“I think I’m in love with someone else.”
“Wait…” I said as I pulled away from our kiss. “What?”
He was crying. Big, fat crocodile tears streaming down his face.
“I’m in love with someone else. I shouldn’t be. She’s all wrong for me. But I am,” he croaked.
We’d been sitting shoulder to shoulder on his couch. At those words, I immediately scooted away from him.
“Oh!” was my eloquent response. “Oh.”
“I’m sorry,” he kept repeating.
“Nope, nope. No need to apologize. Thanks for telling me,” I stuttered, shell-shocked. And I kept scooting away, inch by inch. The distance between us continued to broaden.
Shit damn, it hurts to get turned down.
He wanted to tell me about her, how wonderful she is.
“Nope, nope, I don’t need to know,” I remarked, all the while moving away from him.
But he kept talking.
“I shouldn’t love her. She doesn’t know I love her.”
By this time, we were on opposite sides of the couch.
It’s kind of a gift, though, being slapped in the face with rejection. It incenses you and wakes you up.
“Well then you should fucking tell her,” was the first full statement I could muster. (I have a way with words.)
At least with rejection, there isn’t the back and forth wondering and waiting that comes with hope.
“…what?” was his dumbfounded response.
“Tell her you love her,” I said. “Pick up the phone. Call her. Tell her how you feel. You won’t get anywhere just thinking it and telling me while you cry.”
Most of the conversation we had that night was sheer adrenaline on my part. I sound so strong and self-assured when I relay the events of that evening. But trust me, I wasn’t.
I got into my car and lost my shit.
It was my turn to cry big, fat crocodile tears.
I didn’t know him long enough or let him in enough to be completely distraught over this rejection. I’m pretty great at keeping dudes at a distance. I’ve learned my lesson over the past four years.
This guy, though, this was a rare one I was willing to open up to. I remember texting a friend during our first date saying, “Oh shit, I actually like him.”
We met at a beer bar and talked for six hours straight. His voice was like honey. (I have a thing for voices.) He was smart as hell and so mature. He knew what he wanted in life. He was interested in my goals. We just really clicked, you know?
He called me Paiger. And I let him.
At one point, he told me, “Thank you for being you.” I melted.
We went to a music festival together and had such a kickass time. We’d look at some absurdity happening around us and lock eyes and immediately crumple into laughter because we had the exact same thought. At one point he grabbed my hand and I liked it. I actually enjoyed holding hands with him. (I believe there are few gestures more intimate than handholding.)
There was some unnecessary back-and-forth text messaging later that night. Him trying to clean up the mess he made, so things could be comfortable between us again.
“I don’t want to be the placeholder for someone else,” was the last text I sent him and damn. That felt so good and grown up.
But then I got into the shower and sobbed. I sobbed not for the loss of him, but for what that loss meant.
Being grown up is great and all. But it’s also unspeakably painful, in an entirely different way than being young and naïve is.
Being grown up can be so lonely.
I’m finally adult enough to know what I want and how to express it.
I know when to say no, no thank you, this isn’t OK.
Knowing more about yourself means turning down so many situations. It means being alone a lot.
I’ll take being alone, though, over faking it with someone.
I never, ever want to be a placeholder.
I want the real thing. And I want to be the real thing for someone else.
I’m willing to wait. I’m good at waiting.