It starts innocently enough, or so it seems. Cute guy, button down shirt, eyes that melt you. Couldn’t get any more cliché, right? Then comes the kicker – he has a girl already, and it isn’t you. This is where both of you should stop, and if you don’t, the only thing that stops is decency.
You’ll excuse it at first, a text here or there. “How was your day?” You remember the last time you saw him, fresh in your mind. “It was great seeing you.” That’s saying the absolute least, you think, it was wonderful. You get chest palpitations at wondering, what will next time be like?
Then one of you, so rash yet so cautiously, dares put a single toe over the line in some variation. “You’re beautiful … I shouldn’t have said so.” If you’re a sucker for sweet talk, this is about the time you start fantasizing about the many ways he could break up with his now seemingly mythical girlfriend. She’s a ghost in your eyes. He’ll tell her he’s in love with someone else, apologize, and a few months down the road someone will post a photograph of you two and she’ll hate you because the way he kisses you in pictures is more passion than she’s ever seen; and that’s just how you want it.
You start liking all of his social media posts with a sly note of entitlement, and swell with pride when he does the same for you. Every comment is a spark of a secret code: “Even if in secret, we belong to each other”, even though you don’t. You second guess the pretty blonde who leaves an innocent joke after you, and you involuntarily wonder if she is also what you are to him. Jealousy grows in places though there is no root, sun, or water for it to grow; because it was never yours to plant in the first place.
You begin to get annoyed when you wake up with a lack of his name on your phone, or when he doesn’t say “Love, I’ll be home by eleven and I’ll message you then.” Somewhere along the line from that first hello, this slipped from seemingly harmless flirting to the most Russian roulette like of routines. Solidarity doesn’t exist unless as a figment of your imagination, there’s only risk.
The truth is this: you may be the girl he fantasizes about. You may be the spark of color in his normally black and white day, and the one he gravitates towards in a room. You may be the one he can’t stay away from. But you aren’t the girl who spends Thursday nights having dinner with his parents. You don’t own his sweatshirt and keep it safely hung in your closet next to the dress you wore on your third date. You don’t have a single picture from your weekend getaway with him last month, wearing matching sunglasses.
All that belongs to you are texts reading “I want you” at three am and an occasional half hour coffee date in a shop where you wouldn’t run into anyone you know; and suddenly this is all that your connection to him survives on. All the things that you never thought you’d want with him are suddenly missing, along with a few crucial pieces of your heart and self-esteem.
Wherever you choose to end it, wherever your tolerance runs out, and your phone is once again silent in the night, just remember – there are thousands more button down shirts in the world, attached to nothing but the available men wearing them.