Last week I blogged about my friend. We’d been nothing but pals for over a year, until the day I learned he might be leaving town, moving to another state. My friend is emotionally challenged. He doesn’t reveal the real side of him to many but, over the years, as we grew close I caught glimpses. Oftentimes he shared with me what went through his head, what he feared his friends and family wouldn’t approve or support. The guy is amazing. Sharp, witty, and fun. I never understood why he couldn’t tell others how he secretly wants to get a tattoo, or why he thinks his family won’t support his decisions. He owns his own home, has a cool car, and lives the American dream.
For years, I’ve told people you can’t turn love on and off like a light switch. But I was wrong.
The day my friend told me he was moving, the day he let his emotional barricade down, the light switch turned on. I realized that day my feelings were more than platonic and it was bad to feel this way. I’d been dating another man a while. The other guy lives far away. Though we aren’t committed, I don’t put myself in compromising situations. It’s difficult to balance multiple romantic relationships. My friend was safe. He never hit on me. He was only like a brother.
But then the light switch turned on, and I realized my feelings for him went deeper than friendship. I found out from my daughter that my friend had confessed a while back that he liked me, too.
I took a leap and asked my friend if he thought of me in a deeper way. I received a complicated answer, yes, he’d liked me, but he wasn’t in a place to make the switch.
I’m away from home now, and I’ve been texting my friend. There’s a man at my college who’s been flirting with me, and I asked my friend how to handle the situation. He gave me solid advice, made me think long and hard about the other man I’d been dating. Was it worth the risk?
No, I decided. Not for this guy.
My friend and I laughed at the absurdity of the situation. I felt better, more resolved in my decision, until last night.
My friend told me he’d gone back on Match.com and had two dates lined up for the week. One lives in my hometown, another not much farther. The girls are younger than me, as is my friend. Knowing my friend’s taste, they’re probably prettier. Neither have been married, none have kids.
I’m older than my friend and come with baggage of divorce and two children. My friend never seemed to mind, my kids love hanging out with him, my daughter confides how she likes him the best.
I barely slept last night. I reread my friend’s text, replayed our last phone conversation in my head. I must have read too much into those things. How he told me he was always happy, always felt good being around me, how no one made him feel better. How he didn’t want to move because of me.
Friends say those things, I remind myself. He doesn’t like you that way. Move on.
But all I can think about today is how he’s going out tonight with a fun, flirty girl who’s younger, possibly prettier, someone more appropriate, someone without divorce and kid baggage.
The college guy texted me this morning, and part of me wants to go to him to numb the pain. I’m holding back, but tonight will be hard. Tonight I’ll drive myself crazy wondering how their date is going. Is she smart and witty? Will she touch his knee at the bar? Give him a kiss goodnight?
Will she occupy his time? Take him away?
I don’t want to think about it.
While writing this blog, my friend texted me. I told him I was writing but didn’t add anything further.
If only I could read his mind. If only I could ask him to decipher his nebulous texts, the ones that alluded to slight jealousy when we spoke about the other man I’m dating.
These things will go unanswered. I don’t want to taint our friendship or risk losing what we have. I’m grateful I have him in my life. It’s enough for now – it has to be. He might be leaving soon, anyway.
I wish I could flip the light switch off. Go back to the time when he was just like a brother. I don’t want to think of his smile, his cologne, the way he said I was “cool as f%$* and an intellectual.”
The light switch won’t dim. I am alone with my thoughts. I need to get to class.