By – RedTiger331
I remember the first time I ever saw her. It was first grade on the playground, and my buddy Zach nudged me and nodded in the distance. “Isn’t she lovely?” He was a strangely eloquent romantic for a six year old. But she was.
Everything about her was doused in confounding attraction. Her long ginger hair, her fair skin and gentle freckles, the way her brown eyes twinkled when her smile revealed her dimples. I didn’t blame Zach for being head over heels, not one bit. For me, however, love seemed to have no hold over my sugar-powered Power Rangers brain. I never forgot her, though.
We went to a small school, a close-knit community so everyone knew everyone. So I guess, yes, I knew her throughout the years, but I wouldn’t say we were friends. My sophomore year of high school, I decided to audition for the fall play, and to my surprise I got a decent role. Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. This is how I got to know the people who are now my closest friends, including her. However for the most part, I spent more time with the seniors. They took me under their wing and molded me (read: lovingly abused me) until I was every ounce as wacky and hilarious as they were. I don’t really know who I was before then, but he was pretty weird.
Throughout the musical seasons, I had different crushes, and eventually decided to date one, my dance partner for about eight months. Red was involved with the leading male, who was one of my good friends, so I never thought twice about anything. I’d never have a chance with her anyway. She’s funny, wildly intelligent, beautiful beyond belief. No, not a chance. I couldn’t have known that by the time her relationship fizzled and mine took off that she was crushing on me. I look back now, and I remember specific moments, like when we played Marco Polo in her pool and she could never catch me, even when I teased her by poking the back of her neck. Or how she was only deceivingly enraged when I tackled her off the pool deck and into the water. The way she smiled was my oxygen. I didn’t really know it, but the times I spent with her were the best out of any. When we finally became actual friends we found out we liked so many of the same cool stuff, bunches of video games, Doctor Who, anime, steampunk, art, the list is overwhelming and this story will be lengthy enough. I do remember, she later showed me a passage from her diary, “Do I like [him] because he’s so much like The Doctor, or do I like The Doctor so much because he’s so much like [him]?” Unbearably adorable, if you ask me.
Just as our senior prom was approaching, my girlfriend broke up with me. I got off the phone with her, and ten minutes later I messaged Red to tell her that our prom table was going to change, my (ex)girlfriend would be sitting with her friends at another table, so now we’d have room at ours to fit in two of our other friends who needed a spot. Everything worked out, but she asked if the two of us were all right, and I said yeah. I didn’t say anything about the fact that I was now single, and the two of us talked until 2 am that night. And we did that for 10 straight days.
This is when I started keeping a journal. My early pages write out my utter disbelief at the idea that “Holy shit, does she like me?” Her suggestions that we should talk like this more often, or her (although charmingly begrudging) admittance that I looked “good different” with my new contacts were starting to make a clear case. Our senior musical was Beauty and the Beast, I was Lumiere, and she was Belle. We got to spend a lot of time together on stage, so that easily transferred offstage as well. Our “West Wing” was a large hollow platform that sometimes a few cast members would bunk in to get some much needed sleep due to tiring rehearsals. She and I, along with two other cast members were eating (please don’t judge me) a rather large container of bacon. At some point after we needed to chill out, she put her head on my shoulder. It lasted about 5 seconds. And I don’t think my heart beat once during that time.
We talked about it later online. She said I was a very comfy pillow, which proceeded to completely melt my heart into a puddle of shameless happy mush. The same situation happened again the next night, March 31st 2011. Except this time her head stayed on my shoulder as we shared a blanket. Blissful minutes passed, and I couldn’t remember ever feeling more content than I did right then. I took a chance and decided to inch my left arm over my side to hang down near her. It was a silent,subtle offer I couldn’t even be sure she noticed. And then her fingers touched mine. The tips of them drew my hand into hers. Sparks flew through me, my stomach felt like it had been launched into the air with a hurricane of butterflies, my face flooded with warmth, my heart was banging maniacally against my chest, as if gleefully screaming to be set free. All she did was touch my hand.
To this day, that moment is my most precious and protected memory.
