Red has always been a good color on me. I chose it to be festive, of course, also appreciating the way the shirt complimented my figure. It was a Christmas party, after all. One that George would attend, and I had the feeling that tonight might just be a crossroads for him. A chance for him to see that there was another option, another path that was coming into view already as he moved forward. And maybe, just maybe, he would see the opportunity that the new path was and change direction.
That evening, I allowed myself to believe in that possibility. I still knew it was only a maybe, yet I chose to wield the hope of it over doubting thoughts.
It’s all in your head. He’d never choose you over her. She’s got that thing. The thing that Gleam had. He wouldn’t like you.
But my hope responded, why not? There’s a chance. I actually care about other people’s feelings. She’s just using him to get over her ex. He might see that I really care. He might make a better decision. Besides, if he doesn’t, it’s his loss. But I’m not going to pass up the chance that he might.
My hair was straight and I spent a little extra time on my makeup. Lara joined reader and I as I was getting ready for our party and immediately noticed.
“Oh, you’re looking all hot. Dang it, now I’ve got to put on makeup.” She left my room and Reader and I looked at one another, puzzled. Lara hardly ever put much effort into her appearance. She really didn’t have to. She was petite and beautiful, yet unique in her beauty…like something of the Fae in Irish folktales. She had long dark lashes that showed whether she wore mascara or not and she never broke out. So her comment and subsequent sprucing were definitely out of the ordinary.
I got a bad feeling in my gut.
The feeling deepened when, upon receiving some very encouraging attention from George, Lara suddenly began to compete with me.
The party was not fun. Not for me. Reader and Gamer were furious on my behalf, noticing how she fought to silence me and passive-aggressively put me down at any opportunity. She wouldn’t risk that I might be noticed. Even when we were playing games in a group I couldn’t have a turn at something without her loudly inserting her own jokes or diverting his attention in that moment. She blatantly flirted with him. The bad gut feeling quickly turned to hurt and anger that she was acting like that. It was childish and unnecessary. She was a picture of jealousy. The kind of jealousy I never wanted exhibited in our friendship.
I didn’t compete back. I let her have all the attention, which he gladly gave, at last getting the confirmation of what he’d “known” to be true. This was exactly what I had been trying to avoid when I asked her to tell me if her feelings had changed. How many times had she insisted that she didn’t like him? How many times did I assure her that if she would just have a conversation with me then I would be fine if they were together? But after two and a half years of friendship she either still didn’t trust me or she was too selfish to care about my feelings.
He was the last guest to leave the party. After cleaning up I passed her room and uttered a quick goodnight. She was sitting in his lap, their arms around one another, as he showed her something on her computer. They said goodnight, probably seeing on my face the hurt I tried to hide, and I went to my room where I finally let myself shed a few tears.
The next day our other roommates left to go home for break and she avoided me by staying in her room. I called George to see if he needed any help packing, because regardless of who he was with, I was still his friend. Right after, he accidentally sent me a text that was meant for her, explaining the phone call I’d just made to him. He tried to backpedal by lying that it was meant for his mom. Trying to cover for Lara eavesdropping on my phone conversation.
She finally came out that afternoon and I asked her what happened between them. She tried to avoid answering.
“I’m not exactly sure.”
I hate lying. I’d rather someone hurt me with the truth than keep it from me. Not only did she keep her interest in him a secret from me, he’d also lied about his texting mishap, and now she was still trying to avoid telling me anything.
Again I realized she didn’t trust me. What on earth had I done to cause this? She didn’t trust that I actually wanted both of them to be happy, and I loved them both enough that any feelings for him and disappointment for myself would heal. I guess her own wounds made her unable to trust that someone would really be capable of that. I don’t know.
After similar questions and evasive answers, I finally asked, “So, did he leave with the idea that you don’t like him or that you do?”
“That I… do?”
“And do you? Because the last I heard you didn’t.”
“I don’t know. I think I do?”
I felt a pang and my jaw clenched. How could this be happening? How could she use him like this and how could he not see it?
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to be mad at me.”
“You guys lying to me is the only thing that is really going to make me mad. George lied to me earlier today. I’m not stupid. I just want you to be honest with me. Keeping me in the dark is what hurts me more than anything. Can you just give me that courtesy? That’s all I ask.”
She nodded and I added, “That and…just be sure that you really do care for him. Don’t lead him on. He deserves better than that.”
