It was only work a crush. That was all. We were both new to the company, both in our early twenties, working closely alongside one another. It made sense for us to be friends. I knew he had a girlfriend. He’d mentioned her a few times in passing. There was the photo on his desk. I’d seen the background on his phone. But I didn’t mind. It’s not like I was trying to marry the guy. He was just something that made the otherwise droll work day go a little bit quicker. He was cute, in a boy next door kind of way. Tall and lanky, green eyes with messy brown hair that gave the impression it would not lay flat no matter how many times it was brushed. He was funny too, friendly and talkative. He was someone I quickly learned I didn’t mind spending 40+ hours a week with. In fact, he soon became the best part of those 40+ hours. I found myself itching to get to work every day and see his face. I’d race into the office excited just to talk to him about tv shows and music and movies. I began planning my outfits around his schedule. On the days I knew we’d be working closely on a project, I’d wear a nicer dress, spend extra time on my makeup, spray on some perfume. On the days I knew he was traveling, I didn’t even bother washing my hair. I knew my attraction to him was growing but thought nothing of it, it was only a work crush, after all.
Then, one Saturday night while I was out some friends, he texted me. Okay, to be fair, it was a group text. He sent a message to the few of us that often sat together during lunch, inviting us to grab drinks at a popular bar in town. I responded quicker than I should have. I arrived at the bar and promptly noted his girlfriend’s absence, as well as the absence of any other of our coworkers. For the first time, it was just he and I speaking as friends, not just two people that worked together. He let his guard down and openly swore as we giddily engaged in poking fun at our bosses and colleagues. He made me laugh until tears were in my eyes and before I knew it the lights were up, and last call had come and gone. He hugged me tightly when he said goodbye and I counted the seconds until Monday morning when I would see his face again.
Something shifted after that night, he seemed more comfortable around me, more playful and uninhibited. In return, I’d become less cautious about our interactions. I would text him more frequently, even during times I knew he’d be with his girlfriend. Nothing incriminating, a comment about a show we were both watching, the link to an article I’d mentioned earlier in the day. I’d tag him in funny Instagram posts I thought would amuse him. I was inviting him out to lunch more often and happy hours grew more frequent. I simply couldn’t get enough of him. Spending time together during work wasn’t cutting it any longer. I wanted him all the time, not just Monday through Friday.
Seeing the photo on his desk every day now drove me insane. It wasn’t fair. Why does she get him all to herself every night when it’s me who’s there for him every day? What does she have that I don’t? Sure, she was a little bit taller, perhaps a bit slimmer, but there was no way she had the same chemistry with him. It was only a matter of time before he would see that. Sometimes I actually felt sorry for her. After all, her boyfriend was so clearly attracted to someone else. A shame, really. To me, this was a competition and I was coming out on top. Of that I was certain.
The night of our Christmas party had arrived and I was ready. I bought a skin-tight red spaghetti strap dress and got a spray tan just for the occasion. I knew he was going to take one look at me and realize I was it. I was the one he was supposed to be with. I wondered how was going to act around me with her there. I would have completely understood if he was a bit reserved. He would probably have to pull me aside and explain he didn’t want his girlfriend to get jealous of how close we were. Even I could be sympathetic to that. I arrived at the party and scanned the room until I spotted him. As I made my way over, I took in the blonde on his arm. She was taller than I thought, having misjudged from the desk photo and some light social media stalking. She was thinner too, and pretty. My artificial spray tan and fake eyelashes now felt a bit tacky compared to her fair skin and minimal makeup. And the way he was looking at her. Like there was nobody else in the room. Even when she wasn’t the person speaking, his eyes were practically glued to her. I couldn’t help but wonder why he had never looked at me like that.
I joined the semi-circle that had formed around them positioning myself next to my her. He quickly embraced me in a hug and happily made the introductions. She smiled a pearly white smile and hugged me just as tightly. “I’ve been dying to meet you!”, she said, “He keeps inviting me to happy hour but I’m always just so exhausted after work. Oh, and that article you sent him last week, you know, the Onion one about taking lunch at ten, hysterical, I sent it to practically everyone I work with.” I was taken aback. She knew about everything. It appeared this secret, special little romance I had formed in my head was just that, all in my head.
As we were asked to take our seats and the crowd turned their backs to them, I watched him pull her in and plant a gentle kiss on her forehead. A gesture so small and quick you could have blinked and missed it. But it said everything I needed to hear. We weren’t secret lovers, meant to be together, to defy the odds. We were coworkers, and this was only a work crush.