We began dating in, what we thought, was a very under the radar and inconspicuous manner. But there’s no fooling the Drama Club, and it didn’t take very long for our friends to confirm we were together. Summer 2011 was classic and golden, the kind you wish you could have year round. And every day I spent with her, I fell farther and farther in love with her. It only took us about a month to say the words. I had taken her to some broken stone ruins down my road in the woods because I wanted to show her a creepy cloak I found hanging on a branch. She was driving me home, and she took it as a “signal” and agreed. I mean, it wasn’t a signal at all; I really had seen a cloak, I wasn’t thinking anything beyond “LOOK ISN’T THIS CREEPY? WOW” As it stands, there was no cloak to be found, and I was kinda sad someone moved it. But so there we stood, under a bright full moon, alone in the woods, with five stone pillars towering above us.
“Do you want to dance?”
I still don’t know what I was thinking when I said that, but it was apparently a pretty smooth move. I threw drama to the wind and began humming a silly swooning tune while we slow danced like goofs. I told her I love her. She looked down and buried her head in my shoulder for a few terrifying moments, and then looked up and said “I love you too.” And she kissed me. She had kissed me before, twice. Once in the back hallway of the chorus room, blushing and bashful, a quick peck on the lips that warmed my very core. A second time, much more surprising, as we left her house for her mom to take us home, she spun around and planted one on me while her mom wasn’t looking, promising “You’ll get a proper one soon enough”. Proper, what an understatement. She kissed me deeply and tenderly, and inspired me to wrap my arms around her and hold on for dear life.
You can’t make this stuff up. Or I guess maybe you can, but I’m not. I’m trying to highlight some of the greatest moments, because while I don’t want to lecture you on our whole relationship and why it was the best time of my life, I want you to really understand me. I want you to fall for this girl as so many have before, I want you to understand how stupidly lucky I felt to be loved by her, and I want you to understand how it felt when it stopped.
Our dates consisted mostly of hanging out with friends, long car rides home, and cuddling on her couch watching movies and having dinner with her family, who made me feel like a part of their home. I loved spending time there, and I really truly still miss it. When we felt like it, we’d go out together, see a movie, have a nice dinner. We were trying to make the most of the summer, because in the fall she would be going to college on Long Island, NY, which is about 2 and a half hours away from rural southeast Pennsylvania. We had a bright future planned ahead of us, though. Lots of visits to the city, and she’d come home every so often, it would work out. And I still think we had a pretty solid system for a long-distance relationship. And I think part of the reason it didn’t work is because of me.
This story has been pretty fairy-tale idyllic up to this point, so I’m going to level with you. I was a whiny, needy, selfishly inconsiderate flaring asshole a lot of times. I needed to be talking to her almost constantly or I’d think something was wrong. If she was doing something besides interacting with me when I wanted to, I got in the most childish cranky moods. I read back on old Facebook messages and I am literally groaning and cringing at my past self, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? So, Red was really great with that. I feel so bad for putting pressure on her and making her feel certain ways, and I have vaguely apologized for it, but I’ve changed enough now that I really understand what it was like to be my girlfriend. It was wonderful and fun, but it was also muddled and complicated and pretty stressful when I was in the wrong mood. The point is, this is not good behavior for maintaining a long-distance relationship. Getting grumpy when she doesn’t call, being paranoid about her new male friends, making her feel bad because she wants to do something else. People, please for the love of God, don’t do this. If your significant other is an independently-brained introvert who appreciates alone time and respect, do NOT take it personally. So, in my opinion, that was one part of it. The other part was Red.
She came home from Thanksgiving break, and had changed her mind about some of our plans. I asked her online what was wrong or what she’d like to do instead, and the conversation took a pretty unexpected turn. Or really, I would have expected it if I wasn’t so blind. Once or twice before, she told me she was afraid of hurting me. That her feelings have changed in the past and she doesn’t want it to happen to me. She was getting scared of the commitment, and what it meant if the same thing were really to happen again. We resolved it, we installed hope into our hearts, and we believed everything would be all right. That was one thing I’m glad to believe in, whether you call me naive or not – that she was always honest with me. Honesty was the whole reason we broke up in the first place, because she had to be open about her feelings. She never felt the need or desire to lie to me, even if her personality type was prone to simple lies to avoid things. She always did try to be open, which I can imagine was a huge thing for her. I’m glad she trusted me, I think it was good for her. She had never let anyone in like she did with me. I still hope to get somewhere near that openness in our friendship, because it’s a nice thing to have sometimes.
