I hadn’t been out of school long when I decided to fall for one of my best friends. Thing is, she and I hadn’t really been great friends for very long. To be honest, she kind of got on my nerves. But isn’t that always how it is? No? Sometimes, though… You’ve gotta give me sometimes.
Anyway, the “friends first” thing was how I thought it was supposed to go. I mean, sure, I’d met girls and been on dates without knowing a thing about them, but that didn’t exactly work out. And I heard all these great stories about men and women who had been friends for a long time and then fell in love. Seemed like a pretty good idea.
Look, when I say I “decided” to fall for one of my best friends, it wasn’t really due to any effort on my part. It just, sort of, happened. You ready for the back story? Tough, ’cause here it comes.
I graduated from college and got a job. I ended up moving to a new town for a fresh start. I moved into a questionable apartment with a sketchy roommate. Funny story, that roommate eventually turned out to be a brother to me. Another story for another time.
Where was I? Oh, yeah… So I’m living with this guy, Charlie. He was a full-time med student living on student loans. I was busting my butt in my first real job and felt like I was barely getting by. After a few weeks of living there and getting used to my surroundings, Charlie decided to introduce me to the girls across the hall. Apparently, he and his former roommate used to hang out with the girls across the hall all the time. Greg moved out, I moved in. Charlie thought it might be a little awkward for the girls across the hall. At least, at first.
First there was Kendall. She was the girl from across the hall that never seemed to be around. She had a fiance that lived about two hours away. So, a lot of the time, she was just out of town. But she paid her share of the rent, so Frannie didn’t mind. Oh, that’s the other one. Frannie. And she’s the one I was talking about at the start.
Man, Frannie was annoying. After I started spending time with her, I began believing that the whole “fiance” story was just a smoke screen that Kendall was sending up, just so she wouldn’t have to live with Frannie full time. This girl had an excess of personality. She talked all the time. And she sang incessantly. But she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. It was rough. Like nails on a chalkboard.
Ironically, nails on a chalkboard don’t really bother me. But, I digress.
Over time, though, those things that bugged me so much eventually became endearing qualities. Six months after meeting her, she and I were spending most of our free time together, whether our roommates were around or not. But we weren’t dating. At that point, the possibility hadn’t even crossed my mind. And then we kissed.
I don’t think either of us planned for that kiss to happen. We were just out for a walk. It was just the two of us and we were talking. At some point we had been talking about past relationships. Somehow that turned into a conversation about loneliness. We turned to face each other and I leaned in. I mean, it just felt right. Well, it felt right in the moment.
The next day she told me she was sorry she let it happen. She said she didn’t want to ruin the friendship that we had. I pretended that I wholeheartedly agreed with her. But for me, it was already too late. I had fallen hard. Head over heels.
I don’t think it was the kiss that did it. That was just a kicker after months of getting to know her and opening my eyes to seeing how amazing she was. Yeah, I’m sappy. Sue me.
Time passed, but my feelings didn’t change. I still spent a lot of time with Frannie and secretly hoped that she would change her mind about me. She didn’t. Instead, she started dating some other guy. Some guy named Michael. In case you couldn’t detect it, I just rolled my eyes. I tend to do that when I think of Michael. Did you catch that? ‘Cause I just did it again.
Michael was one of Charlie’s friends from school. And he was apparently perfect. I didn’t see it. But Frannie did. One of those love at first sight kind of moments. Charlie felt bad about it once he found out how I felt about her. But, in his defense, he didn’t know how I felt when he introduced them. I couldn’t hold that against him. I still don’t.
Turned out, though, Michael wasn’t perfect. He did a number on Frannie. Broke her heart. Being the solid friend that I was, I offered to beat the living crap out of him. So did Charlie. Frannie declined. And since I was solidly in the friendzone, I became her shoulder to cry on. It was a role I sometimes liked, because who doesn’t like to feel needed. But sometimes I despised this role. Who in their right mind likes to feel used?
And that’s how I always ended up feeling. Like she was using me. I started to like it better whenever Kendall was around. Because then, Frannie had a girlfriend to vent with. I didn’t have to hear about the guy that done her wrong.
This went on for nearly a year. Eventually, the girls across the hall moved away. Kendall got married. Frannie got back together with Michael and moved in with him. I stopped being her sounding board. We kept in touch, I just stopped offering to listen to her guy problems.
Not long after she moved in with the jerk, I decided to tell her how I felt about her. I knew what to expect, for the most part. She tried to be nice about it. She let me know that she didn’t feel the same and that she truly loved me as a friend. What surprised me was that she knew all along that I was crazy about her. Not that I tried to hide it. But for her to keep talking to me about his guy who’d hurt her like she didn’t know I was in love with her? That hurt worse than simply getting the “let’s be friends” speech.
What did I learn from this ordeal? “Friends first” might work for a select few, but it won’t work for everyone. It certainly didn’t work for me.
Here endeth the lesson.