Basically, right as Mitts and I were in the middle of "it's not you it's me", or "better off as friends", or something equally as cliched, we were interrupted by the sudden presence of my favourite cinema studies lecturer. I guess it was our bad for biting the bullet in a public place, and a cafe right next to our university at that. My very favourite lecturer stopped to chat, all friendly-like. He saw Mitts staring at his feet, then his eyes darted to me in increasing panic, to consider my hand-wringing awkward uncomfortable silence. You could see two and two being put together in his head, and the sudden terror in his face as he realised what he'd just walked in on.
"WELL, I guess I'll see you later!" he blurted out at an almost-yell, and damn near sprinted away.
Mitts and I sat there in stunned silence, wondering whether or not to laugh.
Look, even if you don't think it's that funny, Mitch and I laugh about it. Come on, it's the stuff sitcoms are made of! Break up! Interruption by university personality! Awkwardness ensues! I thought it was mildly amusing, but obviously the guys I told it to a little while ago thought it was less hilarious than it was an uncomfortable thing to hear. You know when you're telling a story, and a little over halfway through (read: past the point of no return) you realise it's going to completely bomb when you get to the climax/punchline? It was like that. I'm pretty sure I even tacked on a "and then I found twenty bucks" at the story's end.
I suppose the guys reacted in an awkward way because of all the activities in the world, break ups would probably be near the top of any list entitled "Things That Are Not Much Fun". Right in between getting a wart burnt off, and being fired. Even if they occur in public, they're intensely private moments, and they're rarely the short, digestible length they'd be if it was taking place in a Hollywood comedy.
These were all thoughts going through my head as I sat in a cafe late last week and observed, watched, took the journey with a couple breaking up right in front of me. It was, amongst other things, excruciating, fascinating, and riveting viewing.
I sat down in the cafe, ordered my coffee, and whipped out my notebook. With half an hour till I needed to jump onto a tram, I'd decided to feign at being an efficient-ass motherfucker and get some shit done. FUNCTIONING HUMAN ADULT MANEUVERS would be engaged before I got on with my day. I surveyed the other cafe-goers as I waited for my caffeine. For some context, I was sitting facing the window, my back to a dividing wall thing. Sitting against the window with their sides to me, a little to my right was a young couple. They looked like they were having a rather intense conversation. I took my headphones off, and didn't even have to strain to hear them. That convenient fact was merely because they weren't whispering, such was the intimacy of the space. Rookie mistake, whoever chose the venue.
It was immediately obvious that they were breaking up. Or at the very least, they were in the middle of the talk that comes immediately after someone says "we need to talk", and immediately before a break up. They were leaning in as they spoke, and his expression alternated between pained and concerned.
Then I heard a snippet of conversation:
"You know that I care about you a lot, like, more than anyone else..." he said, clutching her hands in his.
It was at this point that I was like,
While I desperately attempted to look like I wasn't actively eavesdropping and messaging a friend with the details of what I was witnessing, the young couple continued their painful talk.
"I'm at a crossroads right now" he said.
"I just think, whenever we talk about anything we end up fighting" she said.
"Things are just so crazy with uni right now..." he said.
"I believe that if we give this a shot, we really have to give it a shot" she said.
I tell you what, I was engrossed. I'll tell you what else, it's extremely difficult not to look engrossed when you are. I ripped my attention away from the pair as I quickly updated my Facebook status (regarding my cafe entertainment situation, of course), only to tune back in as she was busting out "I know that's a really difficult thing to hear from someone, but it's true." His face was contorted in discomfort. Wait, wasn't he the one at the crossroads? This was getting interesting.
I inwardly kicked myself for not hearing what on earth had been such a "difficult thing to hear" and turned back to my phone, as I received a text message demanding pictures. I'd posted a status update about little surprise drama unfolding before my eyes, and it'd very quickly gained a bit of attention. A friend immediately asked for details about whose fault the break up was. I was about to post a long and juicy reply, full of descriptions of heartbroken expressions (his) and cracked voices (hers). As I tap-tap-tapped at the screen of my phone though, I had a abrupt and surprising crisis of conscience. I deleted my comment.
This lightning bolt of moral dilemma wasn't so much annoying as it was interesting; all of a sudden I was incredibly aware of what I was intruding on, and subsequently sharing with the internets. By that I mean, a break up is an intensely private, personal thing to happen. Neither of them were having a good time, not by any means. Sure, there's quite a bit of twisted delight and train-wreck fascination to be had from my vantage point certainly, but after eavesdropping and keeping a friend updated via text message over fifteen minutes or so, I all of a sudden felt a little dirty. Like I'd been intruding on something I really shouldn't have been intruding on. I knew how much she liked his family, that their friends would all apparently shit bricks, and how their mutual pal Steve was going to be torn - although apparently, Steve was his friend first. Poor Steve.
Oh god, then they began to joke about it. You know, the "we've broken up now, but we're definitely going to keep being friends because we're totally able to joke around about what just happened even though it's obviously super awkward and not comfortable in the slightest" kind of nervous and forced laughter. I almost put my headphones back on. Perhaps it was time to leave, or at least stop listening so intently.
While all this was happening, another guy walked into the cafe and sat down a couple of tables to my right, so pretty much directly in front of the couple. He ordered a coffee and instantly realised what was going down in his immediate field of vision. I have never seen someone slam a latte and bail so quickly. Never. I'm obviously made of tougher shit than that guy though, because I stuck around for another five minutes or so. Even if I was having a small moral dilemma, this trainwreck was way too juicy and riveting to just leave. And apparently, my friends felt the same way. Like I said, the twisted delight of seeing something awkwardly and painfully destroyed right before your eyes far, far outweighs any moral qualms one might feel when one becomes aware of the slightly creepy voyeurism one might be undertaking.
Would they remain friends?
Would they work at it and stay together?
WOULD STEVE BE OKAY?
I guess we'll never know. I also know that as much as I don't really feel like I should have spent all that time eavesdropping, at least I didn't start recording their conversation. This is something I've been reprimanded for at least twice, but it also reassures me that I'm not that much of a creep weirdo, one who takes too much pleasure in all things #dark. I AIN'T THAT FUCKED, YO.