This time there was no resolution. She cried, though not nearly as much as I did. She didn’t know how she felt anymore, but she knew she didn’t want to be in a relationship. That left her confused whether or not she truly loved me if she was able to end things like this, to my understanding. I still don’t have closure on that matter. The last time I talked to her about us (more than a year ago now,) she still wasn’t completely sure what she felt about me. But I know now there can’t be anything there. The fact was, she no longer felt the same way about me. Though she could not precisely identify what had changed, something had, and it was heartbreaking. It was a longer process than I think most breakups are. I hadn’t really accepted that it was over until a week later when I could tell she was avoiding me, dodging my incessant attempts at more talks, when I no longer felt welcome or comfortable by her side. Then she went back to Long Island.
I felt, for lack of better words, like the world’s largest sack of shit. I still had granduers of wooing her back in love with me, though I was completely devastated. I still tried to talk to her. Her chat status on Facebook had returned to always “offline” as it had been before we dated. I was worried it was all because of my efforts to talk to her over and over, but it was probably convenient for her so she wouldn’t get other creeps trying to message her. I didn’t handle the break up like I should have, I know that. But I had never loved before, and call me arrogant but I think a lot of people have never loved like this. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was just broken and trying to function in some way with the only purpose of getting the gears to turn again. That meant being with her.
I think it was few months before we really got on not-awkward friendship terms again. I still call her Red, which was my affectionate nickname for her. She was kind enough to still talk to me and we still hung out with friends, but my behavior was almost always irrational, moody, and all around uncomfortable for everyone, especially her. Of course, her amazing tolerance didn’t help me get over her. Sometimes I had wished that one of us had done something truly wrong, and there was someone who could take the blame and be angry. But there was none of that. It just stopped because it stopped, and neither of us really knew what exactly happened. So how could I stop loving her? How long would it take?
Well, the answer isn’t 2 years. In that time we still remain great friends, and I think we know each other better than anyone else. I tried to find love again in an effort to get over her, a girl who lived in Texas I started talking to online. She was interesting, and gorgeous, and so much fun. She made me feel less lonely, and she gave me a strong purpose again; I helped her and she helped me. It lasted for about a year until she became friends with her ex again and my old paranoid, obsessive tendencies resurfaced. This relationship developed my patience, kindness, and understanding, and now it was all collapsing because I was finally coming to visit her and meet for the first time while our “star-crossed love” was falling apart for multiple reasons. It got to the point where something in me just died. I couldn’t carry on like this anymore, I just couldn’t. These things had to stop for good. After a struggle-filled transition phase, we decided to remain friends. So while the visit was incredibly painful and awkward, (although very much worth it) I walked away from it feeling taller, feeling wiser. Feeling calmer. You just have to let go sometimes. With this amazing new ability to shrug off feelings and press forward, a quality of Red’s I had always envied, I thought maybe I could finally move on.
But now that I did not have a girl to focus attention on and think about romantically, my heart and mind were stuck back on Red more than ever. Yet, it felt different. I had moved past the need to constantly message her; I was able to go without talking to her for days, weeks maybe, but our friendship still existed so it was very casual, not forced and free when we did talk. I didn’t feel frustrated or resentful or regretful, which are all the things I had been holding onto. I had begun chipping away at all the bad parts of myself I wanted to get rid of, and the deeper I got to my core the more I began to fear that at my center there was an unbridled, pure, selfless love for this girl. I wanted her to be happy. I wanted to help her be happy if she’d ever let me. I wanted to spend days with her, laugh along with her and make memories we’d reference for years. And we do, I think. And I’m so thankful.
