Friday, February 17, 2017

New Year, New Man

It was January 3, 2017 and it was surprising, but I had a date.

I had kind of fallen out of my "seeing what's out there," phase after so many promising young men just didn't work out for one reason or another. Plus, work got super busy and I couldn't really focus my attention on keeping my job AND finding a boyfriend. 2017 had to be different, though. My sister had made fun of me while I was home and when she called me a "spinster in training," I really didn't have a comeback.

I know there's nothing wrong with being single, but I still owed it to myself to at least have some fun. At least, that's what I told myself, even though my version of fun is staying at home with a bag of pita chips and watching HGTV. I will say, my tiny apartment looks absolutely amazing, since my weeknights and weekends in the fall were basically consumed with working out or decorating.

But to get back to the point, I was making good on my resolution only 3 days into the New Year. I made arrangements with a nice young man through an app. I decided not to go with WebMatch because even though my membership was free, it made me feel a little better to not be indirectly supporting Mr. Larson.

My new suitor, Tom, suggested a wine bar that I had actually been to. I got to the restaurant five minutes early, parked my car, and began fixing my make up when I heard my phone beep. He was waiting in front of the restaurant for me.

I don't know about anyone else, but first meetings still make me overly anxious. I don't know how people can be so calm about meeting someone for a first date. I can rationalize it, but it still makes me incredibly uneasy. It's probably why I'm so picky about who I actually let take me out.

The first thing I noticed about Tom was that he looked shorter than his pictures. I was wearing heels and ended up being almost his height. I'm not a height snob or anything, but it threw me off. I also noticed that he really didn't look like his pictures. I mean, I found him extremely attractive, but it didn't feel like I was meeting the Tom from online. He had short brown hair, brown eyes, and a great smile.

I didn't take this as a bad sign or anything, even though I've had friends who would completely discredit a guy who didn't fit their expectations, but it's something I often wonder about my own pictures. I know I post my best ones, but do they actually look like me? I don't think I'll ever know.

We sat down at a high top table right in front of the bar and a waiter came over relatively quick. We both ordered wine before getting into the typical, interview like questions you ask on a first date. What do you do? Where did you go to school? What side of the bed do you like? (Obviously kidding on that last one).

Conversation flowed pretty well and when it came time to order another round, he turned to me and said, "it's up to her."

"Sure, I could have another glass."

Tom told me about his job as a conservative biologist. He worked for the government and it all sounded very interesting. It was really nice being out with someone who not only did something he was passionate about, but he was also making a difference. The more he spoke about it, the more I could see the passion in his eyes. After I was about halfway through with the second glass, I started feeling a little buzzed, but it only made the date better.

"Well, I think I should be heading home," I finally said after my second glass was done. "We both have work in the morning."

Tom looked at me and smiled. "Yeah, I'll have to take you out again on a weekend."

I felt my cheeks getting red as I tried to keep myself from smiling too wide. "I'd like that."

After he paid the check, Tom walked me to my car. I had butterflies when we were a few feet away from my car, wondering if he'd kiss me or not. I'd be okay if he didn't, since he already told me he'd like to take me out again, but I was really hoping he went for it.

And he did. He kissed me softly as he wrapped his arm around me and placed his hand on my lower back. I didn't even care that we were standing there, making out, in a public parking lot. I didn't want to stop kissing him.

I was excited for our second date. This time, we went out to dinner. Our conversational topics broadened and I felt like we were moving at a good pace. About halfway through dinner, though, I started to feel lightheaded. He was talking about something that happened with his friends and I kept telling myself to just nod. I thought it would pass, but it didn't.

I don't know what happened next, but it felt like I blinked a few times and then Tom was in my face, on my side of the booth, looking terrified, with a huge glass of water in his slightly shaky hand. A concerned bus boy was scratching his head behind Tom.

"Caroline, are you okay?" He asked.

"Um, yeah, I think so," I replied as I weakly reached up for the glass. It just then occurred to me that I really hadn't drank any water that day.

"We were talking and you just fainted," Tom replied.

The only thing worse than how I physically felt was how I psychologically felt. What a way to make an impression on a new guy?

So I was glad when he still texted me the next day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It's Not Easy

"I don't know why I even got a Christmas tree," I sighed as I wrapped up the last ornament to pack away.

"You were trying to be in the holiday spirit," Shelby replied as she picked up her wine glass. "It was well intended." She finished her glass and I saw her pouring herself a hefty second glass out of the corner of my eye.

