The watch I had on is in my bathroom medicine cabinet. It still says 11:03.
A few hours after I left Toxic Best Friend and her Pussy Posse at the blackjack table, I checked my watch again. It still said 11:03.
It had stopped.
When we eventually crossed paths, TBF had a sour look on her leathery, tanned face. She had continued to lose money all night. TBF doesn’t lose. She wins. Those are the rules we are all required to follow.
Today, a former-student-turned-friend posted an article on Facebook called “The Strange Pleasure of Terrible Women” by Maya Gurantz. It’s timing like this that reinforces my belief in the Collective Unconscious, not to mention The Matrix. Toxic Best Friend is a terrible woman and there was always a strange pleasure in her company. Her behavior is outrageous. She doesn’t believe the rules apply to her, and they usually don’t. When she doesn’t get her way, she throws tantrums worse than any three year-old. And people like me always orbit her, giving her someone to be horrible to.
The camel that broke her straw back was my comp card for the buffet. As I blubbered into my Cape Cod and won at video poker, the bartender handed me a Kleenex, then gave me a coupon for two free breakfasts. I took Mona.
After pulling an all-nighter, Toxic Best Friend perked herself up with a Bloody Mary. I was “eating clean,” which meant no sugar, flour, fried food, or artificial sweeteners.
Except for cranberry juice mixed liberally with vodka.
When I got hungry, I had to eat. If I skipped meals, I set myself up for terrible decisions. The conversation went as follows.
“There you are. I didn’t even see you leave; what happened?” Toxic Best Friend demanded. “That was rude.”
I was a coward. I still am. To this day, I have never even talked to her about what happened in Vegas. I know when she’s mad at me and I just play dumb. If she doesn’t bring it up, I won’t. Our exchanges, however occasional, haven’t changed. It goes like this:
“It’s so good to hear from you, Mo! I miss you! My life is so amazing. I won Teacher of the Year again. My older child is good at everything. My younger one is a child model for The Gap. My romantic partner fulfills me in every way. I can’t believe how lucky I am. Yesterday, I shat a hundred dollar bill. Does Odie ever accidentally call you by his ex-wife’s name during sex?”
Not exactly like that. But close enough.
At the buffet line, she said, “I can’t believe you two are making such a big deal about food. It’s just FOOD.” TBF snarled at Mona and me as though it left a greasy residue in her mouth. After the disappointment of her teacher’s assistant failing to make a big deal about her birthday, my under-reaction to that abhorrent affront, losing money, then failing to be the center of attention in the casino, Toxic Best Friend pulled rank and demanded we drive home immediately.
“I have to eat, and I can’t eat fast food on the road.” There would be no negotiating with me on this point. At that time, I had worked too hard on the 12 steps to give up the serenity. My sponsor had begged me not to go on this trip. She felt that Toxic Best Friend, Las Vegas, and a break in my routine were serious risks to my abstinence. I had two tickets to a free breakfast where I could get scrambled eggs, vegetables, fruit and coffee. I was not getting in a car for four hours with TBF on an empty stomach.
She stirred her Bloody Mary with the celery stick, then picked it up and chomped it between her perfectly straight white teeth, her hazel gaze sweeping up and down my body.
“You and your fucking food,” she spat viciously. Then she laughed. “I can’t control my food! I’m an addict!” For some reason she lowered her voice an octave when mocking my personal, private struggle with bulimia. “If you’re not at the valet at 10:30, I’m leaving without you. Both of you.” She shot a murderous look at Mona, twirled on her Carrie Bradshaw shoes, and disappeared into a crowd of people. Every man she passed turned to look at her as she stormed away.
At 10:30, I met TBF and The Posse at the valet. They were all talking animatedly until I approached and their conversation died suddenly the way it does when people are gossiping about you. Then, something else died.
“I’m done.” I said wearily.
“What do you mean?” she sneered.
“With you. I’m just done.”
Friends, sisters, my sponsor, my therapist had told me for years that TBF needs me desperately. I never believed them. I always felt like her last priority. She barely noticed me. She treated me carelessly, hurting my feelings often. But in the split second after I told her I was leaving her, I saw in her expression that they’d been right. For just a breath, her face betrayed the most horrible childlike fear, so raw and terrified I almost took it back. Instead, I turned on the heel of my sensible shoe, strode up to the doorman of the Bellagio and asked him to get me a cab. I tipped him twenty bucks.
“Take her right to the airport,” he told the cabbie. “Treat her straight. She’s had a rough time.”
Then I used some of my $800 winnings to buy a plane ticket home. I was so ecstatic and in shock to be free of TBF, I went out to celebrate and ended up in bed with a coworker. For seven months. But that’s a story for another time.