No silver linings in the Silver Tavern (Part 1)

"The Ex-Executive Assistant" is a comedic story about a young man who loses both his job and his girlfriend on the same day.

Recap: After losing his job and finding his girlfriend in bed with his best buddy — all in the same morning — Lyle decided to go to his favorite neighborhood bar, the Silver Tavern, to drink away his woes. As he ordered another round, someone approached him from behind and offered to buy it for him….

Annabelle rested her hand atop Lyle’s. “Can we talk?”

“You mean to each other?” Lyle asked, glowering.

“You’re still pretty upset, huh?”

“Well, I tried to put a positive spin on things, but I got dizzy and threw up.”

“If you got dizzy and threw up, it was probably from too many of those,” Annabelle said, motioning to his drink. “C’mon, let’s go somewhere we can talk.”

“Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of him,” Lyle said, nodding toward Charlie, the bartender.

Annabelle frowned. “Why? Is it because you told him the story already?”

“No,” Charlie said, looking over from the TV. “It’s because he knows I don’t care.”

“You definitely should be a shrink,” Lyle said.

Annabelle tugged his sleeve. “C’mon, Lyle, let’s go home. I don’t want to talk about this in a public place.”

“Apparently, our home’s as much of a public place as here. At least the bedroom, anyway.”

Annabelle sighed. “OK – I deserve that. A booth, then? Will you give me that much?”

“I’d give my life to be left alone. But I guess there’s not much value in that anymore.”

Annabelle tugged his sleeve again. “C’mon. We’ll be quick, I promise.”

“I thought we weren’t going to the bedroom,” Lyle said.

Lyle stood and followed Annabelle, taking his glass. They slid into opposite ends of one of the booths along the far wall.

“Listen,” Lyle said, “before you begin, let me just say: If you’re here to apologize and beg for forgiveness and swear off your relationship with Brent, then don’t waste your breath. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over between us. Over. You understand? I don’t want to hear any blubbering spiel about how much you still love me.”

Annabelle shook her head. “That’s not what I’m going to say.”

“I — what?” Lyle tilted his head.

“I’m not here to say any of that, Lyle. In fact, I’m glad you found out about me and Brent. I wish I would have told you myself – I really do – but I don’t want to beg for your forgiveness. Things have changed between us. We’re not in love anymore. I think we can agree, especially now, that each of us needs to move on.”

Lyle frowned. “I don’t agree with that.”

“Face it, Lyle,” Annabelle continued. “We’ve outgrown each other. The two of us don’t make sense together anymore. If we really want to be happy, we need to let each other go. That’s what I came here to tell you. That’s what I wanted to say.”

“How can you say that?” Lyle said. “We’re supposed to love each other. That’s why we moved in together – because we love each other.”

“Actually, we moved in together so you could save on rent,” Annabelle said. “You liked that my apartment had utilities included.”

“Hon, listen.” Lyle reached across the table and took Annabelle’s hand. “We don’t have to call it quits. I’m sure you had reasons for doing what you did. Why it had to be Brent you did … well, that’s another story. But all couples go through times like this. It’s just a phase, that’s all.”

Annabelle sighed. “Lyle, a phase is when you’re having nightmares and wetting the bed. An affair is when you’re backstabbing your lover and quietly crying out for help. And that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time, now, even though I didn’t realize it. I’ve been crying out for help.”

Lyle swallowed, releasing his grip on Annabelle’s hand. “So what are you saying? It’s all over between us, and you’re in love with Brent?”

Annabelle shook her head. “I’m not in love with Brent.”

“Then it’s not over between us?”

“No,” she said. “It’s still over between us.”

“You’re not in love with Brent but it’s still over between us?”

“I’m not in love with anybody. That’s what I’m trying to say. I went to Brent because I felt like you and I had nothing to hold onto anymore. No common ground, no shared goals. I felt like … like we were only going through the motions – like we were playing roles.”

“We role-play all the time. So what?”

“Our lives, Lyle. I’m talking about our lives.”

“If you role-played with Brent, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Will you just listen to me, please?” Annabelle said, her voice raised.

Lyle blushed, looking around. “You said you wanted to talk privately, and now you’re going to broadcast our conversation to the whole bar? Use a little discretion; this is one of those places where everyone knows your name.”

“Lyle,” Annabelle said, “you have to know as well as I that things have changed. We’re not the same people we were when we met two years ago.”

“That’s right,” Lyle said. “When we first met two years ago, you were a bank teller. Now, you’re a branch manager.”

Annabelle frowned. “So?”

“So, when we met two years ago, I was an executive assistant. And now what I am I?”

“Unemployed?”

“Before that. I mean, an hour ago, what was I? I was an executive assistant, right?”

“OK?” Annabelle shrugged. “So what’s the point?”

“The point is,” Lyle said, pointing at her, “is that I didn’t change. I’m still the same person I was when we first met. You’re the one who went and got two promotions and changed.”

“What do my promotions have to do with our relationship?” Annabelle asked.

Lyle threw up his arms. “Are you kidding me? They have everything to do with our relationship. You live for work. All your time and heart and energy goes into work. You give so much of yourself to your job that by the time you come home, there’s nothing left for me. Your job’s No. 1 on your list, and I’m No. 2. Which is appropriate, because that’s how you make me feel: like No. 2.”

Tears sprang to Annabelle’s eyes. “That’s not fair. I had an opportunity to make something of myself, and I did. I’m proud of who I am and what I do.

“Which, by the way,” she continued, “is more than I can say for you. You’ve been slaving away at that pitiful job the whole time I’ve known you, and it’s made you miserable. You want to know something? You used to be fun to be around. You were funny and full of life. But now look at you. The only thing you’re full of these days is self-pity and Grey Goose.”

“Well, excuse me for not cherry-picking my dream job,” Lyle said. “Some of us are mired in the realities of the economy. The executive-assistant job came up when the newspaper laid me off, and I had to take it.”

“It was supposed to be temporary until you could find something better,” Annabelle said. “Remember? You were supposed to keep looking. Instead, you got comfortable – not to mention lazy. And then what? You gave up.”

“I settled,” Lyle said. “There’s a difference.”

“Well,” Annabelle said, “then I guess I settled, too. Because two years ago I started dating a fun-loving guy who looked forward to the future and who saw the world through rose-colored lenses. But somewhere along the way he devolved into an angry, bitter, self-loathing sourpuss who drifted from one day to the next with no energy, no passion and no sense of direction or purpose. I had to stand and watch as he dissolved into a fragment of his former self, like a shadow retreating into the darkness, or a ghost slipping away into obscurity.”

“That’s good descriptive detail,” Lyle said. “Take it from an editor.”

“But you’re not an editor anymore, Lyle. You’re not even an executive assistant. The world knocked you down, and you never got up. You let it trample your heart … and your spirit … and everything else I loved about you.”

Annabelle blinked rapidly, rubbing her eye. “I don’t know who you are or what you’ve become, but what I do know is this: you’re not someone I want to share my life with. Not anymore. And that’s why it has to be this way. That’s why we have to say goodbye.”