An Unconventional Love Story: Part Five

On New Year’s Eve, I expected to see a happy, excited, and affectionate man. I also expected us to share our first kiss at midnight.

I received neither. Instead, I got a pensive and sulky boy, and a hug.

Before my friends joined us, we talked a lot about the past year. We talked about your awful last relationship and the awful way it ended. We talked about how quickly she moved on, and how she’d already been living with someone for several months. We talked about how you still hadn’t found work since graduation, and how disconnected you felt from your time as a grad student. We talked about our broken resolutions before we’d even had a chance to make them.

One of my friends finally showed up, late as usual, and we left to pick up my other friend. All of us went to my favorite brewery, where we curled up by a fireplace and played Cards Against Humanity for hours. You had never met my friends before, and I was worried about how things would go. I had no cause for concern though; it was like you all had known each other for years. In the spirit of broken resolutions, I shivered outside in the cold as you smoked an unfiltered cigarette, the smoke rising into the heavens overhead.

Little did we know that night that we were airing out the bad to make room for the good.

At midnight, we all hugged each other into the new year and headed home. Keeping with my traditions, you slept over at my house with my friends. We all slept on the floor in sleeping bags, you and I falling asleep beside each other. Even though we were in separate sleeping bags and had plenty of distance between us, I had never slept this close to someone I liked before. The sensation was weird and welcome. The next morning, I hugged you goodbye, and that was that.

I thought NYE was going to give me the answers I was looking for, but it only served to give me more questions. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to learn the truth.

I can no longer remember how many times I saw you between the start of the new year and the start of our relationship. Once? Twice? Five times? All I know is, I came over not long after the holiday, and you invited me up to your room to watch a movie. This was a new feeling, a new experience; the high school part of me felt like I was doing something wrong. Nothing like that happened, of course, but the sensation remained. You asked me if you could put your arm around me, and we laid curled up together on your bed. This continued the next few times we saw each other, until eventually you stopped asking and started doing.

Then, on the 17th of January, a new question…”Can I kiss you?”

I can’t remember ever hearing a better question. What should have been a simple, short, and sweet first kiss between new lovers soon exploded into a different kind of kiss entirely. We were absolutely desperate for each other; I had never experienced anything like that. After that, without even needing discussion, you and I became you-and-I. A couple of days later, we went on a proper first date, and so began the first month of our relationship.  For the first time in my adult life, I could look forward to having a valentine on Valentine’s Day.

Over time, the absolutely unlikely had become the somewhat probable, and the somewhat probable had become the surprisingly likely. Now, finally, the surprisingly likely had become an unbelievable reality.

 

 

An Unconventional Love Story: Part Four

After Halloween night, I tried to find an excuse to see you again as soon as possible. Everything was different now, and I was certain that the next time I saw you, “you and I” would officially become “we.”

I was wrong.

When I next saw you, a mere 36 hours after I had dropped you back off at your car, it was never mentioned or acknowledged. It was like Halloween had never existed. Like nothing had happened between us. Like nothing had changed.

I have to admit that I was hurt. I do not take romantic affection lightly, and I thought this sudden shift was the real deal. But you acted like it had never occurred. I wondered if it meant nothing to you, or if you had only done it because you were horny and drunk, or if you were too drunk to even remember that it had happened in the first place. That rush of feelings I felt, just erased.

Even though you wouldn’t come outright and acknowledge Halloween night, things between us did start to change. We started to go out and do new activities, spending more time together than ever before. When November came around, you not only invited me over for Friendsgiving, but you asked me to come before everyone else. I even helped you to finish cooking and clean up afterward. Not long after that, you invited me back over to play Scrabble and…meet your mom. We were definitely entering a new phase of our friendship as fall gave way to winter.

Oh, sweet December.

A few days before Christmas, we decided to go see Trumbo at the movie theater. We had some time to kill before our showing, though, so we went to Buybacks to browse their CD selection. As we were wandering through the store, you suddenly (finally!) brought up Halloween. You then proceeded to talk about how all of our mutual friends thought we were dating all summer long, so wouldn’t it be funny if we actually started dating? Wouldn’t that be a good joke? That would show them!

Of course, I was dying inside (in a good way) the entire time, but I kept my cool, playing along and matching your tone of jest. I didn’t have the heart to ask if you were really joking or not. Once the conversation wandered off in a new direction, I decided I would just let it go. I wouldn’t mention it again unless you brought it up first.

You weren’t joking though, and it certainly wasn’t long before the issue came up again.

