Oh, God. The phone just went off again. Another text, and Carey didn’t even need to open it to know what it said. Well, at least the gist of what it said. “Wasn’t dealing with men supposed to be easier by now?” Hell, they were in their thirties for fuck’s sake. It WAS supposed to be easier, much easier! However, it wasn’t. If anything, it was more difficult now than ever. The complexities and fickleness of high school romance seemed to be a vacation compared to right now, compared to the past couple of years really.
She was supposed to be living on Easy Street by now, not figuring out how to handle this shit. Stupid Rob, she wouldn’t even be here if he could have kept his dick in his pants when she went to work. Or at least kept his fists to himself when she asked who Cindy was and why her tits were the only image he felt necessary to save to his phone. So here she was, living in a two bedroom apartment with hand-me-down furniture staring at the screen of her iPhone trying to avoid eye contact with the text icon.
“I could just pretend I’m asleep…” The very thought of it had a soft comfort to it, like a warm and cozy bed on a frigid winter’s morning. Unfortunately that pleasant feeling was almost immediately displaced by the cold anxiety of reality. “Dammit, no. If I do that, he’ll freak out and probably come over to make sure I’m ok!” He probably would, he had before. “I gotta buy some time…” Yeah, something like taking a shower, or maybe cooking a late night snack, that could work… except that meant opening the message to reply. The message she really didn’t want to read,
Fucking Facebook, fucking class reunion, fucking divorce. Jim probably would still be just a face in her dusty old yearbook if not for the modern “conveniences” of technology, or the now apparent mistake of relying perhaps a little too heavily on a dear old friend. Still, he’d always found a way to be there when they were younger. The nights he snuck over in Junior High to watch cheesy horror flicks when she couldn’t sleep. He’d been the rock when her world was destroyed at 17 by her mother’s sudden fatal heart attack. “Come to think of it, he’d really never cared much for Rob, had he?” The pretty faced bad boy that swept her off of her feet senior year with his mesmerizing charm and vintage Camaro. No, Jim was very vocal with his concern and disapproval. “Perhaps it was more than concern that fueled his protests…” She shuddered at that thought.
No, just no. They went to kindergarten together, played on the same damn t-ball team. He wasn’t her best friend, he was her fucking BROTHER. It was that simple, so why did he seem to have such a hard time grasping that concept now? He’d never made an advance when they were younger. Sure, he’d flirt a bit every now and again, but it was just harmless silliness that they could laugh and giggle at like his stupid fart jokes. “Or was it?” She shuddered again as the realization slowly crept over her.
“He never made a move at anybody, he’d just be himself and wait to see if they’d come to him..” Ah, yes. The perfect way to avoid rejection. Of course he was cute and funny enough to attract a few girls that way, but it never seemed to work out for him long-term. Especially with that slut that he married. “Well fuck her too.” She’d played a hand in this mess, hadn’t she? If Jim could have manned up to get a real woman, or at least kept better tabs on the thing he wound up with, they wouldn’t have had much to talk about at the reunion last year. Hmmm… of course that probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. No probably not. Things with Rob were so shitty by then that she NEEDED Jim and his solid rock of friendship back in her life.
Just like the good old days, there he was. Always willing to listen, or offer advice. Or just be there. It really helped too. Life with her husband had left her devoid of any friends and having no one to trust. Of course the conversations were rather tame and clandestine at first, but took an odd twist after she had Rob arrested the evening of the infamous sexting argument. “Got even worse when he grew a pair and kicked Jill out a month later…” Sure he’d started off upset and hurt, but it didn’t take too long for the texting to reach a fever pitch. Then the fucking feelings. Then the reminiscing of their adventures growing up.
