Funny how 10 years can fly by. How appropriate it is to reminisce about days gone by; to look back at all the possible what-ifs.
It was the summer of 2009, and I was just in between my second and third year of community college. I was still feeling the sting of being denied my transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. It would be my first of three attempts in pursuing a potential career in Civil Engineering; I would never end up attending.
Every summer since high school, I enrolled in extra classes when I should’ve had fun and relaxed. Every summer, my skin would kiss the sun in a never-ending sweaty embrace. Every summer, I wished for something to happen to me; anything out of the ordinary for that matter. I never had time for myself for those summers, every summer living the same basic life.
I met Jessica in my chemistry lab. I initially didn’t take notice of her since my main concern was my studies and bearing with the searing summer sun. We both were paired up to experiment on the acidity of hydrochloric acids. We both were 20 years old at the time; so attempting to maintain our focus on balancing equations was about as easy as learning to play a piccolo. I can recall our casual banter ranging from the heat outside, to the death of Michael Jackson, to just getting to know what makes us tick. What we found was that we both followed the same tick.
Andy, at 20 years old, was a timid, sheltered, unconfident, anxiety filled wreck; the anxiety is still a bit there. Jessica was a near perfect match to lower then-Andy’s steel-enforced walls; she was more willing to be vulnerable. There was a healthy boundary between us; when we exchanged numbers, we would talk about academics, when we met up we would discuss our aspirations, and when class was dismissed, we made it a point to walk together out of the lab and straight to the parking garage. We kept it low key, we kept it from change, we kept it nerdy; for the first month.
We slowly began to dip our toes into our personal thoughts and opinions. When we texted, we began to slowly share funny photos and funny glimpses into our family lives. When we met up, we began to schedule times to grab food. When we would leave lab, we would lightly flirt which brought my double thinking anxiety into overdrive.
I believe this was the first instance where I began to learn how to get close to somebody. It was confirmed only when we both peered into our elongated flasks bubbling with chemicals, we leaned our bodies together against the table, shoulders touching, hips placed in sync. I blushed Mars red as I turned my head to her; her eyes laser focused to mine. Her expression was indescribable. We both were thinking the same thought: are these chemicals on the table about to explode?
It was a daunting task to fall asleep those nights. Who cares about studying for the midterm when there is a need to not fail at a potential, let’s call it, extra credit opportunity. The human mind is truly a cruel place for the imagination; so many scenarios, so many probable futures. Who is to say that any of them could possibly come true? One Friday August afternoon, I found my answer.
I realized as we continued to talk, something was off, something was missing. Let me put it to you this way: when a guy who has never felt the feeling of being wanted by a girl all his young life, his pathetic mind attempts to explain it as “I wish somebody would love me”, “why can’t I find anybody”, or “I’ll never find anybody who wants me for me”. Said-guy is desperate, he doesn’t believe in himself or that he deserves to be happy. In relationships, when you know somebody is the one, there is usually a confirming feeling, a spark if you will. In this particular instance, said-guy learned self-respect, he learned he doesn’t have to take the first treasure available to him, he learned there was no spark, despite all that has transpired.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of shame. It felt like I lead this person to believe in an idea, and an emotion. I began to distance myself from her; slowly, then gradually climbing out of the hole I created. The chemistry class eventually concluded, we both said we would continue to keep in touch. This was before the term ghosting became a huge thing, but that’s bullshit since ghosting has always been a thing.
If I want to leave you with anything, it would be on how not a day goes by that I don’t revisit the memory. If given the chance, I would probably apologize to her for what could’ve been, on the time lost and for ghosting her. What I wouldn’t apologize for is in finding myself during those days in the summer sun. I learned love is reciprocal. Love has to be shared between two people. You are worthy, you are beautiful, and you don’t have to settle for somebody who isn’t meant for you. Shoot for the stars; make mistakes because it’s how we grow. It’s how we drown out the what-ifs.
"I don’t really see anything romantic between us."
This is what her text said in April after having spent a Saturday together. Well, to be honest, I don’t remember the words exactly, and I can’t fathom going back through the mountain of texts we’ve exchanged since.
That would seem to be the end of that. We met from a dating app in January, talked occasionally through March before going out once more and then, I got that text. She said she wanted to be friends, which is what you say to soften the blow and you’re supposed to take it for what it is: a nice sentiment. I mean, how often do you keep up with people you've met from a dating app that you DIDN’T end up dating. We weren’t in any of the same social circles and we lived in different parts of town. In LA, that’s enough to separate you from someone entirely. A simple, “Happy birthday!” text two weeks later started off a text conversation that continues to this day.
