Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Heartbreak #1

When a guy likes a girl, there are two methods of pursuit. The first is the socially acceptable summon some cajones and ask her out/get her drunk on a night out and take advantage. The second, and increasingly more popular way, is the lurk around her Facebook/MySpace/bedroom window and hope that she somehow comes to see you as a god. There is a third way, but it carries a twenty-year sentence.

The first girl I ever truly liked received a combination of these methods. I lurked, I prayed, I gifted, before eventually asking her out. But only after she’d fallen for my best friend.

I’d met her in a lecture, and we’d talked a bit, and she was quite lovely. A few days later in town I found myself drawn to the shop where she worked, just to bathe in her presence. Before I knew it I’d bumped her into my top eight MySpace friends. This was getting serious.

Naturally I didn’t think I stood a chance and vowed never to act on these feelings. And naturally, the mice crawling inside my skull elevated any contact with her into signs, signals, and maybe, just maybe...

Soon enough an (altogether innocent) obsession developed. Turning up at nightspots I knew she frequented, buying her painstakingly innocuous presents, hiding what I believed to be cryptic messages of love in my MSN Messenger display name. Who says romance is dead? In hindsight it’s all terribly pathetic. But at the time I believed I was in love, and had no better idea how to go about it.

The signs kept coming that perhaps she was interested too. Where most men would just ask for a date, I invited her over to play videogames. It’s remarkable what the line ‘Can I come round and play your Wii?’ can do to a boy. She came. She played my Wii. She briefly met my best friend and housemate and then I chivalrously walked her home. It was Christmas-time. The air felt full of magic. Apparently I hadn’t yet learned that Christmas miracles are bullshit.

Indeed, in the following months I relentlessly saw hope where I should have seen warnings. A handmade storybook Valentine’s card garnered me, after a few days of silence, a message of thanks. I didn’t realise at the time that in those few days I was undoubtedly blocked on MSN Messenger out of embarrassment. When the message arrived, I ran a joyful lap of the house worthy of movie montage.

It was always the same way. Messages returned days later. Yet never did the gaps alarm me.

It was a misunderstanding that made me see the truth. Someone had given her the impression that my best friend didn’t like her. They’d met a few times by now. He’d admitted to me that he quite liked her. He didn’t want her to think badly of him, so he sent her a quick message. She replied instantly. And then instantly again. And again. Where I had waited days, my friend waited minutes. Suspicion bloomed in my mind but I stamped it down.

Their conversation blossomed. Other small signs appeared online to stoke my suspicions. This would end badly if I couldn’t halt it.

Finally, I decided to ask her out. I hoped it would somehow make her forget my friend. Only, I didn’t have the courage to do it in person. I wrote an e-mail. A confessional statement agonising in its effort to remain casual. My friend sat behind me as I wrote it, helped best he could, and wished me luck when I pressed send.

The rejection was the fastest reply I’d ever had from her. It was kind and clich├ęd, insisted we remain friends. To my own surprise I suffered no suicidal alcoholic rampage. It had simply confirmed what I knew all along. It was fine. I was fine.

Three days later she pulled my best friend. We were on a night out, and as soon as she arrived she had him cornered. I sat outside their conversation and made the occasional desperate attempt to distract her. As an appropriate amount of inebriation approached, conversation became dancing. I stood at the edge of the dance floor and convinced myself that I was fine. They danced closer and closer, until inevitably they kissed.

It turns out that panic attacks aren’t much fun. I fled the club and braved the long walk home. For the first time in years I cried, and my chest constricted like I was being bear-hugged by Andre the Giant. In essence, I acted like the female protagonist in a rom-com at the end of the second act, but without the knowledge that it’d all be alright in the end.

In the morning I received his guilty confession. A character in a rom-com would have fumed and declared it the end of friendship. I did quite the opposite. I told him to go for it. She was too good a catch to throw back and I wanted my friend to be happy. I acted like it was fine. And behind closed doors I bashed my head against hard objects and didn’t eat for two days.

I’m unsure how to end this story. I’m not lobbying for sympathy nor do I wish to apportion blame. In the months that followed I grinned and bore them being together. Then very swiftly she left my friend for someone else and he felt just as bad as me. It’s an event that affected us both quite profoundly.

Perhaps the moral here is carpe diem. Alternatively, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, perhaps the moral is Never Try.

Or maybe morals are stupid.

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