NOTE TO LOCALS AND OFFLINE FRIENDS (9:45 ET):
Because of the size of this town, and because I've had problems with well-intentioned local readers - who have, at times, accidentally posted more details about this person than I think is appropriate given the size of the community (i.e. "she was in my____ class," "Does she work at...", etc.), I reserve the right to screen comments and delete the ones that reveal too much personal information about "D." I hate to be a bitch about this, but, well, Oxford is way too tiny a fishbowl. ~ Jason
OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Back before I started the ol' ZenFo Pro, I was in a rather sticky situation.
I'd fallen for someone who had, well, also fallen for me.
The sticky part? She was already seriously involved with someone else. As tends to happen with others beyond a significant other, I was left holding a very bad hand at the end of it all.
Yup. That hurt a bit. Not exactly my finest moment, in terms of moral judgment. No regrets, but, well, if things had gone just a little different...
We hadn't had any meaningful contact in the almost two years since we ended things.
Well, until last night.
I ran into D. in Uptown Oxford yesterday afternoon. She was out and about, walking her roommate's dog. I was on my way to hit one of my favorite bars here in town for a quick nightcap.
She's been a master at avoiding me. And, well, though I haven't intentionally avoided her, it's not like I went out of my way to contact her.
For some reason we were unable to avoid one another this time.
So we started talking.
We talked as we strolled back towards her house. We talked on her porch over beers. We talked about what had changed in our lives, what hadn't changed, where we thought we were headed in life.
We chatted about everything from the poetry notebooks of mine she'd never thrown away or burned to her tendency to talk in her sleep. We even talked, openly and honestly, about the end of the relationship with the former boyfriend.
We cracked jokes as she insisted on driving me the quarter of a mile back to my truck. Somehow, we ended up sidetracked and cruising around the countryside, immersed in two years' worth of lost conversations.
We kept talking, well, until five this morning...
Getting any kind of closure to these sorts of things is almost always a near impossibility. But, well, I think we both managed to heal a few long-festering wounds. Of course, there's no perfect resolution, given the circumstances. I've changed and moved on with my life, as has she. And the awkwardness won't go away any time soon. Baggage of this sort does not magically disappear, and "let's just be friends" isn't anywhere as simple as some folks, who've never been through it, would believe.
But just being friends is just what we agreed to be. We enjoy each other's company, obviously. And I got the distinct impression that, well, she just missed being able to talk to me about the most random shit. The feeling, obviously, was mutual.
As she dropped me off back at my pick-up this morning, we hugged and said our farewells. And after we said our goodbyes, we hugged again for some reason.
Maybe it's nice to just be able to be friends, to have conversations like we did before things went sour, without all the bullshit. But as I watched her drive off, I noticed something very peculiar, something that bothered me about that second hug.
I know. It's silly to notice peculiar things in something as simple as a goodbye hug. But it haunted me as I drove home. I sat in my driveway as the dawn started to break over eastern Ohio.
Was it just me? Was it just my mind playing tricks, unwilling to let go of the last pieces of baggage, afraid of what might fill that void when the past is put out to pasture?
Why the hell did we just hug...twice? And why the hell did we both seem to take our sweet-ass time letting go that second go-round?
I started to feel this bizarre, familiar pang of guilt in my chest. I remembered how things ended before between us, how we hugged when, first, she told me she'd broke the news of our fling to her ex-boyfriend, and then, later, how we kept extending the length of our hugs when we agreed that we needed to just make a clean break of things, to cash in our chips before the stakes were too high.
Where the hell is this damned feeling coming from, exactly?
It's not like we're the same people we were. I mean, she's got a new boyfriend, for chrissakes. In fact, she kept bringing him up every time I said something that made her laugh or refused to let her light her own cigarettes or...
...Or told her that I still remembered her birthday...
...Or she told me she remembered how I took care of her when she was sick...
...Or reminded me that she has a "perfect" nose that I never complimented enough or...
Why the hell had she kept reminding me that she had a boyfriend?
And why didn't she ever look at me when she brought him up? Any time we'd make eye contact, she'd turn away and say something about the guy.
C'mon, we're just talking...
While her boyfriend is out of town...
Who has no clue we spent the whole night talking about random shit...
Hugging a few times in a parked car at five in the morning...
Well...this is awkward.
I can't even imagine how it must look to other people, given our history together. I can't imagine what D.'s roommate was thinking, pulling into the driveway and seeing us sitting on the porch, laughing, drinking beer, and lighting each other's cigarettes.
It was innocent fun, two friends catching up and healing old wounds together.
At least, I think it was innocent.
Damn, I hate being dense sometimes. Seriously.
Like I said, anybody who thinks this "just be friends" stuff is easier said than done.
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