How do you feel about open relationships? he texted me the other night.
Well this doesn't bode well, I thought, my heart sinking a little, and I was right. Since our first go-round last winter Jimmy James has performed a complete 180 in his misconceptions of me. Back then, for some reason he assumed that because I was "reserved and shy" (his words, ugh) I was some kind of tightly wound prude who thought that having sex with him meant I should start picking out wedding dresses. Since then, I seem to have set him straight on the matter, albeit unintentionally, by mentioning one time that I was planning to hang out with my out-of-town friend that night. Yes, a guy. No, not my boyfriend. A hook up? Do you really think I would tell you if it was? But as it turned out, I didn't have to tell him. Though I stuck by my story that I was just hanging out with my friend (which was true), he wouldn't let go of the idea that I was hooking up (which I suppose was also true). I played nonchalant and didn't try too hard to convince him otherwise, since he seemed to get such a kick out of the whole thing. Instead of repressed prude, he now saw me as some kind of sexual free spirit, and it's funny how someone's view of you can change so completely and still be so off mark. I'd gone from Charlotte to Samantha practically overnight in his eyes (though he may not have put it that way), and he seemed thrilled by the whole thing. "Good for you!" he exclaimed, his delighted laughter devolving into giggles. "That's great that you have a hook up. No really, I mean it!" I just shrugged, still neither confirming or denying anything. Looking back, that should have been my first clue. What can I say, I guess sometimes I go willfully color blind in the face of waving red flags. And it's not like I actually thought anything would happen with him, anyway. We were just having a beer, for god's sake. And then another night, and another beer. Lately I've been seeing him about once a week or so, though I always end up feeling like an afterthought.
He likes me more this time, he said; I'm different than I was before. More laid back. He thinks I've changed, though I haven't. He just never bothered to actually get to know me, before. He still hasn't really, now. And so we hang out, and it has quickly evolved into a pal-sy kind of relationship, hanging out with him and the guys, and a hug at the end of the night. So, fine. So, we'll be friends. (Can you please not sock me in the arm like that though? I'm not actually one of the guys, and that kind of hurts.) So, fine, except that through all the buddy-buddy stuff, he would occasionally get started with the flirty, sexy text messages, which, also, fine. I would playfully respond, taking secret delight in the fact that maybe, just maybe, he wanted to take this friendship thing to another level. Which would also be fine. And just look at me, a model of laid-back-itude and hey, man, whatever, it's cool. But then.
Open relationships? I texted back. Bwargh? Huh? Or maybe something marginally more coherent. Why?
No reason, just wondering, haha.
No, it did not bode well.
Hanging out with him last night, it was me and four dudes and all the farting and masturbation conversations that that inevitably entails. But fine, I will happily borrow his friends for a couple hours on a Friday night given that I currently have, like, maybe one friend of my own here. (Ahem.) At the bar we finally had a moment to talk alone, and it started innocently enough. "I found an apartment," he mentioned. "Me, my friend Al, and this girl."
"That's great," I congratulated him. "So who's this girl? Someone you know?"
He immediately went all coy and vague and eye-darty, obviously hoping to get a rise out of me, which, perversely, only made me want to prove to him the ponderously heavy weight of exactly how much I did not give a fuck. I refused to take the bait, changed the subject. When he mentioned the price, though, "For a three bedroom?" I exclaimed incredulously. Here came the shifty eyes again.
"Actually, it's a two bedroom..." he said, leaving me to do the math on that one. This time it was him that changed the subject. "You know," he said, "if you're interested in any of my friends, I wouldn't have a problem with that..."
I hadn't thought it was possible for this conversation to get any worse, but then, here it was. "Uh, what?" I said.
"You know, I'm just saying... It wouldn't bother me. Like, my friend Al said he thinks you're pretty cute..."
"You want me to get with Al?" I said, my mouth agape. "You think I should be with Al???" Not only was I not at all interested in the Al in question, but we are not even the kind of people one would look at and think, Now they would make a good couple. The idea of it was just preposterous. Not to mention that I had said all of five words to the guy. "With Al?" I repeated dumbly.
"Or any of my friends," he said. "I'm just saying, if there's anyone you're interested in..."
I quickly ran through the options: friend one--has a girlfriend, friend two--moving to Florida next week (with his girlfriend), leaving...yeah. Al.
"I don't understand. Why are you saying this?" I said, silently pleading with him to stop, hoping my voice didn't betray the hurt that was building by the second. Not wanting to date me was one thing, but to try to pawn me off on his friend like an old shoe... I felt myself sinking into my bar stool.
"So, this person that I'm going to be living with," he said in response, "is actually a person that I know pretty well..."
"This girl," I said. "You can call her a girl, I already know it's a girl."
"I met her after you and I stopped seeing each other, and at first I didn't think it was going to work out, and then she moved to Pittsburgh. But we kept talking, and well...we're both kind of doing our own thing now, but she's going to move back here. Maybe. I mean, it's not definite. I hope she does."
"With you," I said. "She's going to move in with you." Trying to rationalize the fact that he wouldn't even have sex with me, because that was moving too fast. Moving in with her. Trying not to be hurt by it. Failing.
"Why are you telling me this?" I said dumbly.
"I didn't want you to be shocked when it happens. And, you know, I've been having a good time hanging out with you. I like getting a beer with you, and hanging out with my friends with you. And I know it's hard to meet people here, so I want you to still be able to hang out with my friends if you want. And, you know, I think you're really great and I'm obviously really attracted to you, I mean, that's obvious."
He expounded, insisting over and over how obvious his attraction to me was, when as far as I was concerned, that was the one thing that wasn't obvious at all. Like saying black holes are obviously black. I mean, maybe they are, but how do I know?
My thoughts were a muddled mess; I didn't know what to say. I mumbled something about just being friends, then. Or continuing to just be friends, rather, since we were never anything but in the first place. "Just as long as you still help me move," I said, not quite joking. (Priorities, people.)
"Of course! Definitely!" he responded, too enthusiastically.
And that's how we left it. We said goodnight and I came home a whirling, swirling mess of emotions I couldn't even identify. Was I sad? Angry? Indifferent? I didn't know, but whatever I was, I was a lot of it. Out of all the whirling, swirling thoughts, here's what I am left with: there is bad luck, and then there's me. I know it's sort of what this blog is based on, but even I think this is starting to get ridiculous. Charlie Brown, Kono calls me. Synonymous for some lumphead who takes a flying leap at a football and lands flat on his back every time. Someone who thinks that maybe this is it, this time they're not going to yank the football out from under me, this time they'll play nice and I'll kick that football as hard as I can. Someone who never, ever learns. Wahh wahhhh. Poor Charlie Brown.
There's some new age-y theory out there that says, in essence, you get what you give. You are putting something out there, sending messages to the universe, whether you know it or not. Now, I am of the opinion that this is a load of horseshit. It's a convenient way for successful people to congratulate themselves while easing their white, middle-class guilt because poor people must want to be poor. But still. After a while this so-called "bad luck" does start feeling less like a bizarre string of coincidences and more like...well, a pattern.
So what do you think? Does Charlie Brown secretly want that football to be yanked away at the last second? Does he think he's not good enough to kick the football? Is his expectation of failure a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is Charlie a hapless bystander in a cruel and senseless universe, and Lucy a devious bitch who should have been socked in the face long ago?