Strangely enough, someone used these exact same words on me tonight. I broke someone's heart. I don't have much experience with breaking hearts; usually it's me who stands there pretending everything's okay when I've just been crushed by someone who smiles condescendingly and tells me that they're "flattered" by my attention, but really only think of me as a good friend. I did not use the word flattered, because in my mind it's a horrible insult. When someone tells me that they're "flattered", what I hear is, "I like you, and if you weren't utterly repulsive, I'd consider dating you. But you're gross, now go away before I'm forced to make a scene". I studiously avoided all of the lies people normally tell when they want to convey the fact that they're just not interested in you.

It was late. He called me up wanting to talk, I was up because I had earlier in the evening come to an epiphany and had just made a possibly major life decision. I decided that I wanted to leave Los Angeles. He wanted to talk about us. The easy way would have been to tell him that I was leaving, and it would be impossible for us to pursue a relationship, but I know him well enough to know that he would have tried to convince me to stay and when I wouldn't, there would have been tears. I realized that I had to make him understand that a romantic relationship between us wasn't possible, not now, probably not ever.

Sometimes, I am a bit of a coward, so the idea of telling him the truth terrified me. I wanted to be kind; but I knew I needed to be firm.

"Hi sweetie, I know it's late, but I just had to talk to you," he said.

I rankled at him calling me 'sweetie', as I'd made it clear before that we didn't have any sort of romantic involvement yet, but I responded, "We need to talk".

"What's on your mind, hun?"

Again with the pet names. I wonder if he ever noticed that I only ever called him by his first name, and not even by its diminutive, "There's no easy way to say this, so I'm going to be blunt. I've come to a couple of decisions tonight and they were hard, but I think they're for the best."

"Oh," he said, trying to sound casual even though his fear was almost palpable.

I continued, trying to sound stony and impassive, it was not the time to sound compassionate, he would sense weakness, "I like you a lot, and I think you're a wonderful person. But I'm not happy in L.A., and I've decided to leave.."

"But what about.."

I cut him off, "Please don't interrupt. None of this is easy for me to say. I know that you like me --"

"I love you!"

I grimaced, I did not think he loved me, but I'd be damned if I was going to contradict him, someone once refused to believe that I loved him, and it still hurt, "Ok, I know that you love me... and you think that a relationship with me would somehow be ideal. But it wouldn't be. I'm just not happy here, and I wouldn't be happy here with you, or anyone," I could hear him starting to cry, but I forced myself to continue, "I need to leave. And although I like you, I don't think a relationship with you is the answer.."

"I could go with you!" he choked out, almost incoherently

"No," I was firm, "No. That's not the answer, either. Your whole life is here, you'd end up resenting me, especially since the relationship would hardly be equitable.."

He sobbed again, "What do you mean?"

I took a deep breath and prepared for what I had to say, "I've already told you that I don't love you, when you asked that I told you that," I did not wait for confirmation from him, "Well, I like you a lot, but I don't honestly think I could ever fall in love with you."

"Oh," he said in a small voice. I felt like an inhuman monster.

I pressed on, "You're a wonderful person, and you deserve better than I can give you emotionally. And I'm sorry if this hurts you, it isn't easy, but I think it's better for both of us in the long run."

He begged. He tried to promise me things. He offered me money. I was sad, but impassive. In the end, he seemed to accept things, and we hung up.

But that wasn't the end. Twenty minutes later, I got a call from his sister. She sounded like she was trembling with anger, and shouted a stream of expletives at me. I took them. I knew that they were close. I didn't offer any explanations, just listened to her rage until finally she said, "You broke his heart. I hope you're fucking happy. You're an asshole"

I wasn't happy. It wasn't something that was easy to do. I don't like hurting people. But it was better that than lie to him. Better that than end up resentful and angry at someone because I've forced myself into something I didn't want. Maybe I am an asshole, but I'm not fucking happy.

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