Mike Harris had to break up with his girlfriend. He had to.
Otherwise, he would likely become the first man in history to die from a myocardial infarction brought on by girlfriend-induced drama.
His girlfriend Jan was five foot seven, blonde, had hazel eyes, and great legs. She pouted like a supermodel, paid someone to do his laundry, and always picked up the check. She was rich, spoiled, and everything that came along with. She threw tantrums, attempted to rule him with a manicured fist, and nagged him daily. She was what his friends called a code-red clinger. It was past time to make his escape.
A resolved Mike relaxed into the bench and gazed at the beautiful scenery on the college campus, forgetting momentarily that his phone would ring any second to signal the end. Two gorgeous blondes were playing frisbee near the entrance to Love Library. A herd of naïve freshmen girls was sitting on the grass behind them. To his left, a long-legged brunette was sunning herself as she pretended to study.
This is what college is all about, he told himself. A light breeze floated by carrying the scent of freshly cut grass. The sun shone brightly. Mike breathed deeply and attained a near Zen-like calm. His life was almost perfect. He craved an existence free from stress, responsibility, and obligations. Being a marketing student at San Diego State University afforded him that luxury and yet provided him with boundaries to define his freedom. His sole source of anxiety was Jan.
A sharp pain in his neck pulled his attention away from babe watching. He gently massaged a knot in his neck then tilted his head from side to side. This was his last year at SDSU, he reminded himself sharply, his last chance to make the most of the experience. He knew that Jan had a hard time relating since she had dropped out of college to become a massage therapist. Nevertheless, he needed to do this.
The ringing of his cell drowned out his internal pep talk. He shifted uncomfortably out of his relaxed pose. His arms crossed unconsciously.
"Three o'clock exactly," he mumbled. The wind shifted. It blew insistently against the side of his face. He pushed his brown hair back behind his ear. It came loose and jabbed into his eyes.
The phone rang again. Mike shifted away from the wind and hurried to answer before she could leave another voicemail. Jan liked to call him the second her class went on break. He didn't always pick up, but this time he had to. In the past four days, his phone had logged five voicemails and eleven missed calls from "The Nag." Mike had been avoiding her in the vain hope that she would get the hint and leave him alone. He hated it when girls got emotional; the one thing they all freaked out about was getting dumped. He wished they could take it, well, like a man. They could exchange a nice handshake goodbye and best wishes for the future. But girls had to cry, which made Mike feel like a jerk.
She must know something's wrong after I didn't show up last night, he assured himself and flipped open the phone.
"Hello," he said tiredly.
"Hey, baby," came a bright, cheerful response.
Jan's opening move: pretend everything was great.
"Hey. What's up? You on break?" As if he needed to ask.
"Yeah, it's only the end of the third week and I'm already bored. Who knew there would be so much lecturing involved? I thought massage school would be easy."
Mike stifled a laugh. Jan had always been amusing—in small doses. She never liked to put much effort into anything, except spending time with him. She put a little too much effort into him.
"So, where've you been? We had dinner plans last night."
Before Mike could answer that he had been busy organizing his spam email folder, Jan overrode him and continued in a condescending tone, "You should have called if you weren't going to make it. And I haven't heard from you in days. I don't know why I put up with this crap. You couldn't have been that busy."
Next move: invoke guilt. "Don't you love me anymore?"
Mike put a mental clamp on his annoyance. Jan's rant was just the kind of thing that shot his blood pressure up to... whatever really high was. He loathed being obligated to do things with her all the time. Even more, he hated it when she constantly sought reassurances of his feelings, feelings which mattered less to him then they did to her. She acted like they were soul mates. Mike couldn't see how that was possible.
"Look, Jan. We need to talk."
Judging from the silence he assumed she was catching on. He could almost feel her anger locking onto him from miles away like a heat-seeking missile.
Her tone implied he had better carefully consider how he answered. Despite her frequent lovey-dovey moments, Jan could be downright terrifying when she was upset.
Mike sighed. "Us."
He took a steadying breath.
"Jan, come on," he pleaded. "This isn't working out. We've tried to take breaks, but we start fighting again the second we make up. We can't make each other happy. And besides, I'm a senior now. I really need to focus on graduating and I can't do that with a full-time girlfriend."
Mike heard a sniffle from the other end of the connection. He shook his head in disbelief. It used to make him feel terrible when she cried, but after eight months of her bawling every time she didn't get her way he was practically immune.
"I think it's best if we don't talk to each other anymore. Make a clean break, okay?"
He heard another sniffle, followed by a whimper. God, she's manipulative.
But even so, they had been together a long time and Mike thought that he should still care about her.
"Are you okay? I really need to go now, but I hope you're all right."
"Yeah, right," Jan shrieked. "If you really cared, you wouldn't be doing this. You said you loved me but obviously that was a lie. After everything we've been through... you're such a jerk! How could you do this to me?"
An eruption of tears and sobs poured out of his speaker. Mike yanked the phone away from his ear and gnashed his teeth. His shoulders went up to his ears. Throbbing tension pulsed down his neck. He couldn't deal with any more emotional outbursts.
Mike snapped. "Whatever you say, Jan. I guess you answered your own question. I'm a jerk. An unfeeling, inconsiderate asshole who never loved you. But that's not your problem anymore. I'm not your problem anymore and you're not mine! Goodbye."
He thought he heard a desperate cry of "wait" but ignored it and ended the call. Relief washed through him. His neck muscles unclenched and his shoulders slid back against the bench. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back. He smiled up at the sun and let it burn away remnants of guilt.