Gord attempted to break up with Janine the first week of December. It did not go well. In fact, it went very, very poorly. He got as far as “Janine, I think we —” into the speech he’d prepared before she started crying and he lost his nerve. He hadn’t even gotten anywhere close to breaking up with her. They weren’t even in the realm of break-up territory and she was already in tears. It was off-putting and unsettling and he was pretty sure it meant he would have to spend the rest of his life with her because there was literally no chance that she wouldn’t cry any time he tried to end things with her.
His friends found the whole thing very amusing.
“Oh my God, you tried to dump her three weeks before Christmas?” Gavin exclaimed in mock horror when Gord shared his bad news. “You heartless bastard!”
“Well it didn’t work and we’re still together, so I guess it’s fine,” Gord returned grumpily, slumping down in his seat on the couch. Finch was sitting next to him, paying him very little attention, and Gavin and Amare were sitting in the armchairs in the living room, judging him. In all likelihood, Finch was judging him as well, just silently.
“You’re a mess,” Amare told him flatly.
“It’s not my fault!” Gord protested. “She’s very persuasive.”
“Ew,” Finch cut in, apparently paying attention after all. “Gross. Stop. I don’t need to know more than that.”
“No, you’ve misunderstood,” Gord turned to him. “She literally cried her way out of the break-up.”
“That’s got to be the mark of a strong, healthy relationship,” Amare said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. Gord ignored him because he’d been ghosted by a woman for Joey so his opinion didn’t actually count.
Gord tried to break up with Janine again. He got slightly further into his speech this time, the same one he’d prepared for the previous attempt, before Janine began sniffling. That conversation ended with him agreeing to babysit her dog Ralph for two weeks while she was visiting her parents in Edmonton for the holidays.
“So not only have you not managed to dump her, again, but now you have to look after her dog for two weeks,” Amare summarized when Gord shared his new bad news to him, his two roommates, Sybil, and Chris one Thursday night at a pub for trivia night. “You’re an embarrassment.”
This time, Gord didn’t let it slide.
“Your opinion doesn’t count,” he said, jabbing a finger in Amare’s direction. “You got ghosted so someone could date Joey.”
“Very good point,” Chris cut in. Gord gave him a high-five.
“I don’t want to judge you,” Amare protested, holding his hands up in defense. “It’s just so hard for me not to.”
“Dick,” Gord told him, before continuing to complain. “Why does she like me so much? It’s unnerving.”
“When you two first got together, I couldn’t figure how it had happened because she’s way too hot for you,” Finch interjected, beginning something Gord was sure he wouldn’t like the outcome of. “But now I understand that it’s because she’s nuts.”
“So no one could ever love her because she’s crazy?” Sybil rounded on Finch instantly, clearly outraged on behalf of her entire gender.
“No, I meant that the only reason she could be this into Gord is because she’s crazy-town banana-pants,” Finch clarified, not at all bothered by how close she’d gotten to his face, hackles raised, obviously pissed off. “Look at him. It’s impossible to take him seriously with that mustache.”
“Well I don’t love this,” Gord cut in, just in case someone actually paid attention to him or his feelings.
“Let’s be honest, it isn’t the mustache,” Gavin added, which Gord found particularly bold from a man wearing a t-shirt that had tiny wedges of swiss cheese printed all over it. Gavin owned several items of clothing that were food-patterned. He was the only person Gord knew who could show up to a party and end up matching the charcuterie board.
Janine left for Edmonton two days later. Gord brought Ralph home to his apartment, at which point he was terrorized by Finch and Eartha Kitten alike. Finch trained Eartha to lunge at Ralph whenever possible. Finch wanted to see if Ralph would give Eartha rides around the apartment, like a pony. Ralph, whose incredibly wide-set eyes made it difficult for him to see at the best of times, was having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings. As such, he spent a lot of time being completely blindsided by Eartha and subsequently stumbling into the fridge. Plus he kept stepping in Eartha’s food bowl so he left one-footed paw prints in salmon residue all over the apartment.
Janine called every single night, partially to find out how Ralph was doing, but mostly to talk to Gord. She kept dropping hints about him coming to Edmonton next time so that he could meet her parents. Almost nothing sounded worse to Gord than that. She also took the opportunity to tell him about anything and everything that had happened to her every single day she was away so that he wouldn’t feel like he had missed a moment with her. Gord assumed the sentiment behind was that was intended as loving and kind, but it felt like torture.
“Sometimes she talks to me and I have no idea what she’s saying because I haven’t been paying attention for forty minutes in an effort to numb the pain of listening to her,” Gord admitted to Amare, Gavin, and Finch one night after a particularly long phone call with Janine. Finch was lying on his stomach on the floor, poking Ralph’s toes as he slept. Ralph kept kicking his legs out in reflex and Finch thought it was hilarious.
“You mean to tell me that the relationship you were emotionally manipulated into remaining a part of isn’t working out?” Amare returned dryly. “Shocking.”
“You just need to break up with her,” Gavin cut in. “Again. This time for keeps. Maybe you could do it over the phone so that you could hang up when she starts crying.”
“That’s the meanest thing I’ve ever heard,” Finch told Gavin, looking up at him from the floor.
“Oh, sorry,” Gavin replied sheepishly.
“No, no, I’m impressed,” Finch grinned.
The next night, when Janine called, Gord tried to follow Gavin’s advice. He thought it was horrible and mean, but he was out of options. Ralph had taken to sleeping on top of his chest in the night so that, when Gord woke in the morning, he couldn’t breathe properly. He wasn’t a light dog. It didn’t help that Eartha was also sleeping in his room, to be nearer to Ralph, and she often found herself on top of Gord’s face. He was going to die in the night, suffocated by other people’s pets.
“Janine,” he said firmly, tuning out her sniffling, which had already begun. “I don’t think we should be together anymore. You’re too good for me.”
By the time he’d finished his entire speech, she was beside herself in hysterics and he could hear someone in the background asking her what was wrong. After what felt like an eternity, but was only fifteen minutes in reality, Gord caved and agreed to give it another go. He left his room, dejected, and shared the news of his most recent unsuccessful attempt with his roommates, Robin, and Amare.
“You tried to do that favour break-up?” Robin replied. “You’re better off without me? You deserve someone so much better? Bold choice. Rarely effective when the person you’re dumping is as into you as Janine is.”
“I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I think we just have to accept that Janine loves you more than anything,” Gavin agreed, nodding along to Robin’s remark. “She loves you even more than she loves her dog because, if she really loved him, she wouldn’t have left him in your care.”
They all looked over to wear Ralph was lying with his butt in his water dish, Eartha sitting directly on his face, purring louder than Gord had ever heard before. It was like a tiny freight train was running through their apartment.
“I’m fucked,” Gord said, fairly certain at that point that he’d have to legitimately marry Janine unless he found a way to tolerate the sound of her crying.
“Yes,” was Finch’s very unhelpful response.