Sunday, July 09, 2006

OXFORD CONFIDENTIAL:
Exes, "Let's Just Be Friends," and, Well, Being Dense Isn't Always a Charming Trait

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...

...Or...

Hmmm.

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...

By ourselves...

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...



Oh.

Oh Shit.

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.


Errr.


Damn, I hate being dense sometimes. Seriously.

Like I said, anybody who thinks this "just be friends" stuff is easier said than done.


- MORE -


9 comments:

cooper said...

I've always found let's be friends to be more like let's do the impossible. It is impossible.........

Lex said...

Um wow. Not a fun situation indeed. I don't know what to say really besides saying that if you're half the guy you seem to be online offline, I can see how a woman would be tempted.

While your end of things may seem innocent I'd be leery of her motives. The looking away should make you think as a guy.

G said...

I'd like to say the "friends with an ex" thing works, bro, but ...

If you dated her just a couple of times, or it was just a fling, etc, then yes, it might well work out as there wouldn't be an excessive amount of baggage carried.

But if it was more meaningful of a relationship ... well, some things never do completely disappear, now, do they?

I know where you're at. I know what you mean by "this feeling" ... I've had that conversation, dude. I feel you. It ain't an easy place to be.

What I would say is roll with it, if you enjoy her company, then dammit, enjoy her company, even if the odds are stacked against a friendship working out.

Because it IS hard. So much that you thought you had put behind you, dealt with, etc forever comes out of nowhere again with these things. Just be ready for that.

But you know what? It's far less hurt to attempt a friendship that is too difficult to carry forward, than it is to turn tail and run, and always wonder "what if".

If you get a chance, go to the May 24, 2005 posting on my site. Like I said, it's hard ... but some things are worth the pain.

Peace J,
G

kT said...

The only way I've ever managed to make this (sort of) work is to decide what my boundaries are and stick to them. It's too easy to fall into old patterns of behavior -- they're like the sitcom theme songs you can't seem to forget, always there.

That said, might it be that the lady doth protest too much?

Zeta Gal said...

just thought i'd say thanks for posting your thought process on this. i know it sux but for me it's nice to know that i'm not the only one who's ever gone through something like this.

very cool site. hope I run into you this fall.

Erika said...

Have no clue what happened but it doesn't sound like you have anything to feel guilty about really.

I'm gonna be judgmental and say yeah she's talking about her boyfriend a lot because she's not sure how she feels being around you.

Call it women's intuition :-)

Smurf said...

I am not sure if this is who I think it is. I will not inquire one way or the other. However... wow. Don't overthink it honey. You cared about her and you will notice every detail. I am not saying what she is doing isn't there... but... what you are doing is very common. If she is choosing him over you, then you need to accept that an move on for your own heart's sake. I read your post above and I am proud of you for not kissing her. I bet that was SOO hard! If you need to talk and it is who I think it is, then I have some history and I would love to be here for you. I will be here until Sunday at least and then will be gone about a week and a half, but J, I am always here for you bro!

Leigh said...

Dude...I am right there with you and have been trying for the last 9 months to "just be friends" with a particular girl. Honestly...it's just not working.

Hope you have better luck!

The ZenFo Pro said...

Cooper:
Yeah. Being friends is not at all easy after being lovers. Hate to be too blunt here, but sometimes I miss having lovers where I actually didn't like them...made things so much easier...


Lex:
Hmmmm. Good point. Not sure about motives here, either. It's clear there'sstill something more than animal attraction, but, well, sometimes you have to deal with things as adults. Frusterating is probably te best word I could use to describe it.

G:
Hey, man...thanks for the words of wisdom. Read the post and, yeah, you definitely know where I'm coming from on this.

Kt:
Aw, the last line is kinda sweet! Thanks so much. Made my day...

Yeah, boundaries ARE key here. I'm a little uneasy after Sunday's situation, so I'd kinda like to take things slow if we're going to be friends. I've done it before, but even years later, yeah, things can happen if two people get caught in the right...er...moment.

No clue if that makes any sense or not...


Zeta:
Hey thanks. Nope, not gonna answer the student question.If you're here in Oxford, it shouldn't be too hard to guess.

Glad you got something out of it :) And,yeah, feel free to shoot me an email. It's been a bit slow lately, but I'm getting the hang of this "show up at the ZenFo Pro's workplace and introduce yourself" thing. Just don't be embarrassed, or expect too much...lol...I'm a librarian, after all ;)

Erika:
Your women's intuition is probably much better than mine, so I'll just take your word for it :)


Smurf:
Lol...yeah, the kissing thing was kinda awkward. IT's been a while since I was certain that it was okay physically to kiss someone, but probably not too hot an idea emotionally. Plus, well, there was beer involved.

And thanks sweetie!

Leigh:
Yep. I think 2006 is proving to be one of those "What the Fuck?" years for lots of folks regarding this kind of thing.

Hey, I hope you have better luck too, chica! Good luck on the move!