I shrugged. "Yeah, it's a bummer packing it up, though."

"It might have something to do with you packing it up on December 23rd."

She had a point, but what else was I supposed to do? I was going home in the morning and wasn't going to be back until after New Years. I didn't need a tree rotting away while I was gone.

"Enough about me throwing away my time and money on this stupid thing," I replied. "How're things with you? How's the job search going?"

Shelby took a long sip before answering, though I felt the amount of wine she was drinking was an indication of the answer. "Okay," she finally replied with a sigh. "I have an second interview with a place this week and I could start right after New Years if things go well."

"That's awesome!" I responded with a smile. I was genuinely happy for her. Mr. Larson, the jerk face executive who I first encountered as a rude airplane traveler, had been at our branch of WebMatch in Santa Monica for months now and none of the employees had any idea when he was going to leave. There were apparently a lot of internal adjustments going on in the company that were out of my lower level awareness, but what I did know was that they laid off about half of my department the Friday after Thanksgiving. Shelby was one of the employees to be let go and I felt so awful, while also being thankful that I still had my job. But for how much longer?

"Yeah," Shelby replied with an unenthusiastic nod. "I don't know, though. I've been thinking about going back to school." She began telling me about how she had always wanted to be a lawyer, but couldn't stand the thought of three years of law school. "There's a program for paralegals and I applied this morning."

"I loved school, so I'm always a big supporter of anybody going back." We talked about that a bit more before I began telling her what had recently been going on at WebMatch.

"So, Larson has been having a lot of meetings with me and Pete. The other day he brought up one of our less than great customer feedback forms." I paused to pick up my own glass of wine. The thought of the meeting already had my blood boiling.

"Why is he saying that he feels like you didn't take his preferences into account?" Mr. Larson asked me as we sat at the long conference table. Pete was sitting in between me and Mr. Larson, but he might as well have been invisible, because Mr. Larson wasn't berating him about anything.

"Well," I began as I pursed my lips. "Most of the traits he asked for were purely based on appearance and I tried to take those into account, but there were also personality characteristics based on the most recent research that I had to consider." I passed him some of the papers I had with me, but he waved them away without giving them even a mere glance. "He's been with us three years and while some of those relationships have worked, him and I have discussed that we need to try something different if he wants to find a serious, long-term relationship." 

Everything I had presented to him was true and it's not even like the customer feedback was that bad. He just didn't give us perfect scores and that was something the customer had written in his comments at the end of the survey, along with excellent reviews about me.

"I don't need excuses, Caroline," Mr. Larson replied without considering any of my perfectly valid points. "We just can't keep losing clients like this. The personal matchmaking takes a lot of resources to keep running and if we lose clients we won't be able to maintain the department. Does that make sense to you?"

I was ready to quit right there and after hearing the story, Shelby didn't understand how I didn't blow up at him.

"It's not easy," I insisted. "But I've decided to channel all that energy into kickboxing. Plus, I've started doing deep breathing exercises at my desk."

Shelby and I finished up the process of taking down my Christmas tree. Then I forced myself to go to sleep so I could wake up super early for my flight.

It was really nice to see my family for the week. I missed being home, but I did not miss that cold. I spent a lot of the time inside with my sister, who was also off for the week.

Then New Year's Eve rolled around. I went with my friends to a catering hall, like we had done a few times already. It was fun to get dressed up and see them. Not to mention that I killed in my crop top and skirt combination. Thanks were due to kickboxing, yet again.

Moose was there, though. He didn't try to talk to me and I was thankful he didn't. I was so busy catching up with everyone that I don't think anybody noticed, but I did. He was giving me weird looks all night, but he was also glued to his cell phone. Anna told me him and Jacky had broken up, but he was already back on Tinder. "He's talking to a lot of girls," she informed me, without any prodding. "He's kind of being sleazy with it."

Moose? Sleazy? No way! I was so glad that things hadn't gone further with us. He wasn't worth it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Impressions

I made a list on my flight back to California. I had to make a conscious decision to make certain changes in my life. Why did I continuously return to the past? First, I wanted to hook up with my ex-boyfriend and then, I actually did make out with Moose. What was wrong with me?

But these were mistakes, I told myself. I was making some concrete efforts to move forward. After all, I had been on two, successful dates with Chris. I was really getting along with him and he was great on paper, so that was a start.

