I went on a pretty big trip last week after planning it for months. Danny and I hadn't spoken in the three weeks since he broke up with me. I had totally removed myself from social media and was slowly working myself into a happy place again. A few days before I was planning to leave, Danny messaged me and said he missed me and wanted to see me before my trip.
I knew it was an absolutely terrible idea. I was in a good place, and how could I predict what seeing him in person would do to me? And why would I meet him for the first time right before I left on my vacation? It would be a terrible idea. It also felt a bit selfish on his part - of course he was ready to be friends, but the ending of our relationship had left me shattered not even a month ago. Was it really fair for him to reach out to me so soon? I'd be an idiot to say yes.
So I said yes.
Our schedules only permitted meeting at dinnertime, so it only made sense to just go to dinner. I asked where he'd like to go, and he suggested Chili's. Of course he did. The only time I've been to Chili's in the last several years was, at his request, on our first date.
That felt weird.
But I agreed. It was peculiar seeing him, sure. But it also wasn't terrible. Despite so much going wrong in our relationship, so much was right. We knew each other on a deep level. He was cute and funny and he still had those dimples that, honestly, should take the blame for the whole thing.
Sitting across from him, I knew that I still couldn't bear the thought of him being with someone else, but I tried to pretend that wasn't a thing. On our way to the restaurant, I was feeling bold. And excited. And I wanted to tell him...that I was planning on moving from Chicago this summer.
Two of my good friends were leaving the city for a year or two. Chicago is my home and always will be, but I've always entertained the idea of moving across the country just for the life experience. Now that I was less tied down than ever before, why not just do it? I began telling friends and family about this plan a few weeks ago, with the bulk of it coming out right before my trip, when I had actually started planning and apartment hunting and the like.
I told Danny. He was obviously taken aback, but he tried to hide it. I suddenly felt kind of bad. I didn't think he would really care?
He asked me if I'd met anyone since him. At first, I thought it would be a terrible idea to tell him about my many impulsive experiences in the weeks since we were together...but he persisted. So I shared. He was visibly upset, but kept begging me to spill the details. I spared him most of them, but told him the funnier stories. Once again...I didn't think he would really care?
Neither of us could eat our food. Pretty normal for me, honestly, but very odd for him. The air was heavy between us. That's like, a totally cliched thing to say, but it was also enormously true. I could tell that he was genuinely happy to see me, but it also felt off. For me, the happiness still contained a deep amount of pain somewhere. I was forced to remember the future I had kind-of-sort-of started to imagine with him. I was forced to overthink my every move with him. Don't touch him, at all, if possible. Don't look at him too much. Don't laugh too hard at his stories. Don't like him too much.
We stayed at our table for about an hour after we finished eating. When we left, he suggested we go into two stores together. It felt like he didn't want the night to end. Even though I loved his company, I was quietly pushing for it to be over. Dinner had made me sad, and I wanted to be alone. I hadn't admitted to myself how much I missed having him in my life. Pretending to be okay as we walked through World Market was absolutely draining.
We walked home from the train together. He invited me to a party two months away. So, in his mind, we were back in eachother's lives, at least for now. I hadn't been able to see that far ahead yet. Was this dinner a success? Was there actually good enough reason for us to continue any sort of relationship? Did I want to be his friend? We hugged goodbye. It was horrendously uncomfortable. And we parted ways.
I was really sad, but I did my best not to let on. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that he was feeling the same way.
He texted me the next night as I was packing for my trip. I had to leave early the next morning, but he was implying that he wanted to see me. I was so full of stress and anxiety from packing that I buckled. The thought of laying on him for a bit made me feel so...safe.
I couldn't resist.
He came over to cuddle (platonically) and watch The Mindy Project. I was stiff, for sure, but as the minutes passed, everything started to feel comfortable again.
We never did watch any Mindy.
I shouldn't have done what I did. But he grabbed my hand, which he never did, and he turned his face toward mine, which he never did, and I was stupid and impulsive and forgot about any consequences for a little bit. And it felt so good to kiss him again and then he touched me in ways he hadn't since we first met. Maybe in ways he hadn't ever before. There was an urgency and an intimacy to it all that was unfamiliar between us, but in such fulfilling way.
