FYI, this is a continuation of my last post (ahem so if you haven’t read it I would maybe go back and read it).
Also, yeah I know I literally started this blog like an hour ago why am I already on the 3rd post don’t @ me.
They didn’t just stay friends. Obviously.
You see, he returned to campus for the spring semester, and at least from my perspective, things felt exactly the same as before he left for abroad.
But there was this other girl.
[ok about to go on a tangent here wasn’t sure if I should say girl or woman because I didn’t want to be patronizing. But in this period of my life I feel like I am not really an adult, tbh I still don’t feel like an adult. She is, by age, a woman. But since at the time I felt/still feel like just a girl, I will also refer to her as a girl.]
Her story with him begins at least a year before mine did, and although I will never fully know the intimate details of their platonic/romantic relationship (nor do I want to), she never fully leaves his story and therefore enters mine.
I was acutely aware of her existence as my friendship grew with him. I saw him pretty much every day in LA, so it was obvious when he would go MIA for a few hours to hang out with her. You may notice that her presence does not exist within the lines of my last blog post; I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that he was choosing between me and her at the time. They maintained a platonic relationship, and it was a question of whether or not him and I should enter a romantic one.
[Additionally, I am not out to crucify any party involved. Hopefully that’s clear and any indication of hurt, angst, or negativity is more a reflection of me than of them.]
And honestly, if this were a movie and I wasn’t one of the main characters of this story and if this can be considered a love triangle, I likely would have rooted for them to end up in the end.
Anyway, before I met him, he had been with her. And for whatever reason they had ended things and decided to be friends. He was always a bit shielded when it came to her, and I don’t know if that was because it was me and he wanted me to see a certain version of himself, or if he wanted to keep her for himself. I suppose both can be true.
She had visited him while he was abroad, in Paris. From what he told me, for exact reasons I will never know, the trip did not go well. But what I do know is that he didn’t tell me that she was visiting, which wouldn’t be odd in itself except for the fact that I knew every minute detail of his life in Spain because we were talking constantly.
I know what you’re thinking, red flag. Don’t you worry, I had many friends tell me that it was a red flag… expressed in much more colorful language.
Then, and now, I can’t dispute that it was probably a red flag. I can say, however, that I didn’t think it was worth walking away.
So now, we’re in January of 2018. As mentioned earlier, I knew things felt the same, and he knew it too. I wanted to see him every day, hang out in between class, eat good food, go explore LA. I wanted to be with him. Since I’m writing this three years later, I think it’s natural and very easy to look back and think that maybe he didn’t actually feel the same and was just trying to reciprocate and mirror my feelings, but I do think there is power in trusting the gut of your past self.
And my past self knows this: He deeply cared for me. He wanted to be in my life, for life. And he was willing to give it a try.
It was in January sometime that I came to understand the other girl didn’t know about me. Maybe he was always a bit shielded when it came to me, too. Maybe he wanted her to see a certain version of himself, or maybe he wanted to keep me for himself.
I suppose all can be true.
I knew a couple things had to change. She had to know about my existence, and that he couldn’t continue to go MIA to hang out with her.
The truth I wouldn’t fully acknowledge until much later is that they couldn’t be friends if I was to be a part of his life.
Maybe this was where it started to become a matter of me or her. The lines of the love triangle begin to emerge here, I think.
Over a weird dinner of beef stroganoff in his apartment, he told her about me (to what extent I am not sure), and they more or less stopped hanging out after that. I’m not sure if it was right for me to give him this veiled ultimatum, and I find it arrogant (and also inaccurate) to say that he stopped being friends with her just so that he wouldn’t lose me. But I don’t think that it’s entirely incorrect to say that he dated me so that he wouldn’t lose me.
If I’m painfully honest with myself, I don’t know if a purely platonic relationship would’ve worked anyway, even if he wasn’t friends with the other girl. I know I would’ve always wanted something more.
We started dating on February 1st. Although he was a junior, it was my last semester in college, and anxieties about the other girl quickly transformed into anxieties about my post-grad plans and if our relationship could last beyond graduation.
On our first Valentine’s day he gifted me a book that I had literally just bought for myself (a coincidence? no way)*, and we then started a tradition to exchange a book every Valentine’s day. We hung out everyday, met up in between class, ate good food, explored LA, and made plans to travel through Asia together for about a month post-graduation.
I finally secured a job in New York City, and the realities of a long distance relationship started to sink in. He was interning in NYC for the summer which delayed our long distance start date, but the prospect of being together from different parts of the country for a whole year seemed daunting and scary.
