I was in like-like with you for seven years. I know that sounds so middle school, but it’s the best way I can describe it. If we were speaking another language, I bet I could find another word to use. But we’re not, so there it is. This wasn’t an all-consuming thing either, it has ebbed and flowed over the past seven years. That’s why I use the word like-like, love is reserved for something solid, something you can wrap your arms around. Sometimes, for a week or so, I think of you everyday. Think of our future, how I’ll be a writer and you’ll play music for the rest of your life. You know I love to watch your fingers touch the guitar strings, how your eyes burn when you explain some technique to me or something you’ve been working on. It’s when you’re the most open. I don’t know if you know that. We will live this bohemian lifestyle, the one I’ve always dreamed of. It will be perfect because all of your friends are my friends. I already know the way to your place by heart. I already love your parents and your sister. I already know you.
But there are other times when I don’t even think of you. I dated your best friend in high school after realizing things weren’t going to work out for the first time. Off to college I went, where I dated other boys. Your name didn’t even leave my mouth for a while. When we were reunited over break, our whole group, I was surprised how easily it came back. The sad thing is I’m not sure you ever even gave me any hope or sign that you liked me, but that like-like lingered, pulling at my heart, waiting for the day you would let me in. My mind told me that nothing was ever going to happen. So I locked those feelings up, found the biggest padlock I could and hid them. We still stayed friends, which makes me so happy. Our group of high school friends is the best people I’ve ever met, so I never want to mess with that.
But something happened recently that undid everything. Is it sad that this night is captured in my mind so clearly? That sometimes I actually have dreams and the night is happening all over again? All of our friends were home for Thanksgiving. Now that we’re twenty-one, these get-togethers are more fun and by more fun, I mean legally involve alcohol. We all decide to go bar hopping and the more I start drinking, the more time I’m spending with you. Something was different that night, maybe I really needed a win, but nevertheless you were different too. I’m already a touchy with you guys while sober, we all know that. It’s gotten me in trouble before. A few beers in, it reaches a whole new level. At some point we’re both drunk, but not sloppy. We’re the kind of drunk where your cheeks are a bit red, your voice is one level louder, and the truth is at the tip of your tongue.
I kissed you first. I would love to lie to myself and think you made the first move, but I know that’s not true. I guess after seven years, I finally couldn’t take it anymore. My heart overrode my mind in one swift moment when I decided to make that move. Surprisingly, you responded immediately. I always thought you would push me away, but you didn’t. Well actually, you pushed me back into ninth grade when I first met you. We were both new kids at a small school. You had a really southern accent and I made fun of you for it. You were goofy and not afraid to be yourself. I liked that.
But, we’re not fifteen anymore. We’re twenty-one and things are different. If I was the type of girl who got her way, you would be mine. We would be the story that either shocked our high school friends or would get the exasperated “Finally”. We’ll never know though. You realized you didn’t like me that much. I’ve never heard a nicer rejection speech in my life, if that’s even a thing. In the end, you’re still my friend and you handled it well.
When I woke up the next day, I looked over at you still asleep and I smiled. I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom, lightness, joy. It’s not just you that I’m free from, but from all the guys that I’ve had things with in the past. For the first time in a long time, I have a clean slate. You were my last hold out. The world is completely open to me now. I don’t feel weighed down by “what-ifs” or failed relationships. Hiding behind these failed relationships is no longer an option. Clinging to them to justify my world is no longer available. There is no one in the wings, no other prospects. I’m being forced out of hiding. I have no feelings weighing me down, no drama. I feel re-energized to focus on my writing, my passions, and my friends. Who knew that one tiny “what-if” could propel me forward this much? I think I was waiting for something to force my hand and it finally presented itself. Now I’m free and I can’t wait to see what happens from here.
I would have done this in person, you know I’m never one to shy away from a conversation. But, I know that this would make you uncomfortable and squirm. That’s the thing that still catches me, the last residue of my feelings, is the fact that I know you so well. That I know exactly your reaction to any given situation. Also you performing, I’m not sure if I’ll ever really be able to watch you without a couple butterflies flying around, but I chalk that up to the musician effect. All I really want is for us to go back to normal and I know we will. In a couple of years, maybe even months, we will laugh about this and tell the story. I mean we did make out in a strip club, that’s too good to pass up. All of our friends will laugh and it will become a story in our roster that we pull out when we all get together, like the stories we tell of our first trip to Athens to see your band play or the time I accidentally saw too much of Jack.
You did exactly what you were supposed to do as a friend. You wanted the best for me and in your rejection, you truly showed me how much you value me. You pushed me to do something I was never strong enough to do on my own. So I just wanted to say thank you friend. You don’t even know what you’ve done for me.