Once upon a time, a long time ago, I found a boy attractive.
It hadn’t even been a year after my ex called off the wedding, and I didn’t know how to handle the situation in any way other than what one may classify as juvenile. Daily interactions that might have been classified as flirting were written in panicked email chains to a handful of girl friends across the country.
Our employers had us working in close proximity for several months before I ever realized that I found this boy attractive. Of course, I knew he looked pretty [as a matter of fact he slightly resembles one of my celebrity crushes, Seth Meyers] but early on in our knowing one another I found him almost repulsive. Arrogant beyond fault, it was impossible to leave a conversation with him not feeling excessively awkward. I found myself avoiding him as often as possible until one day I simply started to see him differently.
I’m not sure what it was, exactly, that told me to stop being so damn judgmental and give him the respect he deserved by simply being human, but slowly I opened my mind to him, and not long after that I found myself crushing. Probably because he was wearing a sweater, and let’s face it, I have a weakness for a boy in a sweater.
Over the course of the next months, I remember our gravitating toward one another every couple of days. Games of tic-tac-toe on a white board, aiding one another in projects, and general conversations that young people share were memories written in those months. When March Madness approached and a mutual love for the season discovered, the unspeakable happened – he asked me to drinks an upcoming Friday night.
A trip to a bar to enjoy the city, and the tournament, and meet up with some of his friends. I didn’t know what kind of arrangement this was from the beginning and many, many questions formed within seconds. Was this a “friends” bar trip, or dare I say a date? Should I be inviting other friends? Why was this happening? How did I feel about it? These were butterflies I was experiencing, correct? But was this fluttering warranted? Were there intentions that needed to be laid out? Is this what it feels like? And what the hell was I going to wear to this “”maybe date?” Of course, all these questions were then asked several times of these several girl friends across the country, too.
When the calendar rolled to the evening of drinks, it just so happened that he was laid off that very same day. He was a temp, and said he saw it coming – but truthfully, it still sucked. Labeled as a victim of the poor economy in what seamed like an instant, when I heard the news I felt my heart break a little for this man who had, before becoming my crush, became my friend.
I didn’t know what would happen in terms of our plans. If I didn’t know how to hold a normal adult conversation with a guy I found more and more attractive with each conversation we had, you can bet good money on the fact that I had no idea how to handle the situation as it now stood. Should I give him time and space? Offer comfort and encouragement? Inquire if I can help in anyway? Assume we would cancel? I was clueless. And I couldn’t help but feeling incredibly selfish and insensitive for even caring about our plans and myself in any way when my friend was going through this experience.
Several hours later, we did go for drinks.
We attended a sports bar I’d never visited before.
Split a pitcher of Coors Light.
Thanks to the calendar proximity to St. Patrick’s day, we were treated to free drinks by the “Jameson girls.”
I bought a round for us – a Miller Lite bottle for him and a vodka cranberry for me – which, in my expected over-analyzing hindsight, may have given the impression that I was a bit more high-maintenance than necessary; not that I needed to be concerned with that in any way, shape, or form.
We met his friend and his friend’s girlfriend, who I instantly adored.
We later stayed at their apartment, after drinking more than expected, and drove home together in the morning, after sleeping for four hours in separate rooms.
At the bar we had great conversation. He surprised me by saying he wasn’t popular in high school because he didn’t wear the brands that I remembered coveting myself as a teenager. This understanding of his unexpected high school status gave me the implication that we were suddenly similar in an area that didn’t matter to anyone anymore. We were older now, and yet I felt like knowing this bit of inside to his past lent me some sort of clarity.
He called me out being the kind of girl with big, loopy, overly-spaced-out handwriting in middle school. And although I denied it, I knew he was right.
He told me about Grad school and the people that he worked with there, and shared his concerns regarding no longer having a job.
I shared with him my own history, of a season of employment I once lost for reasons some people may call unfair and unnecessary, but truthfully just lead me down a path of growth that I hold dear to my heart. And again, we were relative to one another. I understood him. and he understood me. I didn’t expect this from the evening. I didn’t expect understanding.
I’m not sure if it was a date.
He picked me up, but it was more out of convenience, perhaps.
He bought a pitcher, but if I was with old guy friends from high school, they would have done the same. So would have other guys I’d known for shorter periods of time and considered “just friends.”
He ordered my free drink, right along with his. He took the lead. “We’ll have two Jameson and gingers,” with that sweet smile and slightly awkward nod that may have been the key to my walking the path from “acquaintance” to “crush” in the first place.
And he asked me if I wanted another drink soon after.
Often times I felt like we were on a date, but at the same time, knew I would be acting similarly with many of my guy friends from past seasons of my life.
How we stood, how he seemed concerned with my well being, how we joked with one another. with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend.
When we arrived at their apartment much later, he offered me water. He tried to get me to eat a cracker. He gave me the guest bed. He made sure I was okay.
The next morning he drove me home. And the conversation was wonderful. [Though the headache was not.] And I said “Don’t be a stranger.” and he said “I hope you had fun, Heather. I sure did.”
And then it was over.
And now I don’t see him several times a week.
And I still don’t know, yet nor do I care, if it was a date.
What it was is easy.
Memorable, and a little bit empowering in a way I don’t quite know how to describe.
And that’s all more than enough for me. For now.