I remember she was looking right at me, right into me, with those hazel eyes of hers. I remember noticing this and thinking how strange it was, as she was usually just as good with eye contact as me, which is to say not very good at all. Right then she was letting me look right into her eyes (but if I could only freeze that moment for eternity). This was new.
One of our mutual friends had called me about half an hour earlier.
'You might have a chance, mate.'
'Just wait there.'
I had an idea, more a wish really, of what he was talking about, but it was so impossible that I knew it was not true. So I set about occupying myself with other things, not allowing myself to think or feel, trying to extinguish the hope.
Half an hour later, a knock on the door.
I opened to see her standing there. This was nothing new; she knocked on my door all the time, we spent almost every free minute of our days together.
'Can I come in?'
I let her in.
The part that followed I don't really remember clearly. It's become one of many lost memories. I can talk about it as a detached observer, as if it were someone else's story I heard second- or third-hand. I cannot for the life of me place myself in the memory, re-live what my senses were feeling at the time, yet there is no memory I wish I could remember more.
I think there was some silence, which was unusual with us. Some sense of buildup, of anticipation. She seemed somehow different, like she was glowing differently, and she was looking straight at me.
Then. 'You know what you told me two weeks ago?'
As if I could forget.
I had started drinking a lot for about two weeks, which was unusual for me, as I wasn't a heavy drinker. I would take her to the park with me, where I would be pouring it down while she watched with concern on her face. She would not drink with me but we would talk, and we never had trouble doing that.
She would say What's wrong, What's the matter, You can talk to me.
'Girl trouble', I would reply. It seemed a cool thing to say, and was quite funny to me given what I knew and she didn't.
She would ask me to tell her more. I would say, 'I can't.'
This went on until one evening, sitting on the grass as the evening started to get dark around us, she started going through the names of all the girls we knew. I would laugh and reply in the negative with a chuckle in between gulps from the bottle. Amy? No. Nikki? No. Jennifer? No.
This went on for a while. We knew quite a few women.
Then, out of nowhere:
I never expected in a million years for her to say that. I don't think I replied. I think I looked away. My silence was all the answer she needed.
Silence and hope. Then. '...I'm not looking for a relationship...'
'If you're not interested in me that way just say so.' I wanted it straight from her. It would afterall be what I expected. I didn't want excuses.
'Can't we be friends?' 'We are best friends aren't we?' 'We're good like this aren't we?'
And we were, I couldn't deny that. So I spent the two weeks after making myself get over it. Sure it hurt like hell, but there was a comforting familiarity to it. We forgot, or pretended to forget, this ever happened, and soon we were getting on almost as well as we were before. After two weeks, I thought I was doing quite well.
Back to her in my room, two weeks later, those hazel eyes.
'I do have feelings for you,' she said.
'But you said before...' somehow I managed to blurt out.
'I was just afraid...' she said.
I looked and looked into her eyes, searching for something to tell me this was an elaborate and cruel joke. I couldn't find any.
She was meeting my eyes with hers all the way. She looked nervous, but genuine.
I entered some alternate reality then, an alternate reality where I wasn't doing all the running, relationships weren't one-sided, and someone wanted me.
Moments later. We were sitting side by side on the floor, quiet, our backs against the wall. She held my hand in her lap, because she had asked if she could, and I had nodded yes.
I should've been so happy. And some part of me must have been. Someone cared about me. Someone I cared about cared about me. I should've been ecstatic, jumping up and down in joy, laughing uncontrollably, thanking the heavens.
Instead I was panicking, lost. There was this fear in my guts, growing inside me, swallowing everything around me.
She had brought colour into my life. The world was grey and dark before, and she had made me alive again by coming into my life. Now it was as if another switch had been flicked somewhere, and the world was not only grey again, but plastic, cold. It was as if my soul had been sucked out. I felt numb.
The panic was me trying to force away the numbness. The love I had felt so strongly for her, it was gone, all gone. As she held my hand in her lap, I felt nothing. I tried not to let her see this, but I don't know how successful I was.
We sat there like that for a long time. She had held me tightly a moment before, but we didn't even kiss that evening. I don't think I could've. Instead we sat there feeling like the ground had been pulled away from beneath us. I felt like I was free-falling. Everything had changed.
It ended very soon after. I felt nothing throughout, so I barely fought to make it work. I thought I had made some huge mistake.
Of course, when it ended, everything came flooding back, everything I felt for her.
It was all there afterall.
It was just the shock, when you've never had love in your life and you've made yourself get so used to it, and then suddenly it's there, and someone is interested in me and it doesn't make any fucking sense.
It was the happiest moment of my life, by far. It still is, that one moment.
We got back together again later. That lasted a little longer, but it didn't work out either. I guess I still couldn't believe it, was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and, y'know, self-fulfilling prophecy and all that.
These days, my friends keep going on at me. 'Why don't you ask a girl out?' 'The worst thing they can do is say no.'
I think but do not say, because it is so stupid I know, but what if they say yes?