Though the bulk of the awkwardness between us was sufficiently resolved and she departed for Christmas break, my trust in her was now damaged. Not because she was with the guy I liked, but because of how she’d handled the whole situation.
That evening George called me and asked if we could talk. He came by that night and apologized for lying about the text.
“I’m not an idiot, you know.”
“I know. It was stupid and I’m sorry,” he said from his seat at the kitchen table.
I nodded and leaned against the counter, arms folded. “You know, don’t you?”
“What,” he said, playing dumb.
“Oh, come on. You know.”
“I really don’t.”
I sighed, “You know how I feel…about you. I’m sure it’s been obvious.”
“Yeah. I knew,” he said kindly.
“I’ll be fine, I promise. I just want you to be taken care of.”
I’m still proud of myself for not saying a word about the daily selfishness her roommates had to put up with, or her using him or her flakiness about her feelings for him. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I’m pretty sure it’s proof that even in that dark time in my life the Holy Spirit was still doing His work in me.
I recounted the night I did laundry with him from my perspective and he groaned and laughed with me about it. He enjoyed scriptwriting and agreed that it was gold…painful..but gold.
He told me he’d stop by the next day to say goodbye. I think he knew that, though he and Lara would stay in touch after he moved to Chicago, things wouldn’t be the same between me and him.
I began to pack the next day, frustrated when I saw that my roommates had left a sink full of dishes, a fridge full of food, and loads of trash to carry to the dumpster. Seriously, sometimes they were the worst.
He stopped in after his graduation. I gave him a book as a graduation present and then he hugged me. I listened to his heartbeat and fought back tears and we just held each other.
After a long time he said, “You are awesome.”
“So are you.” Then he let me go and I opened the door. He walked through it, turned and said, “Bye,” and gave me that warm, winning smile.
“Bye,” I returned, though, at the moment, I wasn’t capable of smiling quite so big. I watched him get in his car and as he pulled away I shut the door.
I locked the deadbolt and my hand blurred in front of me as sudden sobs overtook me. I sank down the door and sobbed and sobbed.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but I don’t cry often. Perhaps…3 times a year? I might tear-up during a movie, but real crying, from my own emotion and not just theatrical catharsis, is rare.
That December day I cried as I had never cried before and haven’t cried since. Not even when people have died. Like…my grandparents. Parting from George was the only time I can recall being inconsolable.
I wept on the floor in front of the door for a while and then decided I needed to pull myself together and do the dishes. Then, as I was doing the dishes with tears still pouring from my eyes, the fact that I was having to do dishes made me sob all the harder to the point that I couldn’t even do the dishes anymore. So I gave up and went to my room to pack my clothes and somehow ended up curled up on the cold hardwood floor. I wept so hard that I literally (yes I am using the word correctly when I tell you this) cried a puddle of tears on the floor. When I splashed my finger in it I started laughing but then resumed crying all over again.
I don’t know how I managed to finish everything and pack my car, but eventually I was on the road and headed home. I cried the entire two-hour drive. Then I went inside and sat on the couch with my parents and cried more as I told them what had happened.
“I know that God has someone for me and I know I’ll get over this, but for right now this just sucks!” By then my body really couldn’t produce anymore tears and decided instead to start giving me awful rending pains in my chest. I could actually feel something for once. Not just hints of emotion but something strong and real.
“I’m going to milk this emotion while I’ve got it.” I went to my room and wrote a whole song. It’s super depressing and not very good but I still kind of love it to this day. (My fellow INFP’s totally get this paragraph, haha).
I told the woman who’s like a second mom to me about my chest pains.
“You’re broken-hearted, Ace. Emotional pain can be so strong it’s physical. That’s why it’s called ‘heartache.'”
I wondered how long it would take before Lara threw George aside or if he would wake up to her flaws first. But I was wrong.
A few years ago they married and are still married to this day.
It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t actually want to be with him. And now I’m so glad I’m not and never was. I’m glad I was wrong about her and she didn’t hurt him the way I was so sure she would.
As I write this, reliving these memories has been painful, and not because I regret how things played out in the long-run. It hurts because this experience drove the wound much deeper.
Ace, You’re too intimidating, too reserved, too opinionated, too awkward. You’re not enough. Not charming enough, not mysterious enough, not flirtatious enough, not cool enough, not approachable enough. You don’t have it, whatever that thing is that makes you worthy of pursuit by someone you actually desire. There’s always someone shinier, and it doesn’t matter if you wear a blue sweater or a red shirt, you will still be unseen.
(To Be Continued…)