My freshman year roommate was a Macedonian from Kuwait who went to a British school and hated Greek men.
One day, I came home from class to find her intentionally breaking a glass over our trash can. I don’t think I even bothered to ask what she was doing. It was far enough into the year that she could spot the what-the-hell-are-you-doing look on my face that I never could manage to hide even though I tried.
“My grandmother always says that things break in threes. So whenever I break something, I intentionally break two other things.”
It was an especially odd thing to hear from her, of all people, because it wasn’t as though she was like Keri Russell’s Wiccan roommate on the first season of Felicity. My roommate was probably the most reasonable, rational person I’d met that year. Hardly someone I would've pegged for being superstitious.
I didn't think of her grandmother's words again until 7 years later. With every new apartment I lived in, I accumulated more and more kitchenware from Ikea, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie - the usual for a 20-something. Somehow, even with my clumsy tendencies, I had never broken a glass, a plate, a bowl. Nothing. I don't think I had broken so much as an tomato sauce jar on its way out to be recycled.
And then I broke three things in one week. I pulled a mug out of the dishwasher and the handle literally fell off of the mug when I shook it to get rid of the excess water. I mean, it flew right off! I was left holding half a mug handle in my hand, and there were red shards of a corporate-logo-ed ceramic mug ALL over my floor and under my refrigerator. Then, a day later, I pulled a water glass out of the cabinet and set it down directly on top of another water glass that was already on the counter. The bottom glass shattered. Shattered! Damn clear glasses. I went from searching for red shards to searching for clear shards. Much worse.
I pretty seriously considered following in my roommate's footsteps. I had plenty of empty glasses around that I didn't need and could intentionally break. But then again, I was curious. I kind of wanted to tempt fate. What would break next? Or rather, what would shatter into a million little pieces all over my kitchen floor? The answer? My favorite vase. Darn. Should've broken that empty tomato sauce jar.
A few months later, the law of threes struck again.
This time, it was much worse. My week had already been shitty. There's really no other word for it. It was the first time in a year that I felt true hatred towards my job. I was definitely on my way towards becoming one of those people who lives from weekend to weekend and this one in particular held such promise. A first date on Thursday, poker with the boys on Friday and a sort-of third date on Saturday.
You can obviously see where this is going. Thursday afternoon - I get a text from my date, "Sorry, work is super busy, rain check?"
Okay, fine. I didn't really even care that I got canceled on via text. The date was with some random guy I'd met at a bar and who was fun but nothing spectacular. Plus he lived in Jersey. Next.
Friday afternoon - our poker email chain starts blowing up.
"Friday night in the office for me."
"10% chance I'll get out in time."
"Not looking good."
Fail! Game was canceled. It sucks not having a 9-5 job (do those even exist anymore?).
So I wake up Saturday morning completely dreading what the day had in store for me. It's not like I could even break a glass to break the curse of the law of threes! What could I do? Make plans for brunch and deliberately ask that person to cancel on me? No. So I just waited. Maybe, just maybe everything would be fine and my week would end on a high note. Not so much. By noon, my sort-of third date had canceled too.
The worst part about the law of threes is that independently, none of these instances would have affected me much at all. Any other week, I probably would've been a little relieved by Thursday's cancellation. Sure random first dates can be fun, but there's also the super awkwardness of being on a first date with someone totally random. Any other week, I wouldn't have felt anything but indifferent that my poker game was off. Sure I enjoy taking the boys' money, but it would've also been nice to have spent Friday night out with the girls. And any other week, I would've had mixed feelings about being canceled on by my sort-of third date. Sure I would've been peeved for essentially being stood up, but I was already a little hesitant about him for a number of reasons, one of which was that he had backed me into a corner by asking me out for a Saturday date when we'd only been on one and two half-dates (which maybe I'll go into more detail one day, but it's why this date-that-never-was would have only been a sort-of third date in my book).
So instead of being three easy-to-shrug-off cancellations, when they happened back-to-back-to-back, each cancellation became a bigger and bigger disappointment. Three events that independently would have caused little buzz in my world morphed into The Shitty Weekend that Ended A Shitty Week. "Things break in threes," Macedonian grandmothers say. In this case, these three things taken together broke me, just a tiny little bit. It just goes to show how much sequence and context matter. For me, the law of threes is just another lesson in relativity.