So, I began by writing some obvious self-help tips: start actually exercising regularly, listen to that podcast about being assertive and confident, make avocado toast for breakfast at least once, maybe you'll like it! I was super focused on the list when I felt someone bump into my right arm.

"Ouch," I yelped as I instinctually gripped my elbow.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," said a middle-aged man in a suit.

I looked up at him with a tight lipped smile. "It's okay," I replied.

That should've been the end of the encounter, until the man decided to add one piece of advice. "Maybe you should keep those dainty little elbows out of the isle."

My face scrunched up. Maybe I was still worked up from the weekend. Maybe I was primed to stand up for myself because I wanted to listen to that podcast. Maybe it was the glass of wine I had at the beginning of the flight. I can't tell you exactly what gave me more courage that day, because normally I would've kept my mouth shut, but I did not.

"Maybe you should watch where you're going," I scoffed as I turned my attention back to my notebook. There was now a big, misplaced line right across all my ambitions. I actually thought the irony was comical.

I heard the man mumbling as he continued on his way. The only words I could clearly make out were "entitled," and "millennials." I didn't care, though. I wouldn't normally think twice about an interaction with a rude stranger like this.

But I did think about it again. I thought about it the next day when I went into work. Pete was leaned up against my cubicle with a large cup of coffee. "Morning, New York," he greeted me.

I threw my bag under my desk and turned to look at him. "You're here early," I replied as I rubbed my eye. The jet lag was real.

"Yeah, well, we have a big shot in today." Pete took a sip of coffee as he turned and pointed to the conference room. There, through the glass walls, I saw my friend from the plane. He was standing in the front of the room with a bunch of department heads seated at the table.

"Fuck," I said as my anxiety levels spiked. How could I be such an idiot? Work was the one thing going right in my life.

"It's not that big of a deal, Caroline," Pete assured me. "You have top numbers. He'll love you."

I looked down and began playing with my cuticles. I decided not to share my story with Pete at that exact moment. No need to have two worriers. Pete began explaining the situation to me. I was half listening as he told me that the company had a lot of adaptations and innovations in the works. I knew he had been to New York a few times over the past few months, but he was always very hush hush about it. He went on and on for a while and I got the impression that he had been wanting to share this secretive transition with me for a  while.

"So, I hate to do this to you on your first day back, but he wants you in our meeting at 3."

I felt nauseous, but I nodded before abruptly telling Pete I was going to go grab a cup of coffee.

It was easy to take my mind off the upcoming meeting. I had so many emails, so I kept my head buried. I didn't even realize it was lunch time until Pete came over and knocked on the wall of the cubicle. I looked up and he was shaking a small pizza box.

I followed him into his office and realized how hungry I was once I smelled the thin crusted pizza. I began scarfing it down as Pete went over some numbers he wanted me to know. We continued until it was almost 3. I would've been nervous even if I hadn't already interacted with this guy. Once Pete went over everything with me, I started to really realize how important this meeting was not only for my job, but for the company.

I had made a decision, though. I was going to pretend like I didn't even recognize him from the plane. After all, maybe he didn't see my face. Maybe if I talked in a bit of a lower tone of voice, he wouldn't even make the connection. With his attitude and sense of importance, he probably had hostile encounters all the time.

I took a deep breathe as I followed Pete out of his office. I happened to look down and catch a glance at his cute butt as we walked out. It actually made me feel a little better.

"Hello, Mr. Larson," Pete greeted him with a strong handshake. "I'd like to introduce you to one of our top members in charge of VIP memberships, Caroline."

Mr. Larson's eyes met my eyes and I channeled all my energy into a strong poker face. His face was blank for a couple of seconds, but it felt like a full minute, before he finally said, "Hello, Caroline. It's nice to meet you. I've heard a lot of good about your department."

I was finally able to breath easy. At least, for now.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The End of Summer

If you had told me that this was ever going to happen at any point over the last three years, I would've told you that the ship had sailed. The sexual tension was just something we had grown to live with. Anna used to say we were "like Ross and Rachel," but I knew this simply wasn't the case.

It was strange that my shirt was already off; not typically how my make out sessions begin. I was surprised that Moose was such a good kisser. He was always so awkward around me, so I assumed his lips would follow a similar pattern. I was pleasantly surprised.

