Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Wanna Hold Your Hand

For me, it always comes back to hand holding. People seem to be less concerned about giving their kisses away. But holding hands? That is an intimacy reserved for a relationship. It seems backwards. But the willingness to entwine fingers and hold tight to someone else says a lot more than the willingness to kiss someone. People kiss people. Caught up in a moment. Just because they feel like it. Any number of other reasons. But holding hands... that shows intention. It shows commitment. It shows that they don't care who knows that you're together. Because kissing is done in secrecy but holding hands happens out in the open where other people can see it. So for me, that willingness speaks more to someones' true feelings than anything else.  

"I swear to you, I have never noticed that tree house," I laughed.
"What? No way."
"Seriously, was that there the entire time we dated?"
"How could you have never noticed it? I don't believe it."
"I swear I've never seen it before in my life."

Maybe I'd seen the tree house before. But it had been a long time since I'd been standing on this driveway. And especially on this driveway with him. We both looked up at the tree house in question. The boys laughed and played a round of two on two basketball while we chatted. It felt so normal. Being here with my brothers. And him. His sarcasm and cynicism felt like home. I knew his looks. I knew his tone. He was flirting with me. Wasn't he?  

He had been my best friend. At one point, he knew me best. But things had taken so many confusing turns. He started dating someone else. He broke up with me. In that order. And then when I pretended to be indifferent to his new girlfriend, he kissed me again. And now that they weren't together and I was home again, I openly hoped that he would want to get back together. Why else would we be spending so much time together? Sure, I was manufacturing some of the opportunities for us to see each other. He seemed so resistant at times - which was very confusing because in other moments he'd show up on my doorstep to see me. So I'd tag along with my brothers, as one of the boys, just to be present in his thoughts and line of sight. To remind him why we'd been together for so long before. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunity and presence can go a long way. That had always been the best part. We both got to spend time with each other and my brothers. Sure, since I'd been back he'd come to see me everyday.  He'd kissed me. That was promising. But he treated me so differently when other people were around to witness. And he told me to not tell anyone. And then there was her. Why was she here? I could tell he liked her. He teased her like he had once teased me. But he must like me too. Why else would he call me and come see me everyday? And we had history. That had to count for something.

"Do you wanna see the tree house that you've 'never seen'?" He laughed.
"It does look pretty amazing from down here."

It was beginning to get dark. He led the way around the boys playing basketball. I followed closely as we walked around the bushes to the bottom of the tree. My heart pounded as I followed him up the ladder into the tree house. I could hear the boys laughing and chatting, but inside the tree house, in the dimming light, I felt so removed from the games below us.

"Well, this is the tree house," he stated with a cynical flourish. "Which of course you've never seen."
I looked around, and stopped in the center to look out the window to the coulees.
"I'm pretty sure I would of remembered being up here, if I'd ever been here before."
He stepped closer, looking me straight in the eyes. 
"Guess it was never memorable before."

I blushed. I knew what he was implying. And he was so close.

"Yes, well, maybe so. I still maintain I've never seen this before in my life." 

Unable to hold his gaze, I looked away and began to back away from him. He looked at me with such intensity; I was embarrassed. I took another step backwards, but suddenly I was stumbling into the entrance in the floor. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I was falling. Down the ladder. And then suddenly I wasn't. His hand grasped mine as my foot found a ladder rung. My hand, in his. 

Speechless, I let him pull me back into the tree house. 
"Well that was only moderately embarrassing,"I joked. 

My hand still in his grasp, he tugged me closer. I looked up into his familiar face and let him lean towards me as he silenced my joke with a kiss.

"You should come back after everyone leaves," He whispered. 
"C-c-come back?" I stammered.
With an impish grin, "It is my birthday at midnight. My 18th. You can be the first to wish me Happy Birthday." 

He leaned forward kissing me again. And then without another word began to climb down the ladder to re-join the group.

Come back. After everyone leaves. This had to be a good sign. I took one last look out at the setting sun over the coulees. If him saving me from falling, then pulling me back up to kiss me in his childhood treehouse, as the sun set no less, wasn't romantic, I didn't know what was. And he wanted me to come back to spend his early birthday hours with him. 