At first, a lot of it was pop culture based. We had lots of thoughts to exchange about the last season of Game of Thrones, not to mention Endgame. These weren’t just casual exchanges of thought. These were chains that were fifty texts long with in depth thoughts, analyses, and speculations.
Soon the scope of the conversation expanded. I told her I needed to talk to someone on a late night drive and we had a Friday night phone call that lasted over an hour. The second, third, and fourth time it was even longer. We talked about everything from family, to school, to traveling, and more. I tried not to fall deeper into it, but I couldn’t help it. She’s the funniest person I’ve ever met and so engaging to talk to- I can and have talked to her for hours.
Like a ticking time bomb, I kept waiting for something to mark the end.
Maybe the conversation would start to bore her?
Maybe we run out of things to talk about?
Maybe one of us would meet someone and there wouldn’t need to be a conversation?
But it’s been
We texted when I went to a wedding out of state. We texted when I went to the east coast for two weeks. It may be spread out over a few hours, but it’s everyday. No matter what we both come back to it. We have had at least three more phone calls all over and hour, one over two and a half.... I don’t get it.
What we are has not come up in the past, (hang on let me count)
FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS.
Some of my friends (and my therapist) recommend having a conversation with her about
“It’s not fair to either of you to waste each others’ time!”
Any friend I explain it to can’t comprehend it.
“Why is she keeping this up if she’s not interested?”
And I shrug, because... again, I don’t know.
Phone calls that go past one in the morning, competitions against each other to write more, actual rap battles (over text) that went on for a week. I didn’t know that’s what I would have wanted out of anyone ever, but here we are. I sent her a picture of a hideous Hawaiian shirt asking if I should buy it and got thirty of the most creative insults peaking
"THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF BEING QUEER EYED. LIKE STRAIGHT
(She put it in all caps...)
Last month the two of us went to a movie together. It was the first time we had hung out since April. About time to bring up what’s going on, right? That’s what I though despite some resistance. We saw the movie and got dessert after. We talked and talked but not about us. We talked about our families, we talked about our jobs, we talked about the ridiculous names she wants to name twin boys (but I’ve been sworn to secrecy), but not about us. You can say I was scared, but it didn’t feel right to bring it up. The night ended with us going separate ways and our texting resumed as usual when I got home. So where do she and I go from here? Does this go anywhere? What is it between us? She
"I don’t see anything romantic."
How many two hour phone calls have you had with someone you met on a dating app this summer? In some sense it plagues me. This state of denial? Or limbo? Or being just friends? But more than that, she’s the person I want to talk to the most.
And right now that’s enough.
I sneezed and now it’s the Fall.
It wasn’t that long ago that I gazed upon a calendar with an imminent June, thoughts of sunshine and wildflowers swirling, when I turned to my partner and said “What if I just got shredded this summer lol”.
It’s Summer Optimism™.
We’ve all been there. We putter through the winter slog. We inch our way across spring. At the same time, our Instagram feeds gently…gradually….ever-so-subtly start increasing in saturation. The group photos start shedding layers. #BacheloretteParties start popping up like zits. Flip flops creep their way out of closets and feet creep their way out of close-toed shoes. The days grow longer, magazines start to choke on bikinis, and Summer Optimism™ kicks in.
It’s that feeling of “This is going to be the best summer of my life”. And it’s easy! All you have to do to have a great summer is to just do it. You grow nostalgic for memories you haven’t made yet. Before summer, were all just pre-skinny. Before summer, we’re hiker-adjacent. Before summer – hell, we’re not even in spring – we’re before summer. Glorious Summer Optimism™. It’s a Mean Girls world where “the limit does not exist”.
And then we sneeze. We do a giant, collective group sneeze and it’s gone. And we’re left missing what was, zooming in on our photos to ogle at our own tan lines. We don’t understand how it went so fast. We think, “shouldn’t I remember every single moment of every single day of summer because in my head it was going to be this transcendent time of year that put my hopes and dreams into a string bikini and strapped them onto a rocket and blasted it to stars? Why did it feel like…a regular 3 months?”
Because the thing we love most isn’t summer, it’s the time pre/post summer. Those 9 months of Summer Optimism™. Living in the moment is one of the hardest things on earth. While I want nothing more than to be the type of girl who can go sit on the beach, day in and day out, reading books, listening to waves, growing more and more radiantly sun-kissed…. My dark secret is that even then, I’m looking to the future. I’m already on my couch, at home, pantsless, my boyfriend and Halo Top next to me, playing The Sims.
So maybe I can’t enjoy the summer while I’m in it. Maybe none of us really can. Or maybe I’m the only one. But you know what? At least it’s always summer in The Sims.