‘are we just friends?’ i asked her point blank. ‘i gotta make things weird here because i’m sleep-deprived and buzzing hard on coffee.’
it was the first time i had spoken to her in a few days. we had been busy, leading separate lives that refused to connect. i had been feeling something of a rift between us for some time: she spoke to me differently, looked on me differently; there was too much hesitation in the way she touched me. our kisses, the few that we had shared in the last little while, were awkward. haphazard. but i dismissed the signs, tried to ignore them, explained to myself that they were only products of my own over-active imagination. left to my own devices, i decided i had a bad habit of becoming paranoid.
at the same time, i also knew that i had been in too many relationships not to pick up on the hints. i felt i knew her well enough to notice the nuances in her speech, her topics of conversation, her aversion to bring up anything personal, anything that lay buried deep between the both of us. in other words, i was not an idiot, not a fool, and while i already felt like i knew the answer, i had to hear it from her, see it on her face in the afternoon sun. there could be no mistakes, no misinterpretations about this.
in the time i’ve known her, she had managed to wear down my armour, and i felt cold and bitter and naked in front of her, exposed in the way that guys like me aren’t supposed to be exposed. i hated myself, and i knew that courage wasn’t on my side. but i came armed: i had the element of surprise, at least. i could tell the question alarmed her. she wasn’t prepared for it. i watched as her mouth formed to make words, but would stop suddenly. erase and rewind. and then try again.
‘too much, too soon,’ she finally said, ‘i’m just not cool with any of this right now.’ i watched her pause again, struggling to figure out the best way to say the last thing i needed to hear. ‘i misjudged. we both did.’
she always had a certain way of phrasing things that sounded brutally matter-of-fact. it was disarming how straightforward she was. with her, there was never the faintest hint of bullshit that breakups usually incur. but was this really a break up? i asked myself. did we have anything that could be broken? thinking on it now, i knew these are questions without answers: only interpretations, disasterously ineffective and unsatisfactory interpretations.
regardless, i also knew that i can be in a million relationships with a million girls and never be prepared to hear the truth. i could also be in a million relationships with a million girls and never meet one like her. i won’t lie: the moment i realised that i felt something for her, that feeling carried with it a certain sense of apprehension. she scared the shit out of me. but it was also these things that drove me to pursue her, knowing that the chances that this all might end badly were better than any fairytale ending that we have trouble not fantasizing about every time we’ve convinced ourselves that this one might be the one.
to be fair, she warned me. i cannot count how many times she has told me that she runs from intimacy. she had been burned badly only a few months ago, i remembered her telling me. her rock crumbled under the weight of the stress that life seems to mercilessly heap upon us every so often. i’d be jaded too, burned to ash. i felt prepared to take on her challenge though. i convinced myself that i’d be different — that i could not be discarded easily. my pride did not allow me to even consider that i could be the one left wanting.
but this girl, burned or not, was on fire, and now standing there in front of her, i could feel myself ignite.
i wondered if sounding really miserable was going to help my cause. then i laughed at myself silently. nothing was going to help my cause. i no longer had a cause. she was leaving me because i was too much too soon. so the rest of it came out like raindrops in a thunderstorm, raindrops the size of your fist, shattering the spirit when they crash to the ground:
‘i am aware of the reality. we are busy people. you are, anyway. there is always lots of stuff going on with you, and neither one of us seems to have much time for a relationship. but at the same time, when i see you, and this might sound painfully immature, but whatever, i want to kiss you. but i’m not sure if i should. i don’t even know if i’m allowed. if i haven’t already made it evidently clear, i am absolutely crazy about you. but i don’t know where i am supposed to go from here, if there’s even anywhere to go anymore. did that make any sense?’
she said nothing. her silence unnerved me. she had always been a big talker. she talked about everything for extended periods of times. there were moments where i knew i had been listening to her for hours: the time logs on my mobile phone can confirm this. but now. now, there was little left in her to say. nothing. nothing meant for me, anyway.
‘i’m sorry,’ i said lamely, uncomfortable, and embarassed.
‘me too,’ she said.
i realised then that she called everything from the moment before she decided to kiss me for the first time to right now. she had complete control over us. she was the one who decided when us would start and when us would end. i was her misjudgement. i was her mistake. i had never been a mistake before. i can tell you with some certainty that it is not something worth experiencing even if it will prove to build character as my friends have poetically been saying in consolation since that day.
so, under the weight of that silence, this was the part where i should have argued, told her she was wrong. i should have said that there is no such thing as ‘too much, too soon’. there is only what there is and i can take no more than what has been offered. i shouldn’t have apologized. i wasn’t sorry. i had a great time with her, what little there was. i have no regrets except for that i wish we had more time. i should have told her that. looking back on it now, i should have told her a lot of things. but i promised i her i would never be a burden, never be trouble for her, never be a distraction.
in the end, i believe too much in the idea that there are some things in life that don’t need convincing: either you want me or you don’t. but maybe i should have put up more of a fight. except that i’ve never been much of a fighter. and apparently, i’m not much of a lover either, i guess.