"So he asked me to come back." I nonchalantly announced as my brothers and I drove home.
"You're an idiot. Don't go back there."
My brothers tone of rebuke was so sharp. Why was he mad?
"I already told him I'd come back. Its fine. Really."
My brother glared towards me, "Don't go back there. Don't be stupid."
Defensively, I snapped back, "I can't just not show up. I told him I was coming back. He asked me to come back. It's not stupid."
Abruptly, my brother parked and we all hopped out of the car.
"Yes, yes it is. Don't go back there."
"I'm going. He asked me to come back. Give me the keys."

I jumped into the driver's seat of the Explorer, angrily slamming the door behind me, despite the lack of an audience to witness my annoyance. I just don't get it. How could he be so mad at me? I didn't do anything. We used to all be best friends. I don't get why he wouldn't want that again. They became such good friends because of me. Where was the problem? Why was he being so rude about it? Why wouldn't he want things to go back to the way they were?

I obsessed as I drove towards his house for the second time that night. I felt ill with anxiety. I never did do well with people's disapproval, despite how I might play indifference. Sure, I realized that things would never be the same. Our break-up and time apart had changed me. But I still felt that we had such potential. And my hope soared at the possibility. We had known each other for almost three years, having dated for two. And I couldn't imagine our not ending up together. I knew how childish that sounded. Even in my head I could hear how foolish that was. But he was still the person I cared for the most. And ending up with my high school sweet heart was my minds ideal. There had been potential with other people, but he was the root of every comparison. The standard by which I judged my feelings and interest.

Driving up to his house, I was surprised that everything was pitch black. I parked to the side of the driveway and hopped out. I felt the darkness around me, and slowly made my way to the front door, quietly knocking and then stepping back to wait.

"Shh. I don't want my family to know you're here," he whispered from inside his dark house.

Sure. That makes sense. It's late. Technically past curfew. It has nothing to do with him wanting to keep me a secret. Keep my being here a secret. He doesn't want to get in trouble. It has nothing to do with me.

He stepped out the front door, loaded with blankets and pillows.
"Here, take some of these."

I took a handful of blankets and followed behind him as he walked around the porch to the backyard and crossed the lawn to the tramp.

"I thought we could do a little star gazing."
"That sounds fun."

We tossed the blankets onto the tramp and then climbed up. Carefully we arranged a bottom blanket and head rests, to ensure our comfort while star gazing. As we settled into each other, we lightly bantered back and forth. But I could not help but feel that I needed to know what was going on. I've never been one to push for definition. But during our time apart, I had learned what joy and security could be found in knowing exactly what you mean to someone else, rather than guessing and assuming. And I wanted to know. One minute he would treat me like we'd never broken up. He could be so charming at times. And in the next second he was giving me the cold shoulder and acting as though I had no reason to be around at all. I didn't understand.

I tried hard to sound more mature as we chatted. Like I had grown during our time apart and hadn't just been pining for him, hoping to hear some word that would indicate he still cared. But soon our conversation lulled and I laid with my head on his chest, listening to his heart beat. I re-positioned and supported myself with one arm as I began to trace his features with my fingers. He relaxed into my touch and closed his eyes. There was such familiarity held within his face. I could never forget the slope of his nose, or the feel of his brows or the shape of his lips. I knew this face. I concentrated on each individual aspect and then on his face as a whole. I loved tracing the outline of his face. And I had missed the comfort of being so close with him.
He opened his eyes and brushed a strand of my hair behind my ear, leaning up to kiss me.
"Lets go sit on the deck chairs."

He grabbed my hand and an armful of blankets. Being together always felt so natural and easy. Which was why I didn't understand the games he was playing. I hated that he didn't want me to tell anyone that he came over every day during his spare. Didn't want me to mention that he was kissing me still. Would never hold my hand. It made me feel like my brothers' loser older sister, to be hanging around, and have him ignore me to flirt with someone else. Because if we weren't together, then I just looked pathetic; like I was following him around.

He laid on a lounge chair and pulled me next to him. He wrapped his strong arms around me and held me close. I wished for this moment to never end. But I knew this was it. I had to bring it up. I couldn't continue like this, never knowing if he would show me affection or indifference from one moment to the next.

"So whats going on with you and that girl?"
He turned slightly so that he could see my full face, eyebrow arched. He seemed to measure my question for a moment.
"Her? Nothing really. We're probably gonna start dating."

