Author's Note: The title of this node will make absolutely no sense whatsoever until you've read the whole thing. Just letting you know...

Have you ever been in a situation that causes you to think something to yourself like: "Y’know, if you’d told me a year ago that this is what I’d be doing today, I wouldn’t have believed you in a million years"? This is a story about just one such situation. And it’s a pretty funny story, I think. Although the important part of the story takes place at the end of last week, it starts a while back.

It was almost exactly one year ago, last night, that we broke up. It’s a really long (and funny, and disturbing, and sad) story, one which I’d rather not get into in this node (although I’m sure I’ll node about it sooner or later). The end result, however, of both our breakup and of the resulting breakups involving her and the other guy (we’ll call him "Tom") entangled in the whole sordid affair, was that she (we’ll call her "Sara") wasn’t talking to either of us anymore. Not talking to Tom because her feelings toward him ranged from "felt that Ebola would be too good for the scumbag" to merely "just wished he’d fall off the face of the earth" depending on who you asked. She wasn’t really talking to me because, well, as far as we can tell, I existed in her mind as a sort of "psychological extension" of Tom (we were then, and still are, pretty much best friends), and was therefore also on the shit list, albeit not to the same extent.

At any rate, for almost a year after things ended between her and I, and for about nine or ten months after things ended for good between her and Tom, we didn’t talk. Our only news of her came second-hand. We shared a social group, so we heard a lot. She’d decided that maybe she really was totally gay, not just bisexual like she’d been when she was involved with us. She’d started going out with another friend of ours, who we’ll call Carolyn. Oh, wow, they were going to room together next year! Ummm… okay, whatever. Oh, shit, they broke up over the summer. Now what’s gonna happen? Hey, whaddya know, they’re not getting along as roommates! Woah, Carolyn’s moving out. Double Woah, they’re saying some really nasty stuff about each other! Okay, this is officially one of the Nastiest Breakups In History. What’s that? Sara got to keep the great dorm room, but Carolyn got their friends? Oh, poor Sara! She must be so lonely! Oh, but poor Carolyn! Sara broke her heart! And so on…

This chain of events led to Sara actually initiating conversation with Tom for the first time in months– either as a result of having alienated (or lost) most of her friends around here during the breakup process, or as a result of some sort of personal growth she’d undergone. The jury’s still out on which it was. Tom, being the nice guy he is, let her come back and pretend like nothing ever happened, as did I. Before all the stuff happened a year ago, the three of us were great friends, and pretty soon we’d regressed back to that earlier state. Over dinner a few nights ago, while discussing weekend plans, Sara mentioned that she wanted to go to Holey Rollers (a local tattoo and body-piercing place) and get something pierced. Thinking that she was just planning on getting another hole in her ear, or (at most) piercing her navel, I offered to walk down with her the next day and get it done.

The next day, after she got off work, we started walking. A few blocks from campus, I asked her what she was going to get pierced. She put on a semi-sheepish look, and said that she was "thinking about maybe" piercing her nipples.

"Oh. Cool." I said, and we kept walking. A few blocks later, the weirdness of the situation hit me: I was walking down to the piercing place, with my lesbian ex-girlfriend, who I hadn’t really talked to in months, almost a year after we broke up, to get her nipples pierced. (If this doesn’t strike you as weird, take a few minutes and think about it.)

Now, I don’t have any piercings or tattoos myself. But I’ve taken more than a few friends to get assorted things pierced or tattooed. Hell, I’ve probably spent more time in that particular piercing place than any other non-pierced individual on Colorado Springs. But I’d never taken anybody to get nipples pierced. Ears and nose, of course. Tongue? You bet. Lip? Yup. Navel? Oh, hell yeah. Eyebrow? Sure. Nipples? Until the other day, never. To be honest, I’ve never been sure that I was in favor of nipple-piercing. Most anything else, sure, go for it, what gauge hole do you want? But nipples? That had always been something I was a little iffy about.

So as we got closer to the place, I started feeling weirder and weirder about this whole thing. I mean, I’d seen this girl’s nipples on more than a few occasions. They were really nice. The thought that she’d soon be paying somebody a good chunk of money to stick rings through them was taking a bit of brainpower to process.

The whole thing, however, became moot once we reached the piercing place. We opened the door, and who was standing right there? The new ex-girlfriend, Carolyn. There with a gaggle of her friends (who had, until recently, also been Sara’s friends).

Have you ever been around two females who just noticed that they were wearing the same dress to the party? Remember how the air’s temperature dropped about thirty or forty degrees? And how, all of a sudden, the air seemed to pick up a serious static charge? Well, take that feeling and raise it to the fourth or fifth power, and you’ll begin to feel what it was like at that moment. I started wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for them to be in a place with lots of long, pointy things and tattoo needles.

My fears of a bloodbath were unfounded– rather than have a Celebrity Deathmatch-style showdown, they settled for sitting at opposite ends of the room and starting a Cuban Missile Crisis-esque staredown. The setting for this epic battle of wills couldn’t have been better– the constant buzz of the tattoo needle, the death-metal blaring from the sound system, the walls covered in…. uh… shall we say, "questionable"…. tattoo designs, all contributed to the atmosphere of tension.

I should mention here that Carolyn (and most of the people with her) are pretty good friends of mine. While I didn’t want to abandon Sara, good manners dictated that I should go over and, at least, say hello. After assuring Sara that I was by no means siding with Carolyn, but merely being polite, I went to do this, and learned that Carolyn was there for a tattoo. A very strange tattoo, that she had designed herself. The design… well, let’s just say that she might as well have had "Rebounding From A Horrid Breakup With An Emotional Vampire" tattooed on her arm (a la Snow Crash). The effect would’ve been the same. Come to think of it, Sara’s piercing decision had a certain feel of "rebound" to it as well.

So, the situation had gone from "taking someone to get pierced" to "taking an ex-girlfriend to get her nipples pierced" to "being stuck in the middle of a staredown between a good friend and an ex-girlfriend, in a piercing and tattoo parlor, each of whom was there in an attempt to forget the other through self-mutilation".

Things were tense for the next little while. The wait for tattoos was shorter than that for piercings, so Carolyn got out of there quickly. Y’know how, in old Western movies, after the bad guy leaves the saloon, the music just starts up the way it had been before he entered like nothing had happened? That’s what this was like. Once one of the two warring parties had left the room, the temperature rose back above zero again, and the static in the air was discharged back into Sara’s new post-breakup haircut from whence it had come.

The rest of the story is relatively dull– Sara did indeed get very thoroughly pierced, we walked back, and I have since heard more about the different problems resulting from nipple piercing than I ever cared to.

I guess the point of this whole story, besides the fact that it was one of the single most socially awkward situations I’ve ever found myself in, is that you never know how things are going to turn out. I mean, you can have a day start off perfectly normally, and within the span of a few minutes something singularly weird can happen.

In evolutionary biology, there are two competing theories as to how evolution works: Gradualism, and Punctuated Equilibria. Basically, gradualists hold that species change constantly (albeit slowly) over a long period of time. P.E. holds that the trend is toward stability rather than constant change. Under this theory, speciation events are rare and quick and relatively clearly defined, rather than constant and gradual and fuzzy.

This pretty much defines life, as far as I can tell: long periods of stability, with occasional bouts of activity. I might not date anybody for a year, and then in a three month period more screwed-up dating-related stuff happens than I’ve ever had to deal with before. I might not have a job for a few months, and then all at once I’ll find myself signed up for three. When nothing’s going on, there really is nothing going on. But, like they say, when it rains, it pours. And it looks like there’s a storm cloud coming over the horizon…