Just recently, I tried again to move on. I asked out a girl I worked with, and it went really well. She was pretty and a little silly, and it was nice to have someone to spend time with. She fit in with my friends and everyone liked her, though Red never met her. After two months it became apparent that I wasn’t in love with her at all. We moved very fast as a couple and it started to feel wrong. I wasn’t enamored with her. Talking to her didn’t make me smile as earnestly, or challenge my mind as much. She didn’t make me feel like gravity turned off. I found myself struggling to put forth extra effort in the relationship, effort that was never a second thought with Red. At first, I would start thinking about Red as soon as I left my girlfriend’s house; and then the only thing I could think of when I was with my girlfriend was Red. I grew distant and probably a bit depressed as I did very little for days on end. In the meantime, Red and I have been chatting more consistently as she was home for the summer now. It felt amazing to be talking to her every day again, and there was no pressure to be talking. We talked a lot just because we had things to talk about, and that’s great. My girlfriend talked to me to try to figure out why we don’t talk as much, or why we only do the same things, Call of Duty, Netflix and Chinese food (which in my opinion, how can you complain? But I see her point.)
That conversation happened very similarly as the conversation I had with Red 2 years ago – except now I could see the other side. I knew what it was like to have your feelings change on you, or maybe even possibly know something was off from the start. The realization that maybe you really don’t love this person is a tough one, and really disappointing. You ask yourself what is wrong with you. I think that Red really did love me, and I think it hurt her when she had to question if she still did. The situations are not completely comparable because I’ve always known that I love Red, which didn’t allow me to love anyone else. It was just an attempt to move on, and I should have stopped as soon as I knew it wouldn’t happen. I broke up with my girlfriend because I didn’t want to be in a relationship – and it’s true. At this point, I’m really not interested in finding a relationship anymore.
As far as I know, Red hasn’t been romantically involved with anyone since we dated. She meant it when she said she didn’t want to be in a relationship, and I can only now truly understand the freedom she wanted and I respect her decision all the more, though I always had. She’s also stated that she will not get married, have kids, etc. I understand that decision, more power to her, but it still makes me sad because of the kiss-fueled flightful chats we’d have about getting married and roller skating through our house and into the pillow forts we’d build. So I say I don’t want to be in a relationship, and if I was asked, I would say I won’t be getting married. The only girl I can imagine myself loving so completely and deeply enough to power a marriage for years, will never marry me.
It’s all right, I really don’t need to get married. The idea is entirely unappealing without her. I guess, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to fall in love, I don’t want to be in a relationship, I don’t want to get married – I just want to spend time with her whenever I can, in any capacity.
Now, let me explain something – I probably sound really attached to this girl, which is true. I’m trying my best to explain that it’s not unhealthy. At some point, yeah it definitely was, which needed to change, and it did. I can function without her around, I can feel fine if I don’t talk to her for awhile, I give her the respectful space everyone deserves. I’ve got my own things going on too, so when we talk we talk, and when we don’t, all right that’s cool. I’ve kicked the obsession habit, but as I’ve said before, the love is still there even after I cast away all the bad qualities. I’ve learned how to manage it properly. Every day, whatever I’m doing, I know it would be better with Red around because I want to share things with her. However, I know my future is not dependent on hers, I’ll forge my own way in life – but whether or not that includes finding another great love, well we’ll see.
I’ve often wondered how I would react if she started dating someone else – and honestly I don’t know. I know it would be difficult for me, but it would really depend on him. If I could see that he respects her, supports her, and inspires her, my heart would largely be at peace. If he was anything less, I’d have no reservations about telling Red exactly what I think. I wouldn’t say anything stupid like tell her to break up with him or to date me instead, I would just tell her what I think. Because ultimately it’s her choice, but she should be aware of whatever potential problems are in the relationship and deal with them. I think about her finding a nice guy who’s healthy for her and brings out the best in her, and I feel like crying out of a strange joy. I would love for it to happen, because she would have that kind happiness I guess I couldn’t offer her any longer, and maybe it’s exactly what needs to happen for me to move on: realizing she’s better off with someone else. In truth, she’s better off by herself at the moment, as she is content with being single. I hate the way it sounds, like I could only accept the situation if she “belonged” to someone else – it’s not what I mean. I just think that seeing her love someone the way she loved me, or moreso, would hit me like a tractor trailer hauling bricks at 150mph. Y’know, a wake up call. A painful one, but the end result is what’s important.
