I think I might have loved you.
I’ve shared this information with two other people since I realized it, and both times it was met with an understandably long pause. But I’ll explain.
At dinner the other night, we were in the middle of a conversation when it was time to order food. “Oh, but what was I talking about?” I said before looking at the menu. “I don’t want to forget!”
“We’re several levels deep at this point,” you said, “but I remember where we were.”
Here is what we talked about at dinner:
- the rare occurrence of bands who play good music and also have clearly stated, often profound lyrics
- different types of gendered insults
- is everyone that seems dead on the inside actually dead on the inside or do they have a rich inner life?
- whether or not it can be assumed that everyone has at least some semblance of a rich inner life
- if everyone has a rich inner life, are weird people weird because they keep their inner lives a bit closer to the outside than other people?
- do non-weird people feel like weird people are braver and more honest than they are, or stupider?
- what combination of thoughts and actions make a person weird
- how the quality of one’s thoughts is affected by the presence or absence of music and/or different types of music
- if a person is going to deliberately spend a quantity of time alone inside their own head, should they have an agenda or goal or a decision to make, or should they just step back and let their thoughts get weird and dark?
This is representative of every conversation we’ve ever had, including the one we had on our very first OkCupid date. Are your conversations with most other people like this? Mine aren’t. I barely need two hands to count the number of people I can talk to like that. I know you’re on OkCupid for the same reasons I am: maybe or maybe not to date, but definitely to go out, meet people and have someone to talk to. But I’d be surprised if your other OkCupid dates go like ours did.
I’ve said before that talking is how I feel close to people, which is true. But the kind of talking we did–the several levels deep, the philosophical, the rambling, weird and dark–is how I fall for people.
I fall sort of easily these days. You’re not the only guy I’ve cried over this year. There was Trey, the guy I met in July who was the first guy from OkCupid I actually liked. We talked for hours on our first date, texted nearly nonstop for an entire week (though we switched to email when we had too much to say), and then when we went out for a second time he said, “I’m not really feeling a connection here, so I’m gonna go,” and he got out of my car, slammed the door and was gone. There was the friend I briefly developed feelings for at the beginning of the year, which I think was just a way to avoid dealing with the end of my six-year relationship and my impending move to St. Louis.
But this wasn’t like that. Well, okay, it was a little like that. I am, as I said, thinking about you in part to avoid thinking about some of the larger issues I’m facing. But it doesn’t make my feelings for you any less real. It can be true that I used you as a distraction at the same time it can be true that I might have loved you. Both things can be true.
At the bar after dinner (we always go to the bar after dinner), we talked about traveling alone. Is it over-romanticized? Is it bad for us during the travel itself but good for us afterward? Does traveling with another person change or limit the way we look at the things we do and see? You told me about a trip you took to Ireland two months ago. Before you left, you thought you would make the trip be a good thing for you; you’d do some thinking and writing and some standing there pensively observing various majestic vistas and Learning Things About Yourself.
But you didn’t do that. You moped around Ireland and got drunk in bars. You were, as you said, the same person you were in St. Louis. You were just somewhere else.
I had finished my cider, you’d finished your beer. I’d had two drinks at dinner and was already sort of tipsy, so I didn’t want to drink anymore, and we couldn’t just sit there. There was nothing else for me to do.
“So, um. I can’t hang out with you anymore, at least not for awhile,” I said. “Do you know why?”
“No,” you said, giving me a blank look. And then I told you why.
I couldn’t look at you. You are so good at eye contact. You are always looking at me when I talk. You look at me when you talk. Sometimes you even look at me when neither of us is saying anything. I haven’t felt so seen by another person in a long time.
But this time I couldn’t meet your eyes. We were sitting in the exact same chairs I’d sat in with a bad OkCupid date from July, a guy who never asked me any questions about myself, took a sip of my drink without asking, and then invited me back to his place. How long ago it felt.
I leaned toward you, elbows on my knees, chin in hand, eyes on the dusty floor next to your chair, and told you that I was falling for you, and it hurt too much to be around you anymore. I told you that I was sorry, that I’d tried so hard to be your friend, that I really wanted to be your friend, but it was hurting my pride and my self-esteem and my heart to continue. I told you that I’d considered just cutting off all contact with you, but that I was too honest, we were too honest, for me to do that. You deserved to know the truth.
