Seven is my lucky number, and I wouldn’t be me without pointing out my own flaws. Therefore, I will own #7. I was a bad date.
Digging back in the archives of my dating life, not all of them feature me as the recipient of a bad date. This story is told in the spirit of humility and if I were this guy, I’d had written me off permanently.
I had been friends with this guy for a long time, and though we had a little chemistry, I never acted on it because I was head over heels in love with someone else. The guy I was in love (I’ll call him Fred) made me feel like a fool. Fred and I had an intense relationship for about a year at this point, and everything Fred wanted or needed, I did my best to provide. If he had to work until 10pm, and he wanted to have dinner at 10:21pm, then you bet I’d be there with him. It became nearly impossible for me to have a social life or keep any schedule of my own. My schedule was about being on call for his every whim. Well, at least that’s how it had been. We had broken up (for the first time), and things were really not good in my life at that time. I was so sad that it hurt to breathe sometimes.
So, the guy friend (we’ll call him Stan) was awesome. He was there for a really dismal point in my life. During my fight with cancer, I became increasingly ill and couldn’t really take care of myself all the time. So, he’d invite me over to his place and I’d lay on his couch, puke in his bathroom, watch his TV, and sleep in his bed while he would dish out the drugs, clean up the puke, and make dinner. I knew he wanted more than friendship, and even though I was attracted him, I was definitely not ready to go that route. He deserved better than what I was giving him. I did value his friendship very much, but part of me knew I was using his generosity in a heartless fashion. He cared about me a lot. He was a sarcastic chain smoker who drank way too much, but I think he loved me, and he showed it (though he never said those words to me). I loved him too, as a friend – and he was one of my only real friends at that time, and I couldn’t afford to lose him, too.
One night, I was feeling pretty good, and was STARVING. I had lost a ton of weight, couldn’t hold food down very well at all, but once in a while, I felt good. I felt like I could eat a horse. Stan offered to take us to a seafood place near his house. I knew the place was expensive and knew that even though he made pretty decent money, I didn’t want him to spend that much on me. I asked to go to a much cheaper place, but he insisted that we needed to really celebrate feeling good that day. He was really happy that I wasn’t puking in his bathroom or sweating his sheets up – and I think he was really happy for me that I was feeling really good…almost “normal.”
He knew I was heartbroken with my situation with Fred, and Fred was the topic of every conversation. I am sure that Stan HATED hearing about Fred. Truth be told, I think Fred was equally uncomfortable with my friendship with Stan. They knew each other, and both of them were friendly enough. They used to be really good friends until I met them. I think it caused a little competition between the two and it caused feelings to be hurt between them. I didn’t like the friction, but I also couldn’t help loving them both in very different ways.
Anyway, I reluctantly agreed to go have dinner with Stan that night. We got dressed (nicely) to go out. We rarely dressed up for one another – I mean the guy had seen me with vomit in my hair wearing my over-sized sweatpants and sports bra around the house. But I have to admit, we cleaned up well. We got in his car, and off we went. Mentally, my thoughts were ALWAYS on two topics…Fred and how miserable I felt physically. Tonight was going to be different. I wanted to give Stan all my attention – it was the very least he deserved. I was going to honor him tonight and try to focus on my attention on HIM.
We got to the place, and Stan was really excited to be there with me. He did all the things he would do for a date (I know this because he didn’t do these things when we were together normally). It was kind of bittersweet in my mind. I knew that we had a good friendship – but it was the kind with a unspoken sexual tension that had never been acted upon. I don’t think he much respected Fred, but he did respect me a good deal more than he’d ever admit. But this date boardered on symbolizing a possible transition from friendship to something more – maybe even a romance starting. The timing was all off though, I don’t think either of us were really ready for such a leap. We were both carrying baggage, and both of us had always had an unspoken attraction to each other.
The menus arrived and we ordered our drinks. I looked into his eyes as he spoke and continually reminded myself to NOT discuss anything to do with Fred. I was going to make this about Stan regardless of how I felt.
My cell phone rang and broke the conversation. We both knew the ring tone. Oh I could feel the knots tighten in my stomach and the achy burn warmed my chest and face. Every fiber of my being wanted to answer it. I resisted. I knew that it made Stan’s night when I didn’t answer it, but I wasn’t feeling the same joy. I was twisting on the inside. A few minutes later, the same ring tone blarred from my purse. Again, I tried to ignore it. Stan was now beaming that I hadn’t answered it. He said, “I know it hurts, but you are doing the right thing. A man who could walk out on you when you are this sick is not the right guy.” It rang again. I killed the ringer. It was now vibrating. Oh for the love of all that his holy, why was he calling so frequently? He knew we were broken up, and he knew he made that decision.
