I was dancing by myself in a satiny red party dress, while couples danced around me. They were 16 going on 17, I was 15. The prom was for juniors and seniors, but I got grandfathered in via the planning committee. I looked at the faces around me, some familiar others strange. Were they looking at me? Could they tell I didn't belong there? Leaving the dancefloor could draw more attention to myself, so I stayed put and pretended to have fun.
Then suddenly, I wasn't alone. Tall and confident, he came towards me. Two feet away, I couldn't tell if he was dancing with me. When he took my hand, I knew he was. I stared at my feet and concentrated on matching his every move. It was imperative that I danced well. No mistakes. I caught his rhythm then took a chance. I looked up at him, and studied his face. Round, yet mature with a well grown goatee. He was beautiful and I was in love.
Several songs later, I was alone again. But he came back to me periodically. When the last song of the night was played I looked for him. He was on the dancefloor again, but he wasn't alone. His girlfriend got the last dance.
I walked into the warm spring night with a new determination. My mission was clear. I was going to make him mine. I wanted what I wanted and a girlfriend wasn't going to stop me from getting it.
My first move was to find a way into his life. Although we went to different schools, it was easy. Before that prom we didn't know each other, but we knew the same people.
"Oh yeah, he's cool peeps." I'd work his name into conversations, pretending we were the best of friends. I doubted he knew my name.
I went to college fairs, football games, parties, anywhere I knew he'd probably be.
"Hey you! What's up?" I'd say when we "accidentally" bumped into each other. He always gave me a hug and talked to me for a few before heading off with his friends.
In the fall, I took my scheme to the next level.
"Hey, so this party we're planning for Jack and Jill. Who should we invite?" I asked my friend.
Of course she mentioned his name.
"Maybe, we should call him on three way to see if he knows anyone else who wants to go," I suggested. "Do you have his number?"
She did. We called. He answered. We talked, and not just about the party. Jokes were made, gossip was shared. It went perfectly. So did the next three way call a week later.
After a month, I no longer needed a buffer. We talked every night, because I called every night. He never asked for my phone number, but he always took my calls. We were friends. Phase 1 was complete.
Phase 2 was simple. Stay close and wait. Wait for him to break up with her. Wait for him to fall for me. She was clingy, jealous, insecure and annoying. I was cool, laidback, fun, and quite adorable. It was only a matter of time before he moved on to someone better, and I was going to welcome him with open arms.
They were always on the precipice of a breakup.
"Damn, she's always starting drama," he'd complain. I listened and sympathized, but never suggested they break up. I refused to be a homewrecker. If he broke up with her, it had to be of his own volition, preferably because he realized he was in love with me.
She knew about my friendship with him, and I knew she didn't like it. But I didn't care. If she really made him happy, he wouldn't need to talk to me all the time. Besides, it's not like he was cheating on her. We just talked and hung out. Nothing wrong with that. So what if he occasionally said things like, "With legs like yours, you should wear miniskirts all the time." That didn't mean anything. Well, it didn't mean everything. I took every flirtatious comment as a sign. He wouldn't flirt if he wasn't attracted to me and being attracted to me was just one step away from being in love with me. Or so I thought.
Then one day it happened. He did what I never thought he would, what I never wanted him to do. He cheated on her. The problem was, he didn't cheat on her with me.
"I kissed him," Diesel Girl told me on the phone one night. We were friends, but so were they. I never told her how I felt about him, but she had to know. His name was always coming out of my mouth.
How could he do that to me? I was supposed to have him next, not her. How did she even get in the picture. I never saw it coming, but it couldn't happen again.
"Liz, why are so dressed up today?" Stumpy asked after last period gym class.
"Liz, why are you fixing your hair?"
"What?" I stared at my light blue skirt and white tank top in the mirror as I brushed the sides of my hair into a twist.
"Where are you going?"
"Why are you lying to me?"
"You're going to see him today aren't you!"
"Yeah, I am! So what." I was defiant. I had every right to put on a miniskirt and go to his house to hang out. We were friends and friendship was about to have its privileges.
We sat on his couch and listened to music and eventually I was laying in his arms. I held him tight and enhaled his aftershave. His face was inches from mine. I looked up at him and our eyes met. His dark brown eyes were intense. So intense I couldn't take it. I closed my eyes and buried my head in his neck. Several cheap feels later, I took the bus home.
"Why did you go there?" my friends asked me the next day at lunch.
"Because, we're friends and he wanted to hang out."
"He's got a girlfriend. He's an asshole, who's just leading you on. Why do you let him?"
"Whatever. First off, she's a bitch and he can't stand her anyways. Second, he's not an asshole. We get each other. I really love him."
"You don't know him to love him," they argued.
They were wrong. I didn't have to be his girlfriend to love him. 90210 and My So Called Life had proven to me over and over again that it's possible to fall for your best male friend. The person didn't have to love you back in order for you to love them.
I tried on several occasions to recreate that moment on his couch. It never happened. He stayed with his girlfriend and kept cheating on her with the other girl. And I kept waiting, waiting for him to be done with both of them and finally see me for what I was. The one he was supposed to be with. The one who understood him and loved him unconditionally. I wouldn't let him go. I had held on too long and I was entitled. There were too many tears, too much longing, and too many opportunities for me to walk away with nothing. I had earned the right to be liked by him. To be the girl everyone knew was his. I deserved that.
I stopped talking about him all the time. Not because he wasn't always on my mind, but because no one would listen to me anymore. They were sick of my one sided love affair and refused to indulge my whimsical fancy any longer. I listened to Jewel and distorted her lyrics to fit my life. I wallowed in the depths of heartache and reveled in the delicious pain. Oh this was love. It was so big and all consuming I was sure it would conquer all, his apathy, his mistress, his girlfriend. EVERYTHING! Love would prevail.
But it never did. And "Near You Always" started sounding redundant. So did "I Miss You," "Glycerine," and "Wonderwall." The thought of him stopped making me cry on cue and I was having a hard time remembering exactly why I loved him so much. He went away to college the next summer and I went to a summer program. I played my sad songs, but forgot what they meant to me. Trying to remember it all was tiring and by the 2nd week of summer college I didn't feel like expending the energy. It had all grown old and very sickening. For goodness sake, he had a girlfriend and was an unrepentant cheater.
Several months ago I was on the phone with the Angry Black Man.
"My girlfriend doesn't like the fact that we talk so much," he said.
"I don't know. She knows we're friends, but it just makes her uncomfortable."
"Why?" I rolled my eyes at the absurdity of the situation.
"Well she thinks that you might try to turn the friendship into something more."
"What! Please. We're just friends. I don't even see you like that. Besides, I would never try to take another woman's boyfriend. I'm not trifling like that."
Thank God for convenient amnesia.