Now what if that doesn’t happen any time soon? People tell me to move on, and I won’t, I’m unable to and now I refuse. Because I’m happy with who I love and I like being alone. I greatly doubt she’ll love me again, and I’d never try to confess any of it to her because it would almost definitely backpedal our friendship, and that’s something I will fight tooth and nail to protect. Yes, when I’m having low nights I’ll escape to the past and relive our best moments, or a nonexistent future where we’re married and have two girls and I write from home when I’m not on film set, and I smile even though I’m dreaming of realities I can never live. No it’s not real, and it never will be. She lives her own life, and I support her decisions any way I can. But thinking of her is like… home. It’s comfort. It doesn’t matter if she loves me the same way. It’s crushing if she doesn’t, but it doesn’t change my feelings. I will always adore her, and send her packages of stuffed animals, tissues and snacks when she’s sick during finals week and her meal plan is low, and leave pizza boxes with cheery notes on them at her doorstep when she doesn’t show up for plans, buy her birthday presents months in advanced, and tell her stupid puns so she’ll roll her eyes at me and groan, and I’ll never stop because I can’t, I won’t, and I don’t want to. I would if she asked me to, but otherwise, this is what makes me happy. I know that if I ever got a second chance, it would be different. Good different. I’m far from perfect, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I’ve learned and grown an alarming amount. But what can I do? I’m respecting her choice.
Part of me is prepared to spend the rest of my life romantically alone, and another part is terrified that’s exactly what will happen. For now, I just want to be with friends a lot and cherish the time I have with them, and hang onto every moment I have with her. She never treats me badly, she treats me as she treats her close friends, and I’m eternally grateful. I know this story has been long, but if anyone has had the mettle to stick with it, I’d very much appreciate what you thought of it, and what you think I should be doing or not doing, or what could yet happen. I’m currently weighing the decision to move to L.A. in the near future to pursue a career in film, but it would be a permanent move across the country. It would be leaving her. So I don’t know. We’re very good friends and we’ve been spending a lot of time this summer talking and hanging out. I don’t want to turn my back on something that makes me so happy. I’m thinking maybe I can stay centralized in the NYC area and pursue TV writing instead, rather than make a gigantic leap of faith and abandon everything I know. I’ll leave you with something I wrote and posted on my blog. She was the only one to comment, and she said something to the effect of “*pinches cheeks* A-COOCHIE-COOCHIE COO” which a younger me probably would have met with anger, but now it’s the funniest thing to me. Because it was her best effort at displaying affection to her “boyfriend turned awkward ex turned, permanently, a best friend.” So, please understand I love this girl with all my life, and while I have to believe that there is virtually no chance of her ever feeling the same way about me again, the deepest parts of me still hope… but they are content staying in adoring silence. The post reads as follows:
“Do you have that person in your life… who can be confusing and distant but is fun and brilliant and kind? They like all the same stuff that you do and share similar values and thoughts and feelings? And you love them so much, but you don’t know if it’s romance. Sometimes it feels a lot like it. But sometimes you wonder if it’s the feeling of being so alike and in tune with another person. Your conversations make you smile, they’re casual and sporadic, no pressure to respond immediately if it’s text-based. You have special things between the two of you others don’t understand, inside jokes, references, small games you play. It doesn’t matter if you’re “together”, you just want to be as special to them as they are to you. And if you know you’re not it kind of breaks your heart. But how they feel about you doesn’t change a thing. It’s just a part of you. You just feel right when you’re in the same room, talking to them, goofing around with them, like the two of you were meant to know each other. And when they’re away or you drift apart you feel like you’re not all there. When you’re reunited it’s like making it home at 3am after a stressful vacation. When you see something neat, they’re the first person you want to share it with. Sometimes you’ll actually watch or read something they recently got into so they’ll want to talk to you about it. You feel like the admiration and adoration is overwhelming to them so you don’t say much until it gets hard to bottle up and you let something slip. You want more than anything to see them happy and if they aren’t, the pit in your stomach doesn’t go away until you know they’re better. You can’t deal with the feeling unless you’ve done something to try to cheer them up. Sometimes you’re the only one who can tell something’s off. You don’t even have to know what’s wrong, or talk about the problem, you just need them to laugh. Because they’re the person that makes your days worth living without even really realizing. Sure, you wish you were closer to them. But you just feel so stupidly lucky that you even know them.”