A Hard Way to Gain a Good Friend

I don’t know what to write about, and it’s been over a week, so let me tell you about a woman. She’s one of those women, the proverbial “ones who got away”, though I would never describe her as such in any degree of seriousness. To do so would border on objectifying her as something I possessed and then didn’t, or it would diminish the fact that she was simply strong enough to walk away from a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere for her.

It was good for a while, though. We met on or around Halloween back in 2011. Everyone was dressed in costumes except for me – I’m terrible at dressing up and have been for several years. The last costume I had was Halloween of ’08, I think, and it consisted of my graduation gown and a blue luchador mask and when people asked what I was, I just screamed “HALLOWEEEEN” and drank more jungle juice.

On this Halloween, the night began pretty inauspiciously. I joined a group of friends who were seated around a couple of tables on the floor directly in front of the karaoke stage. The bar was dead, and we just had a few rounds and good conversation before ultimately bar-hopping to some place more lively.

I met her through a friend and was immediately taken by her. She wasn’t shy, initiating the conversation and driving it in whichever direction she wanted, finding out the things she wanted to know. She had a beautiful smile that settled into a self-assured smirk. She wore it comfortably and regularly and I found myself looking forward to it. I found myself looking forward to a lot of things. Her scathing wit. The way her eyes would widen and her mouth would pop into an open-mouthed grin whenever a truly offensive joke shot her way.

This woman was and is deeply intelligent. She was a fan of reading (she purchased my first book, even, which I had just put out a year before) and romance and humor. She was studying to be a nurse, because she likes to help others and because she wasn’t intimidated by anything, much less the notoriously difficult medical profession.

The first time I tried to kiss her, she turned me away. “I don’t kiss in bars,” she said. “That’s my rule.” She stuck by it, too, making me earn it. When she finally allowed me the kiss, it made my entire month.

We dated for a while. It was nice. It was fun. She supported me but challenged me. She knew precisely how smart I was (or wasn’t) and held me to that standard. She called me out on shitty jokes and laughed at the ones that…well, they probably weren’t great either, but if she liked it, she let me know, too. I bought her earrings. I introduced her to my friends, and even the skeptical ones loved her.

Honestly, she was probably the best woman for me. Certainly better than anyone I deserved. Of course I would fuck it up.

I was still hung up on an ex from a relationship that was far too poisonous to have been hung up on anyway, and I was still pretty loathing of myself and what I saw as failed dreams. I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I was monogamous but not committed. I introduced her as a friend, but got jealous like a boyfriend and by the time I was ready to go all-in, she had had enough of my shenanigans and decided we should just be friends.

Maybe I could have fought a little harder for it after that, but she didn’t need that from me. She deserved better and she found better. She graduated and works as a nurse now, and she’s every bit the intelligent, hilarious, amazing woman she has always been.

We would run into each other from time to time after we “broke up”, and we’d catch up on life. At one point she was single again and asked if I’d go in to a place with her to make her ex jealous. I thought to myself that there might be an opportunity for me to maybe rekindle something between us. Instead, the ploy worked a little too well, and her ex decided to give the relationship another shot. They’ve been together since, and she’s happy. I was disappointed for myself but happy for her. Like I said, she found someone better for her and better to her.

She remains a good friend of mine, one whose humor still makes me smile and whose intelligence still challenges and inspires me to live to my potential. Whatever that might be. She has been sympathetic and empathetic and patient, and I value that more than anything.

I’m not one for fate or destiny or divine design, but if I were the type to believe some things happen for a reason, it’s only fair to also believe that some things don’t happen for a reason, too. If that’s the case, I still came out pretty fortunate here.

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