The semester sped by quickly; life tends to just breeze by when you’re having fun.
In May, we traipsed through Southeast Asia — Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. After a couple bouts of food poisoning, numerous yummy meals, and several gallons worth of sweat, we had seen all the sights and had basked in each other’s company. It had been ~3 weeks of nonstop time together and we had made it through intact! (Let it be known, I despise the heat and profusely sweat from my face — if I had done this with anyone else I likely wouldn’t have survived) (Let it also be known, he almost got hit by a truck while we were scootering in Bali, so there is a legitimacy to the word intact).
We made plans to sublet our friend’s room in his apartment for the duration of his internship in New York, and I would find a permanent apartment to move into after he left. I was going to go home for a few weeks after Asia and then meet him out in my future home — NYC.
But when I arrived, he was distant. A little cold, actually. He didn’t want me to meet his internship friends (which is fine, we all need boundaries sometimes), and although he insisted that he was only close to them due to convenience, he would stay out with them every night. It didn’t feel like he wanted to explore this new city with me or reply to my texts. And when I finally confronted him, he said that he wanted to end things and just be friends.
At this point I was starting to hate friendship.
He said he realized he didn’t see a future with me and didn’t think he could ever love me. When I asked when he noticed that feeling, he mentioned that it was something I said on one of our many plane rides in Asia, but couldn’t tell me what it is that I said. I think the things he said can be both unfair and true simultaneously. At the very least, he seemed adamant.
[Something that I chose to not see at the time is how immaturely it was handled by him, that he truly put his own interests first before considering mine.]
At the same time, he said he didn’t want to lose me, and that he wanted to continue to be close to me. After all, I was his best friend. I’d think that I was the most precious person to him. Basically, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.
So we broke up. But we were still living together. I know, I know. I should’ve moved out, or kicked him out, or figured something, anything, out. I blamed it on the money, because we had already paid & split the cost of the sublet and I knew he hadn’t budgeted to pay the whole chunk. I know that the cost of the sublet wasn’t my responsibility when he decided to break up with me and I know that I should’ve prioritized myself. The truth that makes me feel a little small and embarrassed to say is that I simply wanted to be in his presence, because he made me happy.
It was messy, and murky, and so so painful. I tried to be honest with him and myself, that I didn’t think we could be friends moving forward. That I didn’t know what that would or could even look like.
But, after his truth was able to surface, we were finally able to explore the city — we had a pizza day** and saw shows and walked around and read books and made some very special memories.
Then it was finally time for him to leave.
Although the break up had occurred nearly a month ago, it’s as if I had been frozen in a block of ice for that time. And I didn’t start to truly feel any of the pain until he left. His physical presence wasn’t there to numb reality.
And for the second time, I felt so unsure of what to do. I was in a new city, with a new job, making new friends. But I didn’t want to make new memories and move forward without him involved in any capacity.
We stopped talking. For awhile.
I tried! I really tried!
But it’s hard when you want to tell someone about the mundane parts of your day and it feels like there’s only one person would care to know this information. So I thought if I needed to talk to him that maybe I should control the method of communication. Instead of texting, we wrote letters. Handwritten, with the occasional envelope doodle. And with some Facetimes thrown into the mix, that’s how I lived in NY for the first couple months.
Did I already say that this story is messy?
I couldn’t let go of him and I knew that he was feeling confused about everything. He wanted to be close to me and he missed me, but didn’t want to date me. He would make me Spotify playlists with confusing names, like 6789998212.
I was meeting new people and doing well at the new job, but I was lonely. The big city, it turns out, happens to be very big. And when he finally went back to LA for his senior year, I missed the warm California sun and the feeling of comfort walking on my college campus.
I also had an inkling he and her would become friends again.
He is his own being just like I am mine. We were no longer in a relationship. It goes without saying that two people can be friends!
But finally, I had to draw the line. It was fine if he wanted to be friends with her, but I couldn’t be a part of it.
And after a few days of uncertainty and silence, he decided to not be friends with her. I am not privy to the decision-making process that went on in his head, but there is a part of me that feels like maybe since he picked me when he got back from abroad, he felt the need to pick me again to: either convince himself that he made the right choice, or do what was familiar.
Because I know (now at least), that he deeply cares for her as well.
So our friendship continued in letters and calls, and as a friend kindly pointed out, it felt like I was doing a long distance relationship without the label.
As the holidays started to approach, we decided to go surprise our friend Peter, who was off doing his Fulbright in Taiwan.
*the book? My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent. Beautifully written, super graphic and gory.
**Emily, Pasquale Jones, Speedy Romeo, Di Fara Pizza