About halfway through the movie that night, you put your arm around me. This time, the action was welcome, expected even, and it did not send me spiraling into a panicked state. We went back to your house afterward to exchange Christmas gifts for a quick minute, but that quick minute turned to hours. We sat in your living room, talking and watching dumb videos, your hand on my knee and my arm linked through yours. It didn’t feel surprising or weird; it simply felt natural.

When I finally mustered up the motivation to leave, you walked me out to my car. We stumbled over our words as we said goodbye and gave Christmas wishes. I blurted out an invitation for you to join my friends and I for New Year’s, and you agreed to it. I couldn’t believe I had invited you, or that you were coming, or that any of this was actually happening.

The stretch of time between our gift exchange and New Year’s Eve was tortuous. Not only was I eager to see you, but I was worried that you were going to entirely change your mind. I knew that a day or so after this had all occurred, you were visiting a friend from your first year of graduate school that you had had a crush on once upon a time. I was worried that you were going to see her and realize that these feelings you thought you had for me were all a mistake. In that whole stretch of time, we only texted on Christmas, further adding to my fear that this had all been one big misunderstanding.

If I could just make it to New Year’s Eve, everything would be alright.

 

An Unconventional Love Story: Part Three

Last Halloween was so significant in the story of us that we often talk about our relationship before we officially started dating in terms of pre-Halloween and post-Halloween. In a lot of ways, that night is really where it all began.

On Halloween, we met up at a mutual friend’s apartment to start off the night. From her place, we all walked to a local gourmet grocery store to buy beer, which we promptly snuck into her place of employment to drink. You drank too much too quickly, of course, and the night was off to a tipsy start as we all loaded into an Uber to head downtown.

Once downtown, our mutual friend quickly disappeared, joining some of her coworkers who had manifested themselves among the crowd, leaving the two of us and one of my best friends to celebrate Halloween on our own. We wandered up and down the bar district, checking out costumes, dodging rain showers, and, of course, seeking out cocktails. Nothing was necessarily out of the ordinary, but, as we stood in line for a bar out in the rain, I started to notice that things were different that night. You kept talking about my costume, and, when we were finally inside the bar, and I asked for a picture with you, you pulled me close to you. Now, even a year later, that picture is still my favorite of the two of us.

We were all too cheap to call another Uber, and you were too drunk to drive home anyway, so I called my mom to pick us up. She dropped my friend off at her own house, and then you came with me back to my place. We decided we would go upstairs to watch a movie, and then you would sleep on the pull-out couch. But, we never went to sleep that night. We agreed to watch Halloweentown, and once it was finished, we promptly began the second one.

Somewhere along the way though, you asked if you could put your arm around me. I squeaked out a “yes,” overwhelmed by the unexpectedness of it. You had spent so much time talking about how we were just friends, but here you were, doing a not-just-friends things. I didn’t know how to handle it, and I never wanted it to end. We stayed up all night until we were sober enough for me to drive you to your car.

We hugged goodbye, and Post-Halloween officially began.

 

An Unconventional Love Story: Part Two

A mere night or two after our after-hours ordeal, I saw you again.

Our boss was throwing his end of the year party, and you were there. I had never pinned you as the kind of guy that would go to that type of thing, but there you were. We sat next to each other at a table with our peers, business as usual. But, then, you did the unthinkable; you offered to get me more wine while you were inside. It sounds innocent enough, but we all knew you better than that. As soon as you were gone from the table, the girls all shot me questioning stares.

Naturally, they were curious at first. Then, they were all disappointed to learn that no juicy gossip was to be had. It was all soon forgotten. But, once again, they all deserted the party early, and we were left to walk out together again. It was just the following day that we started messaging on Facebook, and, shortly after that, you started texting me. We would run into each other often at our friends’ house, often overstaying our welcome. Then, finally, you asked me if I wanted to walk around the mall, just the two of us. It was so high school and it was wonderful (it was Poltergeist, the new one, at the cheap theater, in case you had forgotten).

So began the summer of our friendship. It was a summer of laughter, secret-telling, and, sometimes, oversharing. It was a summer of country drives, discount movie days, bonfires, and late nights talking in your car. And, of course, it was a summer of questioning glances and comments from friends, family, and strangers alike.

Despite your adamant attitude that two friends of the opposite sex could, in fact, just be friends, I found myself loathing the idea more and more. I couldn’t help falling for you; you were the only straight guy I had been friends with as an adult that I felt genuinely comfortable with and could really talk to. I became frustrated with everyone (my mom, my friends, etc.) insisting that we would be dating soon when you kept insisting we would not.

It eventually resulted in me drinking too much over too  many nights on a trip to Portland, where I spilled my feelings out to my companions. At that point, I had to truly admit that I had a big, fat crush on you. I couldn’t even begin to deny it anymore, not when other people had heard the truth from drunk-me firsthand.

