Chapter 24: The Rollercoaster

This is where everything starts to go to shit, the fall after the roller coaster hits the highest point, so to speak. Originally, we were just meant to hang out with Tony’s best friend from high school, Pete, who also moved to Arizona and lived nearby. But that day, Tony told me that “completely randomly” another one of his closest friends from high school, a girl named Jackie, who lives in California and that he hasn’t seen in years, decided to pick that weekend, that night, of ALL the weekends/nights, to come and visit and stay with Pete so she’d be hanging out with us, too. Tony promised me we would just go to Pete’s place, maybe a bar nearby, but nothing crazy – I told him I hate clubs and didn’t want to go to one and he said he didn’t want to either. So, we went over to Pete’s. 

I was really nervous but also excited, because I felt like this was a test – again, why would he introduce me to his friends if he didn’t like me? – and I wanted them to like me as much as the friends I’d met in Boston seemed to like me. 

More from our hike.

But that was not the case. I could tell almost immediately that Pete and Jackie were judging me, hard. They asked me if I go by Madeline or Maddie and I said I preferred “Mads,” which is true, and they teased me about that. They kept mentioning the fact that I went to private school, which got brought up after I finally had something random to add in to one of the many high school related conversations they were having and leaving me out of. When I said I went to Northeastern for college, they called me “fancy fancy” over and over again. It just felt extremely clear to me that they were very much trying to make me feel like an outsider, like I didn’t belong in their little trio, and it was working. 

What also bothered me was that I immediately noticed that Tony seemed to be dumbing himself down around them, acting very immature and not at all like the hardworking, self-assured, smart guy I’d been getting to know. Not to say that you can’t have more than one side to you – Lord knows I do – but I was so attracted to the side I’d seen so far, the side he got excited to talk to me about and seemed to really appreciate my interest and support in, so this really felt like it was coming out of left field and just didn’t feel natural for him. There seemed to be some strange dynamics at play that I still don’t completely understand. 

I consider myself a confident person but I felt myself getting more and more self-conscious by the second. I didn’t know how to keep Tony’s attention when Pete and Jackie made every conversation go back to things I knew nothing about. I didn’t know how to compete with this girl who very obviously has a thing for him and has known him a lot longer than me, and was playing up the fact that they hadn’t seen each other in “so long,” and I just kept trying to be nice to them. I could see Tony slipping away bit by bit, becoming this high school “Glory Days” version of himself that I really was not into. 

When Jackie finally went to get ready to go out and asked what she should wear, Pete told her not to worry about getting too dressed up, saying “she didn’t need to wear a dress” while looking right at me in my little Fashion Nova dress, again making a dig that I didn’t fit in. I felt like he was telling me that I’m too stuck-up for them because I’m not a public school kid from Brockton, which if you know me is SO not true – I don’t care about that kind of thing at all. Literally the only nice thing that was said to me the entire time we were in the apartment was when “Grenade” by Bruno Mars came on and I started singing and Pete said to me, “Oh, you can like, sing sing,” and Tony responded that he’d heard me singing a few times around his place and in the shower, and don’t I have a really pretty voice? I’m pretty sure that was the last nice thing that wasn’t a lie Tony has said to me since then.

Despite our mutual promises to each other that we would not go to a club, we ended up at a club, much to my chagrin. 

We went to this big outdoor space that had a bar and a dancing area and some outdoor activities, and Pete ran into someone he knew who brought us in. If you want to have an idea of how much Tony was ignoring me at this point and how left out of the “little high school trio” I felt, know that Pete’s acquaintance literally kept trying to leave me behind places and barely acknowledged me because he genuinely didn’t realize that I was with them, that’s how bad it was. Later on when we were inside a different place, he ordered drinks for everyone except me – that’s the degree to which I had suddenly been forgotten. 

I was already getting upset at being ignored, so when everyone else was talking and I couldn’t find a way to edge my way in, I went and bought myself a drink, since here, too, Pete’s friend had already ordered drinks for everyone but me. 

Tony finally remembered I existed and came up to me and asked how I was, I gave him a ‘look’ and said something about my drink, and he said that he should have told me not to order a drink with an open top at this place and a bottle or small can opening would have been better. I told him that if he’d been paying attention to me earlier he could have told me that, or maybe bought my drink, so I think at that point he already knew I was not happy. 

Eventually, we moved to an actual club where the night REALLY turned to shit. As the night went on, the alcohol was hitting me and I was getting really upset. I don’t mean this to sound like I’m needy because usually, I’m not – but keep in mind, I’d flown thousands of miles across the country, spent over $500 on plane tickets, and I was using vacation time from work that I didn’t even have yet, all to spend time with him, so yeah, I did want to feel special. 

Especially because earlier in the night, Tony had told me that he’s not into PDA and doesn’t really like touching or anything in public. I’m not big on PDA either, so that was fine for me, so imagine my surprise when every time I turn to him he’s hugging or otherwise touching Jackie. Finally, the alcohol hit me to a point where I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and I cracked. I had barely spoken a word to him at all at the club because he was too focused on his friends to even ask if I was having fun, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember how I started it, but finally I grabbed him and said something to him about how for someone who hates PDA, he sure is touching Jackie a lot. He immediately freaked.

He started going on about how she’s like his sister, I can’t compare myself to her, he’s just “trying to vibe” and listen to some stupid song by Pop Smoke (sorry if you like his music), and that I can’t talk like that. I said to him that I get that, but how am I supposed to feel when he’s blatantly doing all the things to and with her that he basically told me not to expect that night, and how did he think I felt being ignored all night? He started denying ignoring me, yelled at me again for thinking there was anything with them, and just disregarding the whole point that I didn’t care if he wanted to hug a girl friend he hadn’t seen, but if you don’t like PDA you can’t do it with one person and not another and expect them to be okay with it, especially because at that point I’d had two guys come up and grope me because they didn’t realize that the 6’2” guy standing next to me was someone I was technically there with. 

I stormed off to the bathroom and cried in there for a good five minutes, with a couple of random drunk girls I’d never even met before doing more to console me than he’d done so far. They told me how pretty I was, how stupid he was for making me cry, and that anyone who didn’t appreciate a girl flying across the country for them was shit. All very true. Finally, I went back out, and when I got out and immediately saw him blatantly touching Jackie again and didn’t even look to be concerned at the fact that I had disappeared for five minutes, I walked away again to the bar where I chugged a glass of water before having it replaced with a drink that another random girl bought for me because she saw me crying and felt bad for me. Even the very busy bartender made a point to come over and check on me and see if I needed anything else, that’s how clearly upset I was. 

When I got back, Tony finally seemed to notice that I’d been missing for a while and that he had majorly messed up, so he started to dance with me, but by that point I was so over the whole night that I didn’t even want to dance. I did talk to Jackie at one point and told her why I was upset, not to create drama but because I still wanted her and Pete to like me because I thought it would make him like me again, and I told her about Christian and how he’d ignore me and pit me against other girls and the whole night was bringing up a lot of those feelings. She told me she understood, and then told me, verbatim, “It’s a really big deal that you’re here, you must have made a hell of a good impression on Tony if he wanted you to come out here.” I had no idea what to do with that.

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