The Cheese Fry Goodbye


She HATED mess and clutter more than anything in the world.

It made her feel disorganized, discombobulated, as though it projected publicly her inward chaos. She kept an enormous package of disinfectant wipes stashed in her desk — along with other choice stashes — ready and waiting for the moment she found a swipe of grease, or a hint of dust. In reality, she was probably a tad on the obsessive-compulsive side, and I gave her an immense amount of shit for it. One of my favorite procrastination activities was sneaking into her dorm room across the hall from mine, and rearranging small trinkets on her desk, just to see if she’d notice. She always noticed.

Everyone who knew Miranda knew this about her, so it seemed reasonable to expect that my boyfriend of two years would know it, too. But it became clear on the day of the French Fry Fiasco that he didn’t, and that meant he also didn’t understand how important Miranda was to me. As a result, the incident marked the beginning of the death toll for my dating relationship.

February 20, 2007

I skipped econ class this afternoon to watch Alias reruns in Miranda’s room. It was such a crappy, gross day outside. Frickin’ June Gloom in February.

Chet came by and hung out for a bit, and he brought cheese fries. Somehow, in the course of devouring them, he dumped the entire box of fries onto Miranda’s floor. She was already pissed about the smell of cheese fries in her room, but she had murder in her eyes when Chet spilled the food. I know she already doesn’t like him, and this did not help things.

To make matters worse, he didn’t clean them up right away. He just plopped the giant, gooey mess back in the box, and kept watching the show. Miranda asked him if he planned on cleaning up the grease spot on her carpet. All he said was, “Yeah, I will,” and just kept SITTING there. I thought she was gonna have a frickin’ heart attack.

I gave Chet a look of death and then went to the bathroom to get him some paper towels. He seemed irritated, and confused about why we were so pissed. He tried cleaning the spill, but he just swiped at it lightly, like he’s never cleaned anything before in his life. Finally, after watching the spectacle unfold, Miranda got some paper towels and cleaned the spot herself, scrubbing and huffing in frustration.

Chet and I went back to my room to give her some space, but I didn’t feel like hanging out. I just can’t believe he doesn’t GET it. And after all that, he ended up chucking the rest of the fries into the trash. Are you serious???

There’s this distinct feeling you get in your gut when you know a relationship is all but over. In Chet’s case, it wasn’t just about the fries, or the mess, or his inability to understand the larger implications of his actions. It was a combination of several factors, unfolding over a period of weeks and months. Still, I hung onto that relationship until mid-June, after travelling to Africa and Ireland on a school-related trip, and deciding I was a different person. Truthfully, I wasn’t a different person, I was the same person — just still irritated at all of the things in our relationship that weren’t really working. When I look back on my relationship with Chet, I always wonder why I didn’t end it sooner. We so obviously weren’t meant to be together, or else we’d still be together. Why drag it out?

Because, when you’re in a dating relationship that isn’t working, you never know if there will be another one.

What if this is your last shot, or your best chance for long-term romantic love? What if no one else ever compares to this particular person, and you discover months down the road that you threw away a good thing? I mean, Taylor Swift has written hit songs about this stuff, partly because it all feels so final, and so true.

It’s easy to say, after the fact — once I’d begun a new and better relationship with my now husband — that I’d known all along Chet wasn’t The One. I didn’t. It was a risk letting him go. But sometimes, you reach a point in a relationship when everything that feels “off” far outweighs the things that you love about the person. Or, maybe you just stop trying so hard to appreciate, and focus on, all the good in that person. You start to only see the bad, the things you wish were different, and you reach a tipping point where you choose to finally let go.

You really could choose to make it work with anybody, but you can’t ignore that gut feeling when it’s time to say goodbye.

You’ve gotta trust that gut feeling, because it’s trying to tell you there’s something better for you out there.

It might be a new relationship, or maybe no relationship, but rather bigger, wider experiences that you won’t be open to if you stay rooted to another person.

In the end, the cheese fries weren’t the reason I called it quits with Chet, they were only a catalyst to that result. Had I loved where our relationship was going, I would’ve just laughed it off, moved on, and maybe we’d still be together. But my gut knew.

The gut always knows, and you’ve gotta trust it.

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