Apologetically Yours, Nell

While working on a story time last night, I got to thinking about the past. I came to a very disheartening, albeit interesting conclusion: I was an emotional assailant when I was younger. Looking back, I haven’t the faintest clue as to why guys even liked me. Relationships of a serious romantic nature were the furthest thing from my mind, but I suppose it never stopped me from trying to engage in them anyway. No matter what a guy said or did, I always figured the grass was greener over there…or maybe over there…or perhaps under there—anywhere other than where I was and who I was with. Perhaps this is why I kept a secret tool chest full of “backup” guys. The reality of my tactics sounds horrible to me now and it realistically was horrible; especially the way I operated.

There was usually one main guy that I’d date in a “serious” capacity, but I had entire troops of male friends off to the side. Now that I am older and (hopefully) wiser, I can tell you that there was nothing serious about any of the romantic relationships I had back in the day. However, I designed them to be that way. After all, I was young. I didn’t see the point of being particularly loyal to a guy I had no intentions of marrying. And when it came to marriage, I truly cringed at the thought of spending the rest of my life with anyone, much less any of the guys I knew! For years, I wondered if something was sincerely wrong with me because I simply couldn’t convince myself that marriage would ever be appealing. That being said, I opted to ensure it never would by viewing every guy I encountered as fully replaceable.


Forever Friend-Zoning

Every time I would get into a relationship, I would continue to talk to my male friends as though nothing had changed. I would regularly commit one of the top relationship no-no’s by telling them the sordid details of my relationships. If my boyfriend and I got into an argument, I would run off to my friends and tell them about it. All the while, they would hold on to our friendship hoping that I’d leave the other guy and run off into the sunset with them instead. However, I never did. I’d eventually break things off with the main guy and move on to a new one, leaving a handful of my male friends to pick up the broken pieces of their hopeful anticipation—and hearts. Then the entire cruel cycle would start all over again. I cannot tell you how much collateral damage my skewed mindset caused.

At the time, I didn’t really feel bad about the way I handled such matters—mostly because I didn’t know any better. For whatever reason, I simply lacked the ability to see things from my male friends’ perspectives. I genuinely believed in the concept of purely platonic friendships between the two sexes and saw nothing wrong with conducting my relationships the way I did. I vaguely remember my mother trying to warn me against “playing with guys’ emotions”, but I simply waved her off. In my young and naive eyes, I wasn’t responsible for other people’s emotional states. If they had a problem with me or the things I said or did, I expected them to tell me, not just sulk in the shadows about it. As I have since learned, this is often easier said than done.


An The Exception To The Rule

Anyway, back to last night. I was sitting in bed getting lost in my memories when I got to thinking about one of the guys who got hit by my “friendly-fire”. We had been such good friends. I simply hate that things ended the way they did. For about four or five years we carried on a really sweet friendship. He was just the nicest guy ever, I swear. We had a lot of things in common too. He’d always get me little presents out of the blue and share all of his deep, dark secrets. It always surprised me that a guy that good looking could be so genuine and kind. There wasn’t the slightest bit of pretension to him, which I loved. Though we never formally dated, we may as well have considering the way our friendship was. Things were going really well until I got into one relationship in particular. Nothing was the same after that.

There was constant friction from the start. My boyfriend at the time was insanely jealous and demanded that I stopped all contact with my male friends. Well, this was just downright unacceptable to me. I was hardly about to drop people I’d known for years just because this insecure Johnny-Come-Lately told me to. We argued about this often. Eventually, I somewhat gave in and slowly stopped associating with the majority of my guy friends. Well, all except for the one I got to thinking about last night. He was special. I couldn’t just drop him like a bag of trash. Maybe I had more serious feelings for him than I was willing to admit at the time, but something in me refused to cut him loose.

My relationship carried on, but I continued to talk to my friend without my boyfriend’s knowledge. My friend never complained about being caught up in such a precarious situation, but as time went on, I could tell things were starting to get to him. He was tired of being kept on the sidelines, and he eventually told me so. I still remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I was looking out the window of my Las Vegas suite when my phone rang. It was my friend calling to see how my birthday trip was going. I filled him in on all the details and asked him what had been going on with him. He had just moved to Florida to attend school for music engineering and was really excited to be there. He kept telling me about the house he’d gotten and how he’d fixed up the guest room for me to come visit with another friend of mine—if I wanted.

I remember going deathly quiet. I had never said I would be able to come see him. After all, I was still in a relationship (never mind how awful it was going at the time). He kept trying to keep the conversation going, but I could tell something else was on his mind because things had taken an uncommonly awkward turn.

All at once, he blurted out, “I love you.”

I can still recall feeling as though time lurched to a halt. Staring far off into the desert horizon, I knew that I was experiencing one of those moments in life where you hit a fork in the road. You can go left or you can go right, but whichever road you choose, you won’t be able to double back. I knew he’d meant what he said and I knew what he expected me to say.

And still, I said, “That’s nice.”

The conversation ended moments later. To the best of my recollection, we never spoke again.


Braver Than I

That’s nice? Really? That conversation still haunts me to this day. I don’t know why I said it. I don’t know what I even meant by it. I may never be able to understand why I didn’t return the sentiment despite feeling it, but I simply couldn’t. I know I hurt him more than words could ever fully capture and far more than I could ever undo.

Over the years, I have looked him up with intentions of apologizing, but I’d never go through with it. One of the last times I found him, I saw that he was dating a girl he’d known back in high school. I wasn’t about to go crashing in on his life at that point, so I figured it was best for me to leave him be. However, I would check up on him every once in awhile to make sure he was still alive and kicking. It was my weird way of still being a friend…still caring for him and his well being.

I looked him up again last night and found him on Facebook. His main profile picture was his wedding photo. He ended up marrying that very same girl he went to school with. I had the nerve to smile. I don’t know what it was, but I was so insanely happy for them both. Perhaps it was the way they looked in the photo or perhaps it was simply seeing him again, but I was glad to see that his story had a happy ending. He looks exactly the same to me. It’s as though time hasn’t touched his life at all.

I was simply struck by how genuinely happy he looked, and it made my heart melt with relief. I decided that it would be the last time I would feel compelled to look him up. I feel much better knowing that he has someone who will stick by his side and take care of him. Maybe that’s all I wanted…to know that his life turned out well. I wish with all of my heart that he’ll continue looking that happy and that she’ll treat him better than I ever had the guts to.



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