That was last July. After I returned from the PNW, things continued on in the same fashion. Grad school resumed without you in it, but spending time together remained a common occurrence, with or without other friends. Summer faded into fall, and eventually October rolled around.

On Halloween night, everything changed.

An Unconventional Love Story: Part One

I never thought I’d actually call you mine.

At this time last year, I was daydreaming about a future in which you and I were together. But, I never really saw much hope in it. You were always so adamant that we were to remain just friends. You grumbled every time we were at dinner together and the waiter brought one check instead of two. You gave a compelling talk about platonic male/female friendships when that small-town shopkeeper assumed we were dating. And I agreed with you, all the while wishing that you’d change your mind and the impossible would come true.

Of course, it all started much earlier than that.

When I first met you, two Augusts ago, you were already a year into the program and altogether intimidating. But, I soon learned that you were more than big words and obscure references. You were intelligent, tall, male, and more-or-less in my league; developing a crush on you was inevitable. Then, November rolled around. Or was it October? I can hardly recall anymore. We were all together for dinner that first semester, and you walked in with her. I had never seen two people look more miserable together. If that was a relationship, I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

The months rushed together and faded away. Winter started melting into spring, and suddenly it was St. Patrick’s Day. I was at a bar with two of our mutual friends, and you came up in the conversation. We started talking about how much happier you had seemed lately, and how you had been joining us more often for extracurricular activities. You had even gone with us to a bar after class one day to celebrate my birthday.

That’s when one of them broke the news…your relationship was over.

I hated myself for the satisfaction I felt hearing that news. I hated myself even more for the glimmer of hope that sparked inside of me when one of them mentioned how she hoped you found a nice, smart girl that would make you happy. In that moment, I knew I wanted that girl to be me. But I never thought with any seriousness that it would actually happen.

Fast-forward to the end of April. It was the department graduation dinner (yours, not mine). That was the night everything changed, although neither of us could’ve realized that at the time.

I don’t really remember how the conversation began. I wish I did. What I do remember is you telling me that I looked nice in my dress as we went to the break-room to get ice. I remember all of us squished into one office, putting that ice to good use as you passed around a fifth of Jack Daniels. I remember how upset you were about the way some of the group had treated you that night, and in general, and that you were graduating with no concrete plans for the future. And, I remember walking alongside you as we crossed campus. I remember us somehow talking about our similar childhoods, and then we were engrossed in conversation for the rest of the event.

After the dinner was over, I offered to drive you and one of our friends to the bar where we were all going next. You two sang duets at the top of your lungs, while I struggled to maintain a straight face. We all had a good laugh at the bar, then I drove us back to campus. Everyone was gone, except for you and me.

You were far too drunk to drive home, and you said you would just sleep in your car. I offered to drive you home , and we settled on me sitting with you until you sobered up instead. We went up to your office where we watched funny videos, looked at books, and talked and talked and talked. As you started to sober up, we went back out to the car, where we talked and talked some more, spilling our life stories. When you were finally able to drive, and I pulled away from campus, I thought I would probably never see you again.

I was wrong.

To be continued… 

Future Hearts

With everything that has gone on in the past week, I find myself imagining several possible futures:

Scenario 1: I apply to all of my PhD programs and get into two or three of them. After campus visits and plenty of pros and cons lists, I finally decide on one. My boyfriend finds a job in the same city and moves there after me. I graduate, get my dream job, and get married. We live happily ever after. Obviously the ideal scenario.

Scenario 2: I apply to PhD programs and only get into one. It is the one furthest away from home. My boyfriend and I break up amicably and remain friends, because five years is a really long time to do long-distance. I graduate and get my dream job, but I’m always left wondering “what if.”

Scenario 3:  I don’t get into any of the programs I applied to (or I don’t even apply to them). My boyfriend and I both get hired full-time (with benefits) at the same university. I decide that I’m perfectly content with this life for the foreseeable future. We get married and start a family. It isn’t the life I had envisioned for myself, but it’s a good life.

Scenario 4: I don’t get into any of the programs I applied to (or I don’t even apply to them). A full-time job never comes up. Nothing changes. I spend the next year doing what I’m doing now, feeling like I’m still waiting for my future to start.

Scenario 5: I don’t apply to programs because I don’t want to leave my boyfriend. Three months later, we break up. I have to wait another year to try again. In the meantime, I work the same job I have now, feeling yet again like I’m waiting for my life to start.

Why are there so many variables? How do I know what the right path is, or what the future holds? How will I ever make these decisions?

Only time will tell.