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We Were Never ‘Just Friends’

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Joe Pizzio

Before I met you it had been two years since anyone had kissed me. It had been two years since any boy had wanted to know me. It had been two years since anyone held me together when I was falling apart. And for two years I learned how to stitch myself together. To not rely on a “good morning” text to make my day. To not rely on anyone or anything to make me happy.

And as sad as that sounds, I was OK with it.

But this story isn’t about what happened before.

It’s about you.

I met you two weeks after Valentine’s Day, and you were fresh out of a relationship. I only agreed to meet you because I thought you were cute. We talked for three hours. This was my first hit of the drug that was you, and I walked through the rest of the week on a high. I, the girl who had never put her worth in the attention of boys, would come to be addicted to your attention.

The first high was short-lived. Although we were texting and talking every day, you told me that you didn’t want to give me mixed signals. You weren’t looking for a relationship. You weren’t trying to flirt with me. I would pretend that this was totally fine, that I was on the same page, but inside I was crushed. But I came to accept it, to respect your decision. You jumped in too fast with the girl before, and I was an abyss.

This would be the first of many times you left me feeling like an idiot.

You kept talking to me constantly, FaceTiming me for hours, willingly meeting my parents, all while never laying a finger on me, and I was more confused than ever. I would always remind myself that you didn’t want me, that you were just friendly.

But we were never friends.

Friends don’t talk until 5 AM twice a week.

Friends don’t share their deepest insecurities and regrets three weeks after meeting each other.

Friends aren’t obsessively interested in your relationships that ended two years ago.

Friends don’t size up your childhood best friend when he holds you a little too long and ask if you ever kissed the moment he leaves.

We were never friends.

Your texts were what kept me up at night. I would pore over them with my friends, asking them if they were as confused as I was. I would stay up until 3 AM even though I had a calculus lecture the next day just because I wanted to know everything about you. To this day I have never felt this way about anyone in my life. Did your family eat dinner together when you were a kid? Where was your favorite place growing up? Did you have a favorite sibling? As someone who had spent so much time by herself and always hated texting, it should’ve taken longer for our talks to become ingrained into my daily routine, but after a week I was hooked—not on you, but on your consistency. I could expect a text from you every morning when I woke up, no matter how late we stayed up talking the night before. I could expect you to ask me about my day and tell me about yours. There had never been a person who was that interested in me before, and it freaked me out. I was worried I was giving too much away, that I gave you secrets you didn’t earn.

You would confirm my worries later on.

It happened one night when you were drunk off your ass. I knew you were wasted immediately because when you saw me in that sweaty, overcrowded house, you grabbed and pulled me into a long hug, just like the one my friend gave me that riled you up so much. You kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for coming. You had never even come close to touching me before, and it threw me for a loop. I dragged you home that night, concerned you were too far gone. We sat in my bed while you sobered up, your head in my lap while I played with your hair. I remember at that moment I was coaching myself not to expect more. He doesn’t want you, I thought; he’s just drunk and tired. This was as close as I would get.

But you lived to confuse me, so of course you chose that moment to kiss me. It took me ten seconds or so to even kiss you back because I had spent four weeks imagining this and another four convincing myself this would never happen. And I knew at that moment that I had lost all self-control. Because the girl I was six months ago would’ve waited for you to be sober; in fact, I would’ve waited for someone who gave a shit about me. Someone who respected me enough, to be honest with the way they felt, not someone who needed two bottles of champagne to tell me that they liked me. But I was so starved for your validation at that point that I ignored all the warning signs. I went as far as literally ignoring the fact that you said, “This is wrong.”

You were half right.

We weren’t wrong, but you were wrong for me.

And then there was the aftermath. We had too many mutual friends. You were leaving for three months. Relationships scared me. I didn’t like labels. You hated long distance. Myriad other excuses would pour out of our mouths, but the truth is, if I was worth it—if we were worth it—none of that would be relevant. We made the immature decision to keep “talking,” whatever in the hell that means.

We’d float through the next month doing everything that people in a relationship do, all while you called me your friend. You accused me of telling our friends about us, and I had never been more insulted in my life. I wasn’t advertising the fact that I was lowering my standards to be with you in whatever form suited your needs, but why did it matter? You posted numerous photos of us together; our friends aren’t dumb. Your friends were some of my closest friends as well, and they liked the idea of us. It never made sense to me why you were so ashamed of the idea of people associating us together. But I was foolish and didn’t let it stop me.

Time stopped us.

The day you left, we sat down for one last lunch. And I had grand plans of telling you that I deserved better, that this was going nowhere, that we needed to stop communicating. But then I took one look at your smile, and fuck, I blew it. Instead, we chatted idly, avoiding the elephant in the room that was our completely undefined relationship and three months apart staring us in the face. I literally ran away from you, wanting to deny that this was most likely the end of the line.

The truth of the matter is, I was scared. I was scared to hold your hand one last time. I was scared because you stir up all these emotions in me, and I didn’t want to validate them. I wanted to ask you what I meant to you, what the past two months have been, but the truth is I was terrified you would just say, “nothing.” I gave away my secrets to you, and I was too scared to part with my feelings as well.

So now I’m letting you go. I’m learning to go to bed early, to stop waiting for our late-night conversations. I’m learning to stop looking for you in pieces of everyday life. I’m learning to stop collecting moments to tell you about later. I’m learning how to stop expecting promises from someone who could only give me almosts. I’m relearning how to be the girl I liked, the girl who stood on her own two feet, solidly waiting for the right person. I am letting you go, even if that means every night I have to fight the twitch in my finger to text you back. Even though I know that in three months I’ll see you at another sweaty house party with your arm around another girl you won’t commit to, and my heart will stop for a moment. At that moment, someone will ask me who you are.

And I’ll respond, “an almost.” TC mark

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