I opened my email Tuesday morning and saw a very familiar name. Someone I'd deleted a while ago, but still, very familiar.
The message was simple. "Hi, just checking in. How are you, beautiful?"
I wrote back to say great to hear from you, and actually, I'm engaged. I got a very nice, congratulatory response back. With the admission that he is more than a little jealous.
I haven't yet replied.
What do say to him, really? That back then I really liked him, but lately I've thanked god 87 times over that he didn't actually want to be in a relationship with me?
I met him late in 2006. This guy was one of very few that I have liked so much, so fast. He got me intensely, he sparkled me, and soon after we started dating, I was well on my way to being completely crazy about him.
I would've been all the way crazy about him, but for one conversation. The one in which I wanted to know if he was dating other people. The very same one in which he said, in fact, he was, and actually, that's just how it is, until he is absolutely, completely sure.
In other words, I like you, but not enough not to leave open the option to fuck whoever I want.
To which I said, in a nutshell, "I really, really like you, and this makes me so sad. I don't regret getting to know you for a moment. And I wish you well in the world."
I'd like to say that was the end of that.
Physically, it was. But emotionally? Not so much.
He texted a month or so later to say he missed me terribly. I ignored it. He called. I ignored it. He called again.
I thought that maybe he'd had an epiphany. He liked me! He wanted to be with just me! Not so much. We went out, and he was coy, and I offered nothing.
I knew him, through his lens anyway. The women who told him he was inferior were the ones he worked so hard for. His ex-wife? Told him she was settling for him. And he married her anyway.
I get why he did this this. I mean, I get it now. Hindsight is so fucking fantastic.
You're raised in an abusive enough household, you don't think so much of yourself. No matter how attractive or smart you are, no matter how much you've accomplished. And so the people who make you feel worthless, they're the ones you have to prove yourself to. The ones who think you're great? Are clearly losers. Because otherwise they wouldn't like you so much.
I can't work like that. I realized that the harder I was for him, the more elusive, the more intrigued he was. But if I think you're amazing, and gorgeous, and smart and funny, I'm going to tell you so. I'm not going to make you work so you think I'm worthwhile. I'm just not.
We spent the next four months in an odd little dance, of me offering nothing, not to get him to like me, but rather because I just didn't want to put anything in, and him offering just enough to keep me interested.
The problem was, I'd really have a good time when we went out. We'd laugh and talk about anything and everything, and our chemistry was so fun. Except for the fact that I really had to work not to let things get physical again. Because I was not going to be back where I was when it ended.
And shockingly, even though my assumption was he just wanted to sleep with me, and I kept not sleeping with him, he kept asking me out. I liked him, and I liked how he made me feel in the moment. It was all the other moments when I had no idea if I'd hear from him again that didn't feel so great.
The last time I saw him he took me to a baseball game. And then I stopped hearing from him entirely. I have occasionally wondered if my lack of baseball understanding was the reason, but if someone's going to love you, they'll love you no matter what.
And he? Is not the Dementor. Or the across the street ex-boyfriend. See how much romantic ass much of last year sucked?
You know, I read his first little "check in and keep options open" email - because let's be honest, that's what it was, and I felt this amazing sense of oh thank goodness. What if he'd been willing to commit back then? Would I still be involved with someone who thought less of me for thinking he was great? Would I have missed the chance to have rainbows and puppy breath and unicorns and Stargazer lilies and chocolate cupcakes and pixie dust all rolled into one amazing guy?
It's scary to think about.
Thank goodness, thank the universe, for closing that door in time to open the best one ever.