That’s when it started to get uncomfortable. She was getting literally 200 messages a day from him. Just saying hi, or seeing how her day was going. “Or to tell me how amazing I am, any guy would be lucky to be with me, or how beautiful I am.” Then the flowers sent to her at work, and the time he met her out front of her apartment with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket. Sure, it was a nice confidence boost at first, but it started to seem like he was expecting a certain reaction from her. Something she just couldn’t do…
Another message. Wait, no. Two more, and three, and four… “What the fuck, dude? Are you writing a novel?” she cried aloud, startling the cat. “What the hell am I going to do?” Of course she had no interest in romantic activities with him, but he was still her friend! And a damn good one too! She’d tried ignoring the not so subtle hints, no dice. She’d even turned the other cheek when he got drunk and called to tell her how crazy he was about her, only to apologize profusely the next day. She’d resisted the urge to call him out on his passive aggressive Facebook rants that never named a specific person, even though they were clearly aimed at her. As frustrating as it was, she didn’t want to lose him, but he seemed to be stuck on an all-or-nothing path. Either they date, or he was going to withdraw completely.
“Talk about unfair.” It really was. How could someone so smart, be so fucking clueless? Why couldn’t he understand that she just couldn’t see him that way? She’d seriously given it thought, and it just couldn’t happen. She didn’t want to jeopardize the decades of friendship, and she just couldn’t see him as anything more than a big brother. “Well, I better see what the messages say so I can start figuring out what to say. I really don’t want a knock on my door at 2am.” With trembling hand, she reached for the phone. Trembling? Yes trembling. Ok, this was getting out of hand. She actually felt a twinge of resentment as she touched the little text envelope.
She hesitated. The conversation had been building all night. He’d sent the usual “Can’t sleep, can U?” around ten, and she had responded feeling obligated in some strange way. Naturally, next were the generic how was your day dialogue, followed by the predictable waxing poetic about how awesome she was and what a great job she was doing as a single mom working full time. The constant compliments had actually numbed her in a way, she’d heard it all so much it had no meaning now. Tonight, however, she could just sense that something was different. Then he’d texted, “Can I tell you something important?” She’d froze, and now it was twenty minutes later. “Here goes…” she whispered to the cat.
Jim: Can I tell you something important? 10:43pm
Jim: I love you. I always have ❤ 10:47pm
Jim: I know it’s out of left field, but I just had to say something. Especially after you said yesterday that people should always say what they feel instead of hiding it. I should have said something when we were younger so we could have avoided all of the mess that we have now. I just figured you’d notice me and we’d go from there. But now, we have the rare second chance to make life what it’s supposed to be. We can do it right! Nobody knows you better than me, and you know I can treat you better than anyone else ever could. I’ll worship you like the goddess you are and make you happy forever! I wanna be your knight in shining armor. I wanna be your fairy tale ending and happily ever after. I know you feel the same way, and we can definitely relate having been through the same hell, you’ve just been waiting for me to realize that I needed to speak up. Well, I’m speaking up, because girls like you only come once in a lifetime. So are you ready to start building our happy new life together? 10:59pm
“Fuck, fuck FUCK.” Well, she was right. Too bad there was no solace in that. “Not too late to pretend you’re asleep…” Once again the warm calm of putting it off until morning washed over her. Then another text. “Dammit.”
Jim: U got quiet… u ok? I can be there in a flash if you need anything, love. 11:04pm
Nope, this was going to have to be dealt with tonight. “But how?” God, it had been easier to file for divorce and admit she’d wasted ten years of her life. She pondered for a minute, scratched the cat behind her soft furry ears and took a deep breath.
Me: *Sigh* not quite sure what to say to all of that. Actually, yes I am. I have noticed, so this hasn’t come as a surprise. Before I go any further, I want you to know that I treasure our childhood together and really appreciate the great friend you’ve been to me since we reconnected. With that said, I’m sorry, but I just can’t see you that way. You’re like my brother. Don’t go blaming yourself for not speaking up when we were younger, I’d have said no then too. You’re a great guy, really, but just not for me to date. I love you like family, and hope we can still be friends, but I just can’t be anymore than that. I hope you understand…
She read what she had typed over and over for five minutes. That pretty much summed it up. She had to say it. Sure, it was probably going to get ugly, but she realized she owed him the truth. Because she HAD said that people should always be open with their feelings. Yeah, she’d said that under the context of him needing to tell his ex she needed to start taking better care of his children, but if the shoe fits… “So unfair” She knew this was probably the last contact they’d have, but maybe he should have picked up a hint. “I guess it’s really no fair for anyone.” With that, there was only one thing left to do…