When Hate at First Sight Turned into Friendship

It began as a mistake. —Charles Bukowski

My life is chalk full of… let’s say not the most thought-out choices. This manifests in my romantic life very apparently—I have a really bad habit of jumping into things that I know will be short-term, with a long-term mentality. After a year of heartbreak after heartbreak I decided to adopt a more healthy way of handling these situations: loving people without expectation.

I didn’t want to isolate myself and be perpetually single, because I knew I’d be passing up getting to know some incredible people. What I wanted was a shift in the way I was handling my time, no matter how long, with these lovely souls. I recently found myself, yet again, investing myself in someone who would be leaving. Instead of letting things spiral out of control to the point of heartache, I decided to take this decision I made and turn it into something fruitful.

First impressions.

The spring of 2018 was a very turbulent season. It’s like life was a steep mountain, and I was in a pizza box sled racing down hill, only able to control my own reaction to whatever bumps I happened upon along the way, and the inevitable, messy end. I joked that Mercury must be in retrograde or “whatever horoscope junkies use to explain shitty times in their life.” The joke was on me, it was indeed in retrograde—that’s what I get for making fun of it, because Mercury made me her bitch

In my lowest lows, my only solace was my near-daily coffee dates with my dear friend.

On one of these particular dates, her boyfriend stopped by after his classes were done and had a friend in tow. Have you ever seen a guy so pretty it makes you angry? Because that was this dude.

I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, so I brushed the mild annoyance aside and plastered a friendly smile on my face and said hello.

Let’s just say my first impressions was less than ideal. Three descriptions that came to mind as he left were: cocky, loud, and not that funny. The biggest strike against him, though, was that he obviously hadn’t taken a liking to me.

Poor lad. Must be awful having bad taste because I’m clever, hilarious, and easy on the eyes (when I try).

As it turns out, my initial judgments on him were very similar to his own on myself. I later asked him what he thought of me after our first meeting and he responds with, “I just thought you were annoying… you made some choice comments and then interrupted me to tell me I had unfairly pretty eyes.

Guilty as charged! To be fair, though, he was being obnoxious at the time and I really just wanted him to stop talking. No regrets.

Plus, I’m all about flirtation—it can be done out of distaste as much as romance. Shooters gotta shoot, right, A?

The “mistake.”

We ran into each other the following weekend and did our very best to be polite when we needed to acknowledge each other, but pretty much dance on opposite sides of the group most of the night. It was very middle school. Here’s where things get hazy, but also hilarious.

We all decided to grab some pizza (the gourmet meal of choice to the drunk), but also thought it was a good idea to grab one more cheap PBR on the way over, because why not? It was a flurry of dark alleyways and back entrances to bars that were closing down for last call.

All I really remember is someone putting a beer in my hand and sending me on my merry way to the pizza place. It had delicious ‘za, graffiti on the walls, and a couple of old arcade games.

Something must have been in the bottom shelf vodka that night because A and I walked into that greasy joint arguing, as at odds as ever, and walked out holding hands. Without the goddamn pizza.

We have no idea how it happened, and neither do our friends. Blame it on the alcohol, as they say.

A and I and our friends head to my place, probably to watch a movie, which didn’t happen. Conversation flows and the couple remark to him that my bed was super comfortable, which it is, and tell him to go try it out.

Looking back, I think this was a setup. Those sly dogs.

I take the initiative, and not-so-subtly join him. Cue awkward first kiss and clumsy hands, thanks vodka. Hijinks ensue, I’ll let your imagination do the work.

The next morning I wake up with the sun, hungover and full of drunken regret. It wasn’t quite as worrisome as waking up to a total stranger would, but since I hadn’t the foggiest how we’d ended up in bed, it was still unsettling.

Instead of waking him up and calling him an Uber, as was my M.O., I text our mutual friends and suggest we do brunch. I wasn’t sure if I’d intimated things or not, so I didn’t want to be too much of an ass.

Oh, the tension. Four hungover twenty-something walk into a restaurant teeming with happy families on Easter morning and share a collective look. I think we were all too tired to figure out a new plan, so we ate our food in terse silence and left.

Thankfully, I had been dropped off first. I didn’t want to deal with the awkward silence and avoided eye contact longer than I needed to.

Strike two?

As I laid on my couch, wishing the headache away, I started to feel guilty. This was someone my friends cared about, and I hadn’t handled anything in the previous 24 hours with grace, or consideration.

I pulled up Facebook, having remembered that he’d added me the evening before, and drafted an “I’m sorry for drunkenly seducing you” message, only to see, “You can’t reply to this conversation”  once I had finally built up enough courage to click on his picture.

