The night we met for the second time, it was Halloween and everyone kept telling me I wasn't in costume. I was, it wasn't blazingly obvious. I remember we locked eyes from across the room; you were in a costume and I couldn't quite put a name to your face, because you were wearing sunglasses as a prop and high school was so many years ago, but I knew that smile. I really hated that kind of sunglasses. They never shape the wearers face very well and I think they might just be my biggest fashion pet peeve of them all, but I could feel the warmth of your smile while I walked around the room so I didn't care.
You, unlike the people partying around us, guessed my costume immediately. You said firmly, but quietly, the name of a character I was trying to embody; someone who is the complete opposite of me and who I am, which I thought was quite funny. When you spoke, it was a familiar sound; it confirmed my previous thought – you were that boy that I used to spend time with as a group and pass by in the halls when I became incredibly distant and disinterested in everything to do with high school and the people within it. A major flaw in my character progression, but I liked that the universe tried to bring us back together years later.
We spent the rest of the night close with your hand on the small of my back for the majority of our time together, my eyes continuously looking up at your smile. We talked about school and how awkward we both were back then. How I distanced myself from that group we were all a part of because of a different boy – one that was hurting my friend and how I would rather be alone than be a part of a group that condones that behavior. You agreed and said you wish you could change the past and take yourself out of that situation, too. But we were both too young to really think about our decisions.
I didn't really realize it until now, your eyes would never meet mine as we spoke and even with your hand touching me ever so slightly, it felt like you were holding back. Like you were only allowing yourself to touch me with just the tips of your fingers. I should've known right then and there that you weren't ready to dive right in. I don’t expect – or want – anyone crawling all over me, but there is a feeling a girl can get when they know someone isn’t being their whole self. I felt it when I knew that there was something going on with the last boy and it was a feeling I felt that night, even a few glasses of wine in.
After I left that night, I made all the contact that followed. I sent the first request, the preceding message, and responded how I was meant to respond; sweet & inviting. I made all of the wrong, non-casual moves. Mostly because I am not a casual girl and because I don't play games or have strategic moves. I’m bad at casual; I’m too high-strung and I’m too in my head to be anything but casual. I'm bad at playing games; I never know the rules and I'm not a very good loser, so I would much rather just figure out what this is - or what it could be, so no one is in that grey period that I hate so much.
I messaged, I waited, and I initiated a meeting. Something with just the two of us so I could really figure out if I was wrong about my feelings towards you, if I just misread your actions – or lack of. Finally, after a few days of you waiting hours to respond to leave me hanging and me not giving a damn about that, a date was set. On the day, I recall waiting for a text that would tell me what the plan was. I spent the majority of the day waiting and wondering what the hell was going on. I'm a planner, I don't like that in-between grey period. I don't like being in my head and wondering. Eventually you texted and insisted that I decided where we go. This seemed like a nice gesture, and I know you meant no harm when you suggested it, but it was also a sign that there was never going to be a solid ground between us. I was always going to be waiting and wondering what the hell was going on, and you were always going to wait approximately 45 minutes to respond to each message.
You picked me up for dinner. We drove around in your dark car that limited my view of your face – still so kind, still smiling. If I didn’t know any better, if I didn’t have those previous feelings that I’ve had before, I would’ve been We had dinner and made small talk. You stretched your legs out and pressed them against mine, and for a split second, you kept them there. And for a split second, I thought this was something I could roll with; I've pretended I didn't have fears before, I could do it again. But as swiftly as you placed them near mine, you moved them fast.
It didn't really make sense to me until now. I know, for a fact, that we were never supposed to solidify. We were never meant to go past that night of smiles and whiskey. There is no reason to this, just two people that once knew each other, meeting again. A month later, there was another party. Same time, same place. I like consistency. I assumed you would be there, and you were. We didn’t talk much in the few weeks leading up to the second party, but I was excited to see you. It was silly of me to feel that, especially with all of my premonitions.
I don't remember what you were wearing, but I can remember how uncomfortable I felt around you. Even more so than the last time I sat in the passenger seat of your parked car, looking up to see if you were looking back at me. You never were. If there was a wall between us back then, there was a mountain between us now. A few hours after I arrived and I was nestled between two of my closest friends on a couch in the basement, I decided I needed fresh air. Upstairs we went, and it was then that I saw you curled up on a couch with someone else. That someone else was a girl that I met at the last party. A girl that was now wrapped in your arms, held closely to you.
Quickly I spun on my heel, face flushed and warm from the whiskey that just went down my throat, and walked back down that flight of stairs. I sat on the very last one, silent in thought while I figured out how I felt about this newly formed situation. I knew then that I didn’t – or would ever – feel anything more than just friendship for you. I knew this because in that moment, I didn’t feel anything. I think I wanted to feel something; anger, upset, or betrayal. But I felt nothing. The only thing I did feel was a little uncomfortable because of my naïve thoughts, but I knew that I couldn’t feel anything more because you weren’t allowing yourself to. They say that love is friendship set on fire but for us, there was never a spark to even ignite.
To this day I don’t know if we didn’t get there because I stopped replying to texts that were sent an hour after my response. I don’t know if it’s because of that girl who ended up just like me; nothing more than a friend. But I do know that I wanted you to meet me there; to meet me in those murky waters that we couldn't quite see what was lurking below us, to meet me in that place of uncertainty, of nervous, of fright. To meet me in that place of anything-but-casualness, where I feel like I am all the time. I wanted you to meet me there, wherever there is.
But you didn't, or you couldn't, or you just weren't interested in doing so.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, this was when I realized that as much as I can want and wish to be met in that scary place, not everyone can, or will, meet me there. Sometimes there are obstacles that we create for whatever reason. Sometimes there isn't courage. Sometimes there are hours in-between text messages and you aren’t interested in being a pawn in a bigger game of Who Can Be The Most Casual?
When I think about that someday man, I think about a solid foundation and an unwavering hand on my back for support; fingertips pressed firmly to remind me that they are there if I need it. I think of no in-between, no ambiguity, and no confusion. No grey period, no waiting, and no wondering. I think of smiles lighting up dark rooms and knowing that there is no holding back. That, yes, there will be times when we are angry and upset, but we both will know where we stand before we fall asleep that night, because they say you should never fall asleep upset at one another. I think of certainty and solidity. I think of friendship set on fire.
And I think of knowing that it isn't just casual, because I definitely do not have hours to waste waiting for a response.