Love is a Dog From Hell... Loving the One that Got Away
Unrequited love for a former flame and best friend
I think at one time or another we have all fallen upon the sword of unrequited love. To feel the anquish and dispair of loving someone in your life... a best friend... for whom does not feel the same for you. Like a "dog from hell" (as Charles Bukowski coined the phrase)... love waits for the kill... tears you apart and feasts on your vulnerabilities and fears.
The unfortunate downside of telling your friend that you have more than platonic feelings for them... taking that courageous step... is the good chance that they do not return your sentiments. That you open yourself up to that vain desire for a love that transcends out of the shared bond that you have cultivated over the years.
I was a young and nieve 19 when I first met Mr. Big (let's borrow the Sex and the City name as it is most fitting). I was 3 sheets to the wind at a University campus bar and was free-spiriting my way through the first 1/2 of my freshman year. That's when I saw him across the bar. Necktie dangled, dress-shirt sleeves rolled playing a game of billiards with a group of male comrads. Even then there was something so alluring about him... it actually annoyed me while I watched. He had such charisma for a young, freshfaced pseudo-intellectual man. His friends hung on his every word... and laughed at every joke. As a vivacious and very confident woman I strolled over to the pool table... leaned into his ear as he made a shot... and told him he would miss. He would never make the shot. Looking at me with such an intense smile... he responded "I never miss." He sunk the eight ball and offered me a drink. We spent the rest of the night chatting. Soon after I found out he was a very fresh-faced 27 year old assistant professor who was also pursuing his MBA. I was mortified as apparently I had called-him-out in front of his students. We exchanged pleasantries... for about an hour and he offered to walk me to my dorm. We strolled across campus and he took my hand... spun me around and kissed me in the calm of the eve with snow flakes dancing. It was a beautiful kiss. One that belongs in a box somewhere to show my children one day. We strolled into my dorm room... and I invited him up. Upon entering he told me that he couldn't stay... that he wanted to take me on a date before he would pursue physical intimacy... and that he wanted the opportunity to know me better. A true gentleman. He took off my shoes... kissed me one last time... and wrote down my number after letting me settle in my bed for the nite. I was dumbfounded. I had thrown myself at this guy and he had walked? WTF!!! True-to-form we dated bi-weekly for the next 5 or 6 months. We went out on dates, hung out at his apartment, went to movies, dinner, etc. I can say in hindsight he was a gentleman of the highest calibre. Given our age difference he was well aware of my need to take things slow and never once faltered. About a month before finals he opened up to me and told me that after he graduated that he would be sailing the Meditteranean for the summer and would be teaching the next year at a University in China before pursuing his Investment Banking gig. I was so happy for him... but knew that meant our "friendship" was coming to a close.
A little caveat about Mr. Big. True to his namesake he has huge commitment and intimacy issues. Major ones. No over-nights. No intimate conversations about "liking" or "loving" and no formal commitments of any kind. So as a freshman... once I found out the news he was leaving... I did what all newbies do... drink yourself silly. One night at 2 am in a major drunker stouper I called him ...left a message and told him I was in love with him. The next morning I realized what I had done and was devastated as I knew he would never ever want to talk to me again given his personal boundaries. However, that morning he called me... asked me if I felt well enough to go out that evening given that I would most-likely have a hangover. He skirted what I had said. A few hours later he showed up at my dorm... with echanacia, Tylenol and chicken soup in hand... that was the moment. When I truly fell for him. I was in. Head over heels... crazy love. We made plans to hang out... and that last night we were intimate... he asked me to stay the entire night... and he held me until morning. It was beautiful. A memory I will cherish always.
... I never heard from him again.
Flashforward 7 years. I had completed grad school, law school and business school and was a very accomplished professional. As a happily married woman (or so my illusion was at the time) Mr. Big and I crossed paths on a social networking site. I have to say I was always curious about him over the years. What he was doing. If he ever thought of me. If he was happy. It turns out he did remember me and told me over our first email exchange that I was a woman that only a "fool" would forget. He remembered everything. Every detail about me... even the little things that I had forgotten over the years... and he was as equally charmed by recollection of him as well. Apparently his irresistable charm was pervasive :) For a solid two years we conversed platonically. He now lived on the other side of the country... was a successful investment banker living the non-commital single life. He and I would converse monthly updating each other about major events in our lives, our careers. Truth-be-told I was so happy to reconnect with him. As much as I enjoyed our physical connection with Mr. Big it was always the friendship that I missed losing the most. He and I converse on the surface... but the subtext to those convos were always what spoke volumes. He understood me in a way that no one really ever has... and I think that I him as well.
Over the course of the last year or so I was going through a difficult time in my personal life as my former husband and I had separated. It was the classic case of meeting someone at 19 and growing up and growing apart. Issues surfaced over the course of that year that brought into reality that I was living an illusion about his commitment to me... infidelity, drug addiction, $ missing, never able to hold a job...etc. We parted ways as friends... but I was devastated none-the-less. I think in hindsight I always knew that my husband and I would never be together. My parents never walked me down the aisle (my father refused)... and I could never picture myself having children and a real future with him. Change is hard... and as a person loyal to a fault... I mistook his co-dependancy for real love.