After a few seconds of kissing, Moose guided me backwards and I felt his mattress behind my legs. I allowed my body to lay back and adjusted myself so I was no longer touching the floor as Moose climbed on top of me.

It didn't take long for Moose to start kissing my neck and slowly making his way down to my chest. He was about to take off my bra when I realized I was making a mistake. Kissing was one thing; we both wanted it, on some level, for a long time. But I felt going further, especially with me flying back to California after the weekend, would be regrettable.

"Moose," I said as I put my hands low on his shoulders. He didn't stop kissing me right away. "Moose," I said again. This time louder and without any sort of wanting in my voice. He lifted his head and made eye contact with me.

"I think this is a mistake," I said as I broke eye contact. I really didn't want to stop, but I knew I'd regret it.

To my surprise, Moose didn't argue. "Yeah, I know," he said. "Fuck, I just want you so bad."

I remained silent as I contemplated my response. "We've been drinking," I replied. "Let's head back downstairs."

Moose nodded. I have to say I was a little surprised, and even offended, that he agreed this was a mistake. Since when was Moose so level headed?

I put on a blue shirt from Moose's drawer and made my way downstairs. Moose told me he would follow me in a few minutes. I don't know why, but I took a few steps toward him, got on my tippy toes, and kissed him. It felt like I was ending something that had just started, even though I knew we couldn't really be together.

I met Anna at the keg. "Where have you been?" She asked.

"I spilled beer on my shirt. I had to go borrow one from Moose."

Anna nodded before her attention was drawn to Moose coming back outside. She looked at him, looked at me, and raised her eyebrows.

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, right," I responded to her judgmental look. I felt bad lying to Anna, but it was best if we just pretended this never happened.

"I would hope not," she laughed. I didn't really know what she meant, but couldn't exactly get any more information without incriminating myself.

We all ended up quieting down and just sitting with our drinks around Moose's fire pit. Everyone was chatting and I ended up talking to the girls about getting together for dinner the night before I went back home.

"Everybody should come," Jessica said, opening up the invitation to the whole group. A few of the guys were for it, but I noticed Moose was quiet. Jessica noticed, too. "What about you, Moose?"

"I can't that night," he said as he looked up at Jessica and then back at the fire.

"Oh, you got fun plans on a Wednesday night?" I asked. I understood that Moose was awkward, but I didn't want him to start avoiding me because of one drunken make out session.

"Yeah, I'm actually going to Westchester that day," Moose replied, still avoiding eye contact.

"Oh, do you and Jacky have something going on?" Jessica asked. I felt my stomach drop.

"Yeah, just a work thing for her," Moose replied. "I'm going to grab another beer. Everyone good?"

He didn't even really wait for a reply before jumping up. I waited a few seconds before turning to Anna and trying to sound as casual as possible when I asked, "who's Jacky?"

"Moose's girlfriend," Anna replied before taking a sip of her beer. She answered the question like it was nothing and of course, to her, it was common knowledge. Knowledge that had no sort of importance on this very night.

But to me, I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up onto the fire. How could Moose have a girlfriend and not tell me? How could he cheat on her with me? Did he honestly think I wasn't going to find out? Even if I hadn't found out tonight, I would have eventually found out.

I tried to keep my cool. I wasn't about to ruin a nice night with a scene and, to be honest, I still didn't want anybody to know about what happened.

I sat around for a few minutes with a fake smile on my face before taking out my phone and ordering an Uber. Moose came back to the circle but didn't even look in my direction, let alone try to talk to me or any of the girls.

"Hey, guys, I'm going to head home," I said as I stood up from the chair. "Super tired, you know, California time."

Everybody was drunk enough that they took this as a valid excuse, even though 1 AM New York time was only 10 PM California time. I said my goodbyes to everyone, including Moose, before heading to my ride.

I wasn't even home before I got a text from Moose. It just said, "I had a great time tonight." Then he sent a follow up text. "Sorry."

I didn't answer. I couldn't and I had nothing to say. We haven't talked since.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Moose's Barbecue

I went to Moose's barbecue with Jessica, Darlene, and Anna. The old group was back together. I immediately felt guilty when catching up with Jessica and Darlene, though. I regularly texted them, but I still felt like I could make more of an effort to keep up with their lives. Darlene had started a completely new job and I wasn't even aware of it, while Jessica was seriously dating an old flame from high school. I couldn't believe how disconnected I felt from everything. I still really missed home, but I did love California.