Maybe he wanted to say sorry? Maybe he realized that we were destined to be together for the rest of our lives and he made an aggregious error. Maybe he was in a car wreck? What if someone was hurt? What if he was on his death bed and wanted to use his last breath to confess his mistake and tell him how much he loves me? It was KILLING me!
Stan knew exactly where my mind was. I think he’d been talking that whole time, but I never heard a word. I stared at him blankly and threw in an occassional “uh-huh” for good measure. Finally he said, “Just answer it.” “THANK YOU!” I exclaimed…and opened my purse to wait for the next ring.
“Hello?” Stan stared at me and hung on every word I said. “Now?” Stan’s expression became worrisome. “Where?” Stan’s face became angry. “Okay, in about 30 minutes.” I hung up and couldn’t hardly make eye contact with Stan. I knew I just knifed him right through his heart, and I felt horrible. Sadly, I didn’t feel horrible enough to change my decision. “That was him. He wants to meet and talk. Are you okay with that?” We both knew the answer to that, but he nodded. “Yes, I will just get it to go. I’ll see you back at my place? You can cry on my shoulder when you’re back and we’ll just heat it up in the microwave.” I was lower than snail poo, but I followed my heart.
I met Fred at a hole in the wall that he loved and frequented often. He wasn’t much of a drinker, but loved the foreign places. We talked. He told me everything I wanted to hear, but it brought little solice. The night ended with kissing, hugs, and an apology. A few hours later, I returned to Stan’s house. Stan opened the door to let me in. He said he was sleeping, but I knew better.
He put the food in the microwave and did his best to not even ask. We sat at the table, and I began crying uncontrollably. Stan said, “You guys work it out?” I muttered back, “Yes.” Stan said, “Are you happy?” I replied, “I think so.” Stan said, “I am happy that you are happy.” He did his best to revert back to the friendship role quickly and quietly – and acted as if what was taking place earlier that night had never happened – and we were back to our regular wise-cracking insulting selves. We both knew better.
Stan pulled the plates from the microwave and brought them to the table. There were 3 candles lit on top of the table, and the lights were dim. He served a lobster, shrimp scampi (which he hated but knew I loved), and stuffed flounder (which he also hated and I loved). He choked it down and grinned – telling me how good it was – as if I didn’t know what he liked and didn’t like after knowing him so well. I tried to eat, but ended up in the restroom shortly after the first few bites. I cried as I apologized repeatedly. He quietly put it all back in the white styrofoam containers and was putting it all into the trash. “You don’t have to apologize for being sick, I understand.”
The next day I went home not because I was feeling good, but because I couldn’t face him anymore. I was totally ashamed. Fred had costed me a lot back then, but he was like a bad addiction. I loved him, I was lost with out him, I would do anything for him, and as much as I tried to think he was good for me and wanted to believe he loved me – he was poison in my veins. He was everything I thought I wanted before I really knew what I wanted. He was larger than life to me, and I would have sacrficed anything to be with him. It was a very one-sided relationship…one in which he footed the bill most of the time, and I footed my integrity and self-respect.
Stan remained my friend through it all, and I know that wasn’t easy. At one point, after I broke up with Fred for the last time, I remember we were at his place watching a movie. I was in remission and had begun my reign of self-destructive path of living too fast. I went to his room to go to sleep. He came in behind me and climbed in bed with me. We had slept many nights in the bed together, but never did it ever cross any sexual lines. This night, we made out and came close to having sex…but we didn’t. Why? Because I knew neither of us could survive a relationship built on what we had. Yes, we were friends. Yes, we knew a LOT about one another, and yes, we were definitely attracted to each other.
What was the problem? He had gone down a path of constant drinking, and he was cruel and sarcastic when he drank. It’s how I knew he was hurt. He’d make snide comments about the time I left him stranded at a seafood place to go see a guy who wouldn’t wipe his boot with me. He was hurt, and hearing those comments hurt me, too. Nothing good would come of it.
We drifted apart over the years. I ran into him about a year ago, and he was very bitter and had gotten more involved with the bottle than anything or anyone else in his life. I think as painful as it was, we both dodged a bullet. Sometimes, timing really is everything.