A few weeks later, I got another message from Bri*. I’d finally started feeling better about everything, and she just had to let me know, yet again, how sorry she was? Oh, and this time, she told me that she missed me, and that Josh and I were cute together.
Great, thanks a lot.
The problem was that I missed her too. I wanted to believe that her apology was sincere. It was far more believable than the last attempt a couple of months earlier. She wanted to talk in person. I did not. Well, I did, but I also got that terrible gnawing feeling in my stomach when I thought about it.
Ultimately, I decided not to. I didn’t trust her, and I didn’t want to be friends with her. There was no point in meeting in person. Her apology was enough; we had some sort of truce, however precarious it was. That was that, and it was fine.
Besides, I had made a new friend. Her name was Kari. We’d actually met years prior and had run into each other ever since. She had been at the Drag Show, and we got to talking. Turned out that her birthday was the day after mine, we were both lefties, and we’d actually mistaken each other for ourselves in photos on Facebook. We were written in the stars.
We met up for a drink. I told her all about what happened with Bri and Joshua. She and Bri shared a lot of friends, so I was slightly paranoid that she would immediately go back to their lair and tell everyone exactly what I’d said. She returned the favor and told me what she’d heard about Bri’s version of the story. I had, naturally, been painted in a not-so-great light.
What we really bonded over was our relationships. We resembled each other to a freaky extent, and our relationships were not excluded from that. She told me all about this guy, how much she loved him and the problems they were having. I was so glad that I had found someone who finally understood.
Sure, I’d talked to my other friends about Joshua. They listened to me go on and on and discuss and dissect any problems we had. Kari was different though. Kari was in love the same way I was. She got it.
As I listened to her talk about her boyfriend though, I realized it wasn’t quite right. As in, ugh, this guy kind of sounds like a jerk, but I can’t judge because I’m on the outside and don’t know the whole picture. I reminded myself that my relationship was similar. It probably sounded not-so-great to others not involved. But I was on the inside, and we may have had problems, but it was ok. I wasn’t in a bad relationship.
That, my friends, is what denial looks like. This was the first time, though, that I had the slightest inkling that maybe things weren’t as ok as I was convincing myself they were.
There was nothing particularly wrong or bad about my relationship with Joshua at that point. We didn’t get to see each other as much as I would have liked; mainly on weekends. He had to work at a ridiculous hour in the morning, so sometimes I would drive up on weeknights just to spend some extra time with him. He occasionally returned the favor.
We would Skype almost every night and talk about our days. I would do or say something that he liked, and he would just look at me with those wistful eyes and tell me he missed me. That always made everything ok. That look at those words. Nothing else mattered, because I knew how he felt.
He wouldn’t say it, though. Those three words. I couldn’t understand why. There were so many times when he wanted to say it. The time we were out with Ryan at dinner and I just couldn’t see the appeal of the bacon dusted fries. Josh is the only other person I know who feels that way.
“Yes! Thank you! God I – “ and stop. We all knew what he was going to say. God I love you. But he wouldn’t.
I could see that he wanted to. Lying in bed, we always talked about our secrets. When we couldn’t talk, we’d just look at each other. He loved me, and he wanted to tell me, but he couldn’t, and he was sorry.
But I needed him to say it.
It was different this time. So much had happened. Too often Bri popped up in my mind. Certain things didn’t quite add up, and I tried to ignore them. I’d rather not know the answer than get one that I didn’t like. It was hard to move past it. He was having trouble in a different way, but we didn’t talk about that. The difficulties that I had only made it worse, because he was the subject of them.
As we continued trying, it progressively got more difficult. I didn’t quite trust him, with good reason. On top of that, he was going out more with some other friends, some of whom may or may not have been girls.
This one girl, oh she was hilarious. He tried re-telling me this joke she’d told, something vulgar and just so funny. But no, they were just friends. She wasn’t the one I worried about, anyway. She wasn’t interested in him, and that was cool. But he was sure as hell interested in her. How did I know? Because he liked to talk to me about her. He was always friends with girls though. Always had been. I understood, although I was starting to just a bit less. I was glad he was making new friends. But couldn’t I go out with them sometime? No, no. He wanted his own separate life. He didn’t want to share everything with me.
Well Joshua, that’s the point of being in a relationship. We both knew he didn’t really want to be in one. But he was trying so hard, in his own way. We both were. Why? I don’t know. We were both unhappy.
The difficulties didn’t matter though. One night I was joking about how my presence was an intrusion on his video game playing. Except I was serious and we both knew it. He looked at me, completely earnest, and said no. No, you’re presence is never an intrusion. That look was enough. It was always enough.
All the other signs that I chose to ignore, because hey, what was I going to do, break up with him?
*Some names have been changed. If you know what happened, you know who I’m talking about, and if you don’t, then it doesn’t matter anyway.