“Say what now?” I think to myself. “Did this cracker jack actually block me?”

I got more than a little irritated. It takes two to tango, after all.

I vented to my friends, and decided to drop it. I didn’t plan on seeing this guy again, so why waste my energy?

Coincidence thought otherwise, because I run into him exactly a week later at the same bar. I should’ve known he’d be there, since we both hang out with this couple frequently—but only hindsight is 20/20.

I lack tact, so I immediately started making pointed comments regarding the fact that I’d been blocked. Classic me. Once the couple took off for a bit, he asked me if I really thought he’d blocked me.

“Uh, yes?” I replied, suddenly not as confident.

It turned out that he’d only deactivated his Facebook for a spell. For the second time, this pretty boy made me feel like a jerk. He was even nice enough to give me a ride home that night.

What a gem, really. I’d have told myself to have fun walking in his situation.

I sent him a thank you text and asked if he’d be down to hang out and start fresh since we’d gotten off to a rough start.

He, surprisingly, agreed.

A fresh start.

We text pretty much constantly for the next few days about the usual stuff—likes, dislikes, work, hobbies, etc. A wrench was thrown into our plans thanks to both of us having a busy month, and rather than reschedule, we decided to hang out that very night instead.

Our conversation that night flowed as smooth as honey. No awkward silences, only comfortable ones—and plenty of laughter! We stayed up til the sun rose and said our goodbyes, and planned to meet up again soon.

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It’s amazing how time can fly when you click with someone so fluidly.

This sparked an intense month of up-til-dawn talks, lots of long boarding and food, and a constant stream of sass—very “on brand” for is.

We would often toss insults around as casually as you would a ball during a game of catch. If any of our friends were around they would just sit and look at each other like, “What is going on right now?” as we continuously battled for dominance.

That’s the thing about big personalities—you have to establish the hierarchy of who is more witty, clever, and funny right away, otherwise the whole dick-waving contest of it all gets pretty annoying.

Anyway, it was a whirlwind of a month.

Thrilling, in a word. Uncomfortable, but in a good way.

As someone who likes to be pushed and challenged, it was incredibly refreshing to be around someone who does that without even saying a word. There was just something exciting about the energy this person had got to me. It was… titillating.

I think the intensity of our time together was spurred by the fact that we were on a deadline. Friendship-wise, I could see us being longtime friends if we wanted. But for this fiery, romantic sort of thing? We had less than a month.

This wasn’t unfamiliar territory for me. My luck is just so that every time I become remotely interested in someone, I find out they’re about to leave.

The lesson.

Usually, I put up lots of walls and set boundaries so as to make the goodbye as easy as possible. Most of the time these people wash their hands of me once they leave town, and I hated feeling heartbroken.

This time, though, I had a feeling he’d at least stay in touch. And we had so many important things in common (writing, for instance) that I didn’t want to give him the lukewarm version of myself just so I could let go a little easier—I wanted the full range of emotions.

I felt a weird sense of freedom in knowing this intimate, intense thing was fleeting. It felt more natural to be open and vulnerable with this person who I knew wouldn’t be there on a whim anymore when I needed someone to listen to my woes.

I knew that if I so chose, I could cut this person off and not have the constant reminder of all the dirty laundry I’d shared. I could essentially vent, and disappear.

I knew I wouldn’t take that route—he was loyal, and kind, and a killer listener—but it was enough for me to be able to tell him things I’d never told anyone else, not even my journal.

I won’t lie and say it was easy to say goodbye, and that life went back to normal right away. I cried like a baby and was more than a little melancholy for the next week or so, but life eventually goes on.

I know this sounds like some sort of Cinderella story that leaves you wondering, “did you fall in love and live happily ever after?” I know some friends certainly wished it so

The answer? Nope! And it is entirely okay. It also just so happens that this human has found another human that makes him happy in a very romantic way, and I couldn’t be happier for him, and for myself.

To be seen, understood in such a meaningful way, to be completely overwhelmed by joy in such a strong connection… is priceless. Relationships with even a hint of non-platonic behavior are shoved into boxes, but this doesn’t fit into any box you could imagine.

It was incredible to jump into a situation wholeheartedly, with reckless abandon and know that it wouldn’t be mine forever. That I’d eventually have to let it go and let this wonderful human shine light on other people, knowing that I was fortunate enough to have experienced it for even a moment. And to be truly glad that others would get to as well.

And you know what? That knowledge has made me happier than any romantic fairy tale a lot of you reading this will probably have dreamt up for us.

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