A small part of me thought that you’d tell me you were falling for me too. A smaller part thought you’d say you were falling for me too but that didn’t change the fact that you couldn’t date anyone right now. But no part of me knew you would tell me that when you came back from Ireland two months ago, your girlfriend of two years had cut off all contact with you. Her name was Allison.
I didn’t know what to say to that. There wasn’t anything to say, really. We got up and left the bar and got in your car.
You told me you were impressed that I’d been straight with you, and impressed that I’d spent an entire evening with you knowing that I was going to have to say what I’d said.
“I really like hanging out with you,” I said. “Maybe it was selfish of me to do that.”
“I like hanging out with you, too,” he said. “It’s sad because I really thought we had a connection.”
“We do,” I said. “And that’s the problem.” I was starting to cry, and I think you did too. “If some time goes by and I decide I’m okay hanging out with you again, would you welcome hearing from me?”
“Absolutely,” you said.
You pulled up in front of my house. “I’m sorry again,” I said.
“Don’t apologize. You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” You got out of the car and hugged me, and I turned and ran into my house before you could see me starting to sob.
We do have a connection. We’re both kind of fucked up and lonely in the same way right now. But the idea of two fucked-up people comforting and healing each other is a fiction.
When I was arrested for my DWI, my boyfriend Andy who was in the car with me was also arrested for public intoxication. My arresting officer asked me what prescription medications I took on a regular basis, and when I told him, he said, “You and your boyfriend have no business drinking, given all the meds you both take!” I was taking my usual anti-depressants and he was taking Lithium, an anti-anxiety medication and Provigil.
A year or so later, Andy and I had broken up but were in that terrible purgatory of still acting like we were a couple. We were drunk (again) at my apartment one night and got in a huge fight, and he went to sleep on the couch. “You’re sick!” he said to me as I went into the bedroom. “Something’s wrong with you and you need HELP!”
After we finally broke up for the last time, he went off his medication, got kicked out of his band and fathered a child with his South Dakota ex-girlfriend. He called me once, five years after we’d broken up, and I barely understood a word he said. We had been two broken people who came together and made each other so much worse because of it.
Andy wasn’t incorrect about me, though. Something is wrong with me, Brian. When Trey (a person I had only met twice) got out of my car and slammed the door, I was really upset. I felt like he was the only person who was ever going to want me, and now suddenly he didn’t. I had started driving home but I had to pull the car over because I was crying. We’d been at a street festival where I’d bought a book that Trey had said was his favorite, and when I started the car again, I threw the book out the window into the street.
Why do I feel like whichever person I’m into at any given time is the only one for me? Whenever someone rejects me, my brain tells me that TREY WAS THE ONLY ONE FOR YOU BUT YOU ARE UNLOVABLE AND NOW I’LL YOU’LL BE ALONE FOREVER. It says, THERE IS NO ONE ELSE LIKE TREY IN THE UNIVERSE. HE WAS THE PERFECT ONE AND NOW HE IS GONE.
I know this isn’t true. It can’t be true, because now my brain is telling me the exact same things with your name in place of his. But it’s worse this time, because all the time I spent talking with Trey I was at home, staring at my phone, reading what he texted me and then typing back. And then he ditched me, coldly, unceremoniously, in a manner that didn’t match with the amount of time we’d spent talking or the very personal things we’d told each other.
All the time I spent with you was in person, walking with you or sitting across from you at a table. Hearing you laugh. Watching your expressions change as I talked and you listened. Seeing how your face scrunched up a little as you searched for the perfect word to use to describe something.
And when I told you I couldn’t be your friend anymore, you weren’t cold. You weren’t rude. You let me feel my feelings and say what I had to say without making any of it about you. You teared up a bit, but didn’t expect me to console you. You gave me no reason to hate you, or to be even a little angry with you.
The fact that I didn’t know you that well, the fact that two broken people aren’t good for each other, the fact that you aren’t the only person in the universe, the fact that I did the right thing and now I can free myself up to heal and move on and then maybe find someone who truly sees my value–none of these facts are any consolation, and none of them are ridding me of the thought that really, I might have loved you.
Can all those things be true at the same time?