In your never-ending search for love and happiness, you’ve probably encountered these friends, these people who know you better than you do, and promptly dismissed them in terms of romance, assuming that a friendship so valuable isn’t worth losing over crossed wires and misplaced affection.
But they’ll be the kind of person whose qualifications make OKCupid swoon; the kind who looks so good on paper, any flaws is easily forgiven. Your other friends will tell you they’re a catch, at which point you’ll roll your eyes into your vodka soda, partly because you never thought to like them “in that way” and partly because you know that every time you catch a catch, you throw it back.
That night, you find yourself at the post-college lair they share with their friends. You notice a timid, confused-looking person desperate for their attention, but this other person’s name is lost in the purple haze of smoke and by the time you look up again, they’re gone. You blindly follow your friend upstairs to an empty bedroom they promised you could sleep in. You compliment them on their significant other and they tell you that they’re not dating. They laugh as you realize that you drunkenly followed them into their own bedroom, but before you can find a way to make yourself not look easy, they tell you to make yourself comfortable – they’ll sleep on the couch. While you’re drunkenly dozing off alone in their tortuously comfortable bed, staring at the mismatched wall adornments, you wonder just how repulsive you must be for someone so single and so cute to refuse to share a bed with you.
When you inevitably run into this rare and interesting specimen again, they’ll accidentally knock your vodka soda all over your chair, forcing you to sit closer to them, where you remember just how good it feels to be that close to someone. They’ll offer to let you sleep in their room again, after your trusty best friend disappears upstairs. When you realize they have no intentions of sleeping on the couch, you pretend to be asleep because you’re petrified of what could happen if you stayed awake.
The days go by, and you distract yourself from your looming thoughts by stalking your ex’s twitter (still no new flame!). Your phone buzzes incessantly on Thursday night and your heart jumps when your best friend tells you that this other friend of yours is no longer sleeping with their nameless “not-relationship”. You wonder aloud if it has anything to do with your G-rated sleepover, and you can feel the smile and eye roll through the phone.
And so your friend invites you to the house for pregame drinks, so you pick up a bottle of vodka and stash it in your bag. You know you’re playing with fire, but you find yourself slowly forgetting how it feels to be burned. They have CCR playing in the background and you can feel their eyes penetrating you, so you look everywhere but at them, knowing that once you lock eyes, you’re as good as dead. At the bar, you feel a ping of jealousy as you watch them approach different people, but you catch yourself and order another shot.
Back at the house, you down several more drinks, hoping the alcohol will depress you enough to cry over your ex; anything to turn off the blatant desire. But alas, you climb into the corner of the bed and stare at the wall in the dark, waiting for the inevitable. You hear them come into the room, and the door creak as they close it behind them. You feel the mattress sink as they lie down next to you and let out a quiet sigh. You wait for their hand to find its way to your body. You wait for them to casually comment on your skin. You wait for them to slowly roll you away from the wall to face them, and you wait for the resistance you’re begging to feel when their lips meet yours.
The next morning is blissfully awkward, as the line between friends and more-than-friends disintegrates beneath a layer of blankets. You’re wondering how defeat can feel so good, as you notice something that must have belonged to their not-ex on the dresser. You accidentally laugh out loud and they look at you with one of those highly inquisitive faces you’ve come to recognize. You point out the botched attempt to mark territory and their face puzzles with confusion because they haven’t noticed it before. Later, they’ll meet you and your best friend at a bar. You’ll find it odd that they come alone, but the thought is lost in the bottom of a long-necked bottle as you try to drown your craving.
They’ll secretly order you dinner after you swear you’re not hungry because they sense that it’s only a matter of time before you start picking at their plate. You’ll notice that what was supposed to be a group outing ends up largely being you and them sitting alone at the table while the rest of the world goes on, unnoticed, around you. They’ll ask you about your family, and your career, and in turn, you’ll ask them about nothing because you’re half in the bag and you’ve already thoroughly researched them on social media anyway. You’ll end up sitting next to them, and you’ll accidentally brush your hand against theirs. Before long, you’ll feel their hand on your knee, doing that stupid, rubbing thing with their thumb that people always fall for.
Not surprisingly, you find yourself in their bed again, your bodies intertwined. And the next morning, as you slowly sip water, you notice that the territory marker is gone. You smile to yourself as you silently thank God that you’ll never be desperate enough to deploy such a devious and pathetic trick. You lie in bed together until you realize you’ve wasted the past 24 hours with them. As you’re walking out the front door, hung over and bleary-eyed, you imagine this poor, timid person carefully removing their things and deceitfully placing them where they know their potential adversaries will find them. You remember that old wives’ tale and laugh with delight at your own immunity. You beam with pride at your intact soul as you go to put up your hair and realize that you left your hair tie on their dresser.