This is never what I intended.
I remember first meeting you as a friend of my boyfriend’s. In an effort to make him happy (which is a story for another time), I resolved myself to become friends with all of his. It took some effort, except when it came to you. For some reason, while keeping your safe distance, you just seemed to get me better than most people.
When my boyfriend and I broke up, I assumed that you would have left with him along with all the other things we used to share. But you were still there. Always still as a friend, patiently encouraging me, trying to erase the negative words that he had covered me with over and over again, always willing to be there to listen.
I never could understand why you were so nice. You didn’t make any moves and as we began to develop a friendship outside of my boyfriend, I began to realize how truly incredible you were. Absolutely one of the most caring people I knew, with such high aspirations and hopes for your life. And you never let me walk away from a conversation without letting me know how much I was valued. It was so nice to be with someone who I felt like understood me completely, struggled with the same issues of self-doubt yet knew exactly the right words to say to make it go away.
Months passed and I began to wonder why someone as amazing as you wasn’t dating anyone. It turns out you had been. Together, apart, together, for the past three years. I began to recall conversations with my ex, how he talked about your girl and how absolutely horrible she made you feel. I realized that those same horrible things you told yourself were coming from her. You began to talk to me more and more about how worthless she made you feel, yet you couldn’t find the strength to break up with her because you didn’t want to let her down. I knew what that felt like, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.
We got closer. We’d take walks through farmer’s markets, sharing lemonade and laughing. We’d take midnight drives and interpret each other’s dreams. You’d come over late at night when I had nightmares and hold me until I fell safely asleep. I’d send you funny videos or texts when I knew that you’d been having a down day. I had seen other guys throughout this time (you knew about all of them) but you were the one safe place that I could come to at the end of the day. You were home.
The closer we got the more I wondered why on earth you would sell yourself so short to be with a girl like her. Did she even see anything that I see in you? The way your eyes can light up with happiness, yet carry something dark and mysterious. The way your hugs come with a sense of fullness, like completing a circuit or sealing an envelope. The way that your shoulders seemed to fall more and more with every day that she rejected you.
I was angry. And I made it my resolve to show you that you didn’t have to be with someone like that. That you deserved better. That didn’t have to be me, it just meant that you’d be free from anybody who didn’t appreciate you as much as I did. So when you started coming over later, I didn’t shut you out. When you began to make subtle moves, I wouldn’t push you away.
The fact that you were dating someone still never really crossed my mind. I only saw her with you once, and you looked like one of those dogs that had been choked by the chain for just a little too long. Out of respect, I avoided you for the next few days.
I understand that relationships are tough. Any other guy friend of mine that has been dating someone is a person that I keep a respectable distance from. But you were different. You were unhappy. And maybe, just maybe, I could give you the strength to break free.
So I didn’t resist when you kissed me the other night. In fact, I put everything I could into it. There was attraction—yes. But with each of those kisses and the hours that followed I was hoping that you would feel every cell in my body telling you that yes, you are valued. You are worthy. You are loved.
That day following was a little awkward for both of us. Neither of us regretted it, but I knew that because we had consummated what started out as nothing more than an idea in my mind, something was going to have to change. The next night, you came over and we talked. You said you wanted to be with me, but that you needed to end things with your girlfriend and then take some time “figuring yourself out.” It’s a line that I’ve heard too many times before, but with you I was already in so deep that I let it pass.
When we finished talking you kissed me again. Kissing led to other things, and before I knew it we were waking up the next morning, tangled up in my sheets and our own thoughts. I realized after we slept together that in the process of trying to free you from her, I became a prisoner to the idea of being with you. An idea I thought you shared.
We’ve hooked up a few more times and it’s almost every night that you’re over, lying next to me, telling me how things are going to be different, how you can’t wait until we’re together. But I still see her name flash across your phone when you’re asleep, still catch a glimpse of the picture you have of the two of you in your wallet, still wake up from dreams where after everything that’ happened you still pick her instead of me.
I never wanted to be the other woman because I couldn’t live with the thought of me destroying what two people worked so hard to build together. But what I didn’t realize about being the other woman is how much you end up destroying yourself in the process.