And then he left. I didn't sleep that night. I couldn't shut my brain off. But honestly...I didn't mind. I knew I'd be exhausted on my trip, but that was bound to happen anyway. And seeing Danny was like a drug. I was so full of energy regardless of sleep. I left for the airport at seven and sent Danny a picture of the Chili's in the terminal.
But what the fuck was I doing?
We chatted a bit throughout the day. It felt wrong not to talk about what had happened the night before. I messaged him explaining that - should it have to come between hanging out as friends and repeating the previous night's indiscretion, I'd very much prefer to stay friends.
"But what if that happened again?" He asked.
...what? If anything, I was expecting him to lay the blame on me - that I had misread some sort of signal and he felt too badly to say no. But that wasn't the case. I asked what he was possibly getting out of it. I asked what possibly could have changed in three weeks.
He changed the subject. We chatted here and there throughout my trip - I sent him some pictures of things he'd enjoy, like 30 Rock and the marquee for Phantom of the Opera. He kept telling me he missed me. And I hated to admit it, but I missed him a lot, too. And he was telling me that he missed me.
I sent him a screenshot of my Tinder after connecting to Wifi and receiving 101 new matches at once. I thought it was ridiculous and funny. He shot back, angrily, saying that I could stop rubbing it in his face that so many men were interested in me. I felt bad and reminded him that he is much more attractive than I am. He lamented that he couldn't meet anyone and felt lonely. He blamed me for being "too handsome." I reminded him that all he had to do was put himself out there, and if I could do it, anyone could.
"I think I'm just going to put my dating life on hold until you leave me if that's okay," he responded.
I reread that text at least four or five times.
That was not fair. That was not a fair message to send to me while I was 800 miles away on vacation. Plus, HE ended things with ME. I was devastated, and now only a month had passed - of course my feelings were still there, even though I've worked through and processed them.
"Don't say that," I sent back, "it makes leaving a lot harder."
He told me he wanted me to go, that he was excited for me. And that he would miss me terribly. I honestly felt like I was in a parallel universe. He was suddenly the partner I was looking for the entire time we were together, telling me I was handsome and that he missed me and sending nice and funny messages...but I couldn't help but feel like he only felt this way because he knew I had been with other people, and was now planning to leave Chicago.
I told myself that it wasn't about me, it was some ridiculous and doomed romantic fantasy. Or was this more of the hideous part of my depression and anxiety that makes it impossible to believe anyone could care for me at all?
I thought about it quite a bit, and decided that, since I was planning to leave Chicago anyway, why not do what felt good? Why not spend time with someone who knows you deeply and personally and is also really cute and has those fucking dimples?
We made plans to see each other when I got back to the city. Unfortunately, before that day could come, I fell absolutely in love with New York. I realized that my original non-Chicago destination of choice would never be able to fulfill me theatrically, and could I actually be happy in a city where I couldn't consume theatre? I wasn't sure. But New York was possible, right? Impulsive and crazy (and crazy expensive) but I'd be so happy, eating up Broadway shows in the cheap seats like shitty pizza.
And I met a guy. He took me up to his 30th floor apartment overlooking Times Square and shared his very expensive tequila and was incredibly kind and wanted to get to know me and the whole thing felt like a scene from a stupid play. I wasn't interested in hooking up with him at all, but it seemed like a smart (??) thing to do after seeing Danny again and also would be a fun memory for my trip. Right?
On the day of my return, Danny was somewhat distant via text. He was probably busy, I thought. I didn't get a single "safe flight" from anyone, and I almost cried leaving my friend in Central Park. I had been happier during my five days in New York than I had been in Chicago since before Katie and I broke up. I was scared to go home and feel sad again, and I couldn't shake the feeling that Danny only liked me when I was 800 miles away or moving across the country.
But I texted him, nonetheless, that I couldn't wait to see him...knowing full well the amount of people in my life that would smack me across the face for doing just that.
to be continued, because I'm an idiot.