Around X-mas time Mr. Big was in my city and asked if we could meet up for drinks and to "hang out". We made initial plans to meet up at a night club and to catch-up. I went and when I saw him across the room... my heart lept into my throat and all those emotions... feelings overwhelmed me so much that I had to leave the bar. I was shaking uncontrollably. Why was I having a panic attack? Why? I called him and told him I couldn't make it... he was noticably upset... and tried (albeit flirtatiously) to lure me out for the night. I knew I couldn't. The next morning he asked me out for brunch with he and his brother and I obliged. It was a wonderful time. His brother asked a zillion questions... and Mr. Big was very polite. When he saw me for the first time... he had the same look on his face that I did when I saw him the night before. Nervousness... pain... emotion... shock. Neither of us had changed (curse of the baby faces I guess). We talked about work and our family lives... and he even commented on the chemistry (platonic) between his brother and I. That was when it hit me. This self-professed and legendary playboy had introduced me to family. Holy crap!
About two months had passed before I got the nerve to confront the "feelings" and to have "the talk" with him about them. I admit ... the timing was off... he had a g/f and I had recently separated... not to mention we lived on opposite sides of the country. But I admitted to him that I had feelings beyond the platonic for him. That he mattered... always had and that he was the one man in my life that changed everything. I identified how he had hurt me deeply years ago when he had disappeared without a word. He took it all in... and 3 days later he responded. Apologizing for his late response... and that it wasn't indicative of his non-interest. That he needed time to think his answer over. He was very sweet. Saying that yes "he did like me" but given the circumstances (g/f and distance) that he wasn't in a position to reciprocate my sentiments. I was crushed. Had I read it all wrong? Was I insane for feeling anything and to think that this playboy would even consider a relationship with a REAL woman? (He is a legendary modelizer). He closed his letter by saying that he doesn't think it would be fair to put me in any position to be hurt and that he didn't think it was wise to interfere in my relationships or my chance at pursuing one with someone. Ouch!!!!!!!! He signed off aptly by saying "love is a dog from hell." Love? Who said anything about love? Does he think I am in love? Or is he in love? Now I was confused.
I was also crushed. I tried for the next 2 or 3 months to be platonic. I couldn't. It was a cruel joke. To like someone deeply and see that it was just forced by him... that pity, that sense of obligation was horrible. So I took the high road and ended our friendship permanently. I mean wasn't I being selfish here? Wasn't I keeping him in my life so that I had a connection to him? If I were his girlfriend and another woman admitted being in serious like with my boyfriend how thrilled would I be? So, I mustered my courage again ... realizing that Mr. Big doesn't do relationships well ... and this one must matter or he wouldn't be trying so hard. I accepted that he was in love and I bowed out with the last shreds of dignity I could muster. Truthfully, I found happiness in knowing that he had found it... if not with me... than with someone. He ran from love for so many years ... and I didn't want to be his excuse for never feeling that beautiful gift. I told him as such.
3 months ago... I broke down and emailed him. I had had a disturbing dream about him that night... he was sitting in a bar alone and crying. By this point I felt like I had taken enough time to move past all of the issues and ego bruises to actually hold-my-own in a renewed friendship. He emailed me back within minutes... and had said that he had some major life changes he wanted to disclose to me... that only I and family knew of. He had broken up with his girlfriend... was moving close to my city... and that he wanted to catchup. What!?! He needed time to come to terms with the emotional bomb I let go on him months prior the size of Hiroshima... and he wanted to start over in a new place. We spent the next three months conversing weekly. I'll admit... from my vantage point he is trying to tell me something about how he feels and his issues as they relate to commitment. He even attended a wedding (solo) which is something he would have never done previously. He even sent me a postcard from one of his stops on his cross-country move road trip. It was so very sweet and so very special. A token of apology to me for never writing when he disappeared the first time out of my life. This time he said... "I am almost home and we will catch up soon."
We have made plans for this weekend to go out. He re-arranged his work/family travel schedule so as to accomodate an entire day with me. He was very deliberate in his tone... "this means I am taking you out." Which indicates a romantic interest... a very serious inflection upon the fact this isn't a platonic outing.
Although we have a journey ahead of us... as either friends or romantically involved... I am optimistic that whatever the outcome the past 12 years that we have shared have paved the road for truth and honesty. He is aware of where I stand... no sub-text... no illusions... and I know that he is at least offering to try and see where this goes. He has been the greatest of confidants ... and an even more understanding and sincere friend. A greater one than I ever deserve as of late. He was there for me when I needed someone the most... and for that... I will always love him.
I will keep the hub posted on the outcome of this weekend! I will be conversing with him this week "to formalize plans" for Saturday (his words not mine). Yay!!!!
Please send me your thoughts. Have you ever had one get away? Is there that old flame that you would give it all up for? Do they feel the same of you? How would you handle if they were flattered but could not reciprocate your sentiments?
Is it worth it all in the end? Is their happiness worth more than yours??