So many love stories over here this week! I intended this to be the last one, and it was supposed to be called “The One Where I Started Dating My Best Friend,” but instead it turned out to be the one where all the lines just got all blurry. The one where we actually started dating will come next, and be the finale for now.
So I left off on the one where we became best friends, talking about that drive to Tampa to pick up my “buddy” for dinner with my parents. (Quick back story from my parent’s perspective: about year before the night we all had dinner, my mom and I were talking over a bottle of wine and I told her that I thought I might just be one of those people that is never really meant to settle down. “I mean, if Dane is not ‘the one’, I’m not really sure there is a ‘one’ for me.” I told her. “And as weird as it sounds- I think I’d be okay with that.”
She’d smiled supportively, as she has learned to do so well over the years, and said, “We’ll see.”
Now here we were, almost exactly a year later. I’d been back in their hemisphere for all of 12 hours. I still had braided bracelets tied to my wrists that I’d started collecting from orphans in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as I’d traveled. My bags weren’t unpacked and I hadn’t even gone back to my own house yet since they’d picked me up from the airport 13 hours earlier, when I informed them that I was headed to Tampa to pick up that guy- who I’d been talking about for years and who I’d once casually mentioned that I could imagine settling down with- to have dinner with them. Oh… and would they mind if we both stayed the night at their house so I didn’t have to drive him back to Tampa, but he could have the guest room? Gosh I am lucky my parents know how to go with the flow.
“We’re just friends,” I assured them as I walked out the door, about to drive a car for the first time in four months. I truly believed I wasn’t lying to them. It wasn’t until I got to the hotel that I finally began to hesitate. We had such a good thing going. It was such a unique bond and it was really only possible because of the long distance nature of our relationship. Was it really worth jeopardizing all of that just to get Greek food?
It’s a legitimate question that everyone has to ask themselves at some time in their life: Which is more important- friendship or feta? At some point between the moment I parked my car and the moment that I knocked on his hotel room door, I guess I had decided: feta.
He opened the door and we made eye contact, (uninterrupted by the glare of a computer screen), for the first time in two years. We’d kissed the night we first met, but since then, our relationship had a firm line drawn: a “just friends” line.
We hugged- and I remember thinking that the hug was lingering a little longer than it usually does when Beth and I are reunited. Never one to make a moment awkward, I broke the hug and said, “So this is what you smell like.”
Why did that just come out of your mouth!? Great opening line, I patted myself on the back.
“I guess so,” he said, stepping back to let me into the room. “And this is what you smell like.”
“Well, it’s hard to say,” I told him. I should have stopped there. But I didn’t. “I might still smell kind of backpacker-y.” Just. Stop. Talking. I willed myself. “I mean, I showered any everything… but, you know.”
At least the “just friends” thing seemed to be in the bag. I would definitely not have be getting the first impression rose if it was up for grabs later.
After the first few minutes things started normalizing- thank goodness! The drive back was full of natural conversation. Dinner was easy. After dinner we opened a bottle of wine with my parents and all sat in the living room. When we sat down, I noticed that he was sitting awfully close to me on the couch. Once again I imagined Beth sitting next to me and scooted away a little bit. Just friends. I told myself. We are just friends.
My parents finally went to bed, but he and I sat up and talked for hours longer. At some point we must have drifted off, because when I awoke we were leaning on one another and I could feel his breath on my face. Just friends, my sleepy brain reminded me, but even in my sleepy state, this was the moment that it registered to me just how blurred that line between best friend and boy friend could become.
I sat up and moved away, rousing him. He touched my face. Beth never does this. “We’re just friends,” I reminded us both. Out loud this time. “Maybe,” he said, not moving away.
But we weren’t. Best friends? Yes. But just friends? No. Not even a little bit. That much was very, very clear- making it just about the only thing that was clear to us that night. Somehow everything else had gone fuzzy. Every line that we had worked so hard to keep straight over the last two years had just blurred.
He moved his face closer to mine. “Is this a good idea?” I whispered. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said just before our lips touched for the (second) first time.
So that is the story of the night with blurred lines, and the beginning of our recognizing that maybe this was a lot more than just a friendship. The whole week that he was in Tampa seemed blurry. It was all new territory. We were doing things together that felt like dates, but we were also struggling to keep our relationship as close to what it had been as we knew how to do.
Looking back now, I think we both knew that this was the beginning of something, but I stubbornly kept denying it… For all of five days. By the time his exercise was over and he was heading back to Kansas, it was glaringly obvious to us (and everyone we hung out with) that this was a lot more something than nothing. So I booked a ticket to go visit him the following week. Hey, I had four weeks before I moved to New York, and surely I could pack in three. Right?
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.