We got to Moose's house around 8 o'clock, but before we even opened the gate, we could hear that things were getting rowdy. Guys were yelling about something. Once we had a visual, we learned it was over a game of beer pong. Typical.

It had been an insanely long time since I had seen Moose. He had grown out his hair a little bit and had a beard. Moose's appearance seemed to fluctuate with the seasons, where sometimes he looked disheveled and other times he looked very put together. The summer had apparently been good to him. He was wearing a shirt with no sleeves and I could see that his arm muscles were looking pretty large. He had his long hair combed and his beard at the perfect length. I didn't want to admit it, but Moose was looking good.

I knew that he had broken up with Beth, his somewhat serious girlfriend, last year, even though I wasn't sure of their status at my Fourth of July barbecue. I later found out, via Facebook of all places, that they were no longer together and I never really got the details on what happened there. I know they had their problems, but they both seemed pretty committed to making things work. I never really figured out what happened there. Again, I made a mental note to be a better friend.

We all began drinking and I spent time catching up with everyone separate. I got to see everyone on a regular basis when I lived on Long Island, especially right after college, but so many of my friends had different things going on now. One was getting his PhD in Washington, D. C. while another was going to law school in Philadelphia.

Moose and I barely talked all night. I don't know if I was so occupied with everyone else or if he was purposely avoiding me, but the longer we went without really talking, the more awkward I knew our encounter would eventually be. The continuous beer drinking helped.

As the night continued, everybody continued to have more and more fun. Anna plugged in her iPod and I began bopping my head as I filled my red cup up with beer from the keg.

"California has made you a terrible dancer," Moose said behind me. I jumped as I heard his voice.

I turned to look at him and sighed. "Dude, you can't sneak up on people like that!"

Moose threw his head back and laughed. "Dude," he mocked me. "Wow, you are so Cali."

I rolled my eyes before looking down at my shirt. "Well, dude, you also made me spill beer all over my shirt. Not cool." It wasn't that bad, but it was substantial enough to be annoying.

"You're such a drama queen," Moose teased. I shot him a glare, so then he added, "you can go up to my room and borrow whatever you need."

I smiled at that and scurried inside. There was a particular t-shirt that Moose had since high school that I always tried to take from him. It was just of our old school mascot, but I always joked that it was my favorite. He never let me anywhere near it, but now I had free range of his room.

I opened his drawers until I found the t-shirts and then began scurrying. It took me a few minutes, but I found it. I drunkenly began pulling my light t-shirt over my head and then went to lay it over Moose's desk chair so it could begin to dry. As I was doing so, I saw a few framed pictures sitting on his desk. I noticed one, towards the back, of me and him. It was a few summers ago and I'm holding his arm, smiling for the picture, while he's looking down at his phone with a stupid smirk on his face. It was actually a pretty cute picture and it reminded me of the genuine friendship we used to have, before things got kind of complicated.

"What's taking..." 

I was startled again at the sound of Moose's voice, but this time was worse. "Oh," I replied quickly as I held the t-shirt over my chest. I was standing there in just a bra and jeans when I turned to face him. "Sorry, I'm coming right down."

Moose turned bright red and began stuttering an apology. "I just, sorry, um, I'll just..." As he went to walk out, he stopped. Then he turned around. He didn't seem mortified anymore.

"Caroline, you can't have that shirt," he laughed.

I wasn't embarrassed anymore either. "Oh, come on," I replied. I still had the shirt covering me.

He opened the drawer and grabbed a New York Yankees tee off the top. He threw it at me, but I didn't catch it because I was obviously already holding something.

I rolled my eyes again. "Moose, I'll obviously give it back to you at the end of the night."

I felt my stomach flip as Moose walked over to me without saying a word. Once he was standing directly in front of me, towering over me, his voice got deep and he said, "what are you going to give me for it?"

Neither of us said another word. Moose suddenly leaned down and kissed me. To my surprise, I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him back.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Summer of Love

I went on five dates between the weekend I saw Mike and Labor Day weekend. For me, this felt like a ton.

The first one stressed me out. I got to the bar early and while I waited for him to arrive, I texted Anna with complaints.

"Why do I have to do this? Dating is an awkward social construct. I could buy a dog."

All she sent me back was a GIF of Judge Judy rolling her eyes.

Once my date arrived, I felt a bit more comfortable. His online picture was pretty accurate and my initial assessment led me to believe he probably wouldn't try to murder me by the end of the night.

