For the better part of college I was deeply, madly head-over-heels for my best friend, who is gay.
Just my luck, right? Finally, I meet a man (let’s call him J) indifferent to the (in)frequency of my leg-shaving and who also shares my affinity for Taylor Swift, and he happens to be interested only in men. Sure, an old-lady hair or two have been known to sprout from my chin on occasion, but that is about as close as I’ll ever get to being attractive to a gay male. (That said, I’ll probably never be attractive to any human being after that confession.)
When you love someone who doesn’t love you back it — well, sucks. But loving someone who can’t love you back — not in a million years, not even if you could bend the laws of nature — is something else entirely.
My friend and I met in college and immediately hit it off. As someone who had trouble making connections in high school, this was what I was waiting for – I had found my people, my person – and I would do anything to keep it. In the dining hall J mentioned I would look good with a tattoo, so a few days later I found myself under a needle, ink being threaded through my skin. For the next two years we lived together in a townhouse with a few other roommates and easily developed a comfortable routine, the kind that becomes tradition between close friends.
But I wanted more, I wanted something romantic. So, I dropped understated hints that escalated to the elephant-stomp equivalent of dropping hints. What started as a hand lingering just a little too long on a knee turned into bubbling 3 a.m. confessions at the diner after a night at the campus bar. I put other relationships on hold. I lazily dated other men. They don’t have what we have, I would think to myself.
J did not date others either. At the time, this teeny trinket justified so many of my daydreams, it bolstered the make-believe. Now, it is evidence of an inner turmoil.
Poor me. I was like Jennifer Aniston in that movie Picture Perfect. Even after he came out of the closet I coddled my fragile fantasy and indulged in what-ifs and if-onlys.
And then, like everything else, time returned to its role as all-powerful healer. We worked through it. J snagged himself a cool husband and there is none better-equipped to offer me sharp insight on the innermost thoughts of the enigma that is the male psyche.
There is a certain appeal to the fantasy of being with someone who doesn’t love you back, a concept to which I am no stranger. There was the time I dated an American. Before that there was a married man. Chasing the impossible teeters along the borders of masochism.
And though the tide may be way out, the bulge will always return to shore.