only two of us knew it.  He stared at me stoicly in silence until finally I spoke.

“How about that Tribe?” (Apparently I was the only one at the table that thought I was funny). Moments later, he left. “I’ll call you,” he said, never acknowledging her.

Purgatory followed. For twelve months—that’s NO exaggeration—he’d complain to me, kvetch to me, and dated her.  Religiously.

“I’ve got to end it,” he’d proclaim, “She’s getting too close.”
“_____, her saying hello to you at the coffeehouse is normal. It’s you.  You like her more than you know.”

“That wasn’t our deal,” he’d say. “Why should I have to go to Golden Gate to get privacy. We’re not in a relationship. I was doing my crossword puzzle here before I met her.”

(I’d explain to him that mixed signals were unproductive…that he couldn’t bifurcate intimacy).

“You can’t see her one day and not talk to her the next!”
“Why not?”

Truth is, I’d sit and laugh at his nonsense. Over coffee I’d hear his same illogic, week in, week out. Predictable as it was—as he was—it never got old. He was going to end it; then he wasn’t. He wanted to see her; then he didn’t. Through it all, of course, he continued to bemoan her patronage of “his” coffee house.

“Why can’t she go to Starbucks?” I’d hear.

The confrontation came when only it could. Another woman surfaced. “Do NOT contact me,” he growled in no uncertain terms. It took a while, but she got it.

“He’s mean,” she’d tell me.
“What kind of answer is that?” she’d rejoin.
“What do you want me to say?”

That was months ago (it seems). The fallout continues. I still get texts—sometimes calls—from a man afraid to park his car. I laugh now, as I did then, knowing it’s him, not her.

Acceptance, of course, comes in time. It will for each of them. This summer perhaps, they’ll share a table on the patio, as friends. Maybe not.  For now, though, they’ll have to content themselves knowing that indeed their “interaction” was doomed from the start. They had, after all, violated The Platinum Rule.

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