I stiffened in his arms. And slowly sat up, to face him more fully. He said it so nonchalantly but it jarred me to my core. His arms, around me. His voice telling me he was going to be dating someone else soon. Had he not just kissed me, not even two minutes ago?

"What?" I couldn't help but let some of the hurt slip into my face and voice. "Then why am I here?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Because I wanted you to come over. Why? Are you upset?"

"You don't get it."
And he didn't. How could he be so nonchalant? So callous in his approach. So blunt. 'We're probably gonna start dating.' Like I really was one of the boys asking and not a girl that he had been kissing and who he knew cared for him. "I don't understand. Why?"
I had real feelings. And he was acting like this should be no surprise to me. Everyday this week he had called me and visited me. Kissed me. He asked me to come spend time with him. What was I supposed to think was going on? That we were just old friends catching up?

He measured my face again, as he considered the question. "We don't work right now. We can't date. Maybe in the future things might change. But right now, we don't work. Maybe in the future."

My insides began to go cold, but even after everything, I still felt like we could talk about anything.

"Well, at least she's better than your last girlfriend," I offered. 

I still had such an overwhelming feeling that I didn't want him to see just how much he had hurt me and continued to hurt me. So I defaulted to pretending I was fine with everything. Like I had been for the last year. Pretending that I hadn't been hoping for a different outcome than the one he was offering me.

"Ha. Didn't like my last girl, huh?"
"She was nice," I hedged. "It just was... she was... so different from me. And I couldn't reconcile how you could go from dating me to dating her. You broke up with me for her."
"HA! Ya, she definitely wasn't my type, but I felt like dating her. Wanna know something? When I started dating her I already knew when I would break up with her. I just knew I didn't really like her. But she definitely didn't see it coming."

Callous. Cruel. Selfish.

My insides began to turn to stone. 

I sat across from him, as he bantered about this new girl and that old girl. But all I wanted to know was why if we were so comfortable with each other and so close - he still spoke to me so openly - why we couldn't be together. 

"I still don't get why we can't date."
I didn't realize I had said it out loud until I looked up and saw his face. He looked at me with a small smirk and pity. 
"I'm just saying. We dated for two years. And we're still able to talk and be so close. I just don't see why we can't date."
"I guess we dated for two years. But it's not like that really meant anything. It wasn't a big deal. And the timing isn't right for us. It never really was. But maybe in the future. We'll have to see."

Two years. Didn't mean anything. That was not my take on the situation. I just couldn't believe that he didn't care for me. How could he say that it meant nothing? Sure, we weren't perfect, but we fit together. And he had told me once that being with me was the closest he'd ever been to being in love. And I still felt that way. 

Then again, he wasn't saying we'd never work out. Just that right now it wouldn't work. Timing. I never had good timing.

"You know its getting late..." he trailed off. 
I was being dismissed. Apparently, he was done talking about things.
"Oh, sure. Right. I guess I should go home."

I helped him carry the blankets into the pool room. I let him wrap his arms around my waist, pull me in closer and kiss me one last time.
"Happy Birthday," I whispered as we pulled apart.

My thoughts whirled as I walked in the darkness around the house towards my car. I started the engine, letting it heat up for a moment. And then put the car in drive, letting the conversation run through my head for what surely would not be the last time. I knew that I had appeared so calm while it was all happening. But I never could process things immediately. It took time for them to sink in. 

He was going to start dating her. I felt hollow, like all the emotions had been drained from my body and nothing was left. I felt deflated. My hopes lay dashed around my feet. Alone, I could process the night. He said maybe in the future. But from deep within my heart a feeling began to surface. I knew that we were over. He no longer valued my feelings or our time together. Two years had meant absolutely nothing to him. He had talked of our time together, and vicariously my feelings, like they were worthless and irrelevant. We had dated for two years for crying out loud. I still distinctly remembered him telling me how much he cared for me. But now I could think of nothing but his glib tone, as he said we hadn't been serious. 

And I hated him for it.


Erika said...

You have a real talent for writing. It is so real and honest. I agree. Hand holding says a lot. Love you melissa, I hope life is treating you well.

Stefanie said...

I hate him. whoever he is.

Tia Marie said...

Please never give him another chance. You are worth SO much more!