He’ll always be reachable by text. Calls will go unanswered, plans will be broken, but if there’s one thing he’ll be good at, it’s sending you a text message with a few-word explanation as to why he didn’t do whatever he said he was going to this time. Your new hobby will become reading over those text messages again and again, searching for meaning in a handful of words, reading between his intentionally simple lines. You’ll send him a small essay, and he’ll respond with “haha, yea.” You’ll be crushed, but you’ll never say it.
When you’re together, you’ll always feel profoundly privileged, like you’re back in middle school with a face full of braces and acne, finally getting to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids. You won’t know why he’s giving you the time of day, but you’ll be so thrilled at the prospect that you won’t want to do anything to mess it up. You’ll laugh at his jokes (even when they’re not that funny), and tell him you don’t mind (even when you really do mind). You’ll study him closely, trying to figure out exactly what girl he wants to be dating, and you’ll do everything in your power to be her.
He’ll be good-looking, but not unreasonably so. He’ll be successful, but not so much that it is out of your realm of possibility. He’ll be charming, but not so much that you could base all of your attraction off of his ability to work a room. There will just be something about him that makes you feel badly about yourself in the most addictive way — he’ll feel effortless where you are desperate, and casual where you are overly invested. And part of you will start to believe that, just by being in his presence, you’ll become better. You won’t be so needy, because he’ll teach you not to be. You won’t be so obsessed, because his lightness will balance you out.
But his casual approach to your relationship will only drive you further into desperation. The more he doesn’t answer you, the more you’ll call. The more he avoids meeting your friends, the more you’ll want to force get-togethers. The more clearly he doesn’t need you, the more painfully you’ll need him. You’ll find yourself doing all kinds of things you never imagined yourself doing — reading through his phone, leaving him deeply emotional drunk messages, starting fights for no reason — and it won’t be out of jealousy. At least, not really. It will be out of a desire to feel something, to know that he cares, that there is a reason for all of your churning emotion. Even anger, even fighting, even the discovery of a text message to another girl, would be preferable to “haha yea.” It’ll be his neutrality that kills you.
Because the man you should avoid isn’t the one who treats you terribly. (Well, you should avoid him, but you already knew that). But the most dangerous man is the one who treats you just alright, who gives you just enough attention to keep you going, who is able to treat you like you’re one of many options, and not the person he’s already chosen. Because in treating you with indifference, he’ll force you to treat yourself terribly. You’ll change who you are, you’ll look for evidence of betrayal, you’ll pretend not to be as involved as you are. And in the end, he’ll leave you anyway. Because when you think about it — when you really force yourself to think about it — you were never together in the first place.