We talked about our jobs, our families, and the activities we liked to do on weekends. Normal first date stuff. He was a nice enough guy, but we didn't seem to really connect. He must have felt that also, because I he didn't text me after that night and I was kind of relieved.

My second date was a disaster. The guy talked way too loud and monopolized the conversation with stories about his trips to Comic Cons all over the country. I didn't even mind this nerdy characteristic, but I was barely able to talk at all. I couldn't wait for it to be over. How did I ever think this guy would be a good fit for me?

At the end of the night, he tried to kiss me and there was an awkward encounter between his lips and my upper cheek. I told him that it was really nice to meet him and I had a good time.

Even though he hadn't picked up on my disinterest before he tried to kiss me, he sure picked up on it then. He scoffed at me before storming off in the opposite direction. I bought myself an ice cream cone for comfort.

I'm kind of happy that I experienced that bad date because it reduced my overall anxiety about the experience of dating. Regardless of what happened, I would be okay.

I guess you could say the third time's a charm, because I was completely swooning over my third guy. The conversation over coffee seemed to flow effortlessly. I felt like he actually understood my weird jokes and I actually felt comfortable telling a few of those weird jokes because he seemed to be my right amount of weird.

The hour we had designated seemed to fly by and before I knew it, we had talked for an hour and a half. He had to head off to work but I walked back to my apartment feeling butterflies.

I felt confident that the universe had rewarded me. I put myself out there and while I expected it to take me longer, things were going to work out for me.

But a couple days passed and I didn't hear from him. I was disappointed, but decided that there was nothing wrong with me checking in with him. Maybe I had done something that made him feel I wasn't interested?

I sent him a silly text about running out of pretzels and needing more. We had bonded over a love of pretzels.

He texted me back surprisingly quick. "Haha, hate when that happens."

Well, all right then. I almost wanted to text him and ask what I had done. You know, just for research purposes. I used to focus on research in my graduate work, after all. Instead, I called Anna.

"That sucks, Caroline," she replied after I told Anna about the date along with my desperate move. "But just think about how many matches you have. You'll forget about him."

So, I went back to online and arranged another date. Summer was almost over and I was determined to make it to a second date with at least one guy.

My fourth date was with a guy named Chris. We made plans to take a walk along the beach.

I still felt like there was something with that other guy, but Chris was nice, cute, successful, and funny.

This fourth date, right at the end of the summer, was where I found true success. "Caroline, I'd love to see you again. Are you free for dinner some time this week?"

He asked me this right at the end of our walk. He didn't leave me guessing. He didn't play any games.

"I'd love to," I replied with a smile. "I had a really good time."

"Me too," Chris replied. Then, I thought he was going to kiss me, but instead he pulled me in for a hug. I reminded myself that, according to research at WebMatch, not kissing on the first date is associated with the relationship going somewhere. I am such a nerd.

Chris and I got dinner on the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend. I was flying home the next morning so I was glad we were able to arrange it. I found out more about Chris, including the exact type of law that he practiced and that he attended improv classes in his spare time. We had another great night together and this time, I got my kiss.

I didn't want to get my hopes up too soon, but I was pretty pumped to be heading home with some sort of success story. Since I already had Labor Day off, I was going home for a week. Moose was having a barbecue and some of my mom's family would be in town for a wedding. There were so many people I hadn't seen in so long.

My sister picked me up from the airport and then I treated her to dinner. She filled me in on all the family gossip. We talked on the phone fairly regularly, but we have a big family so I missed a lot.

The next day, I had Moose's barbecue and I don't think I could have done anything to fully prepare for what was ahead.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Living like a Visitor in my own City

I woke up as the sun beamed through the bedroom window. The sheets felt cool against my bare legs and I began to stretch as I turned to face the other direction.

"Morning, babe," Mike replied as he leaned over and kissed my forehead. He knew I loved when he did that, but not when he overdid it.

"What do you want for breakfast?" He asked as he turned away from me and swung his legs over the bed. He started putting on his sweatpants.

"I don't care," I replied as I stretched my arms up.

Mike laughed. I could never make up my mind.

Twenty minutes later or so, Mike came in with cereal, toast, eggs, bacon, fruit, coffee, and tea.

I laughed. "How much of this do you actually expect me to eat?"

Mike shrugged as the left side of his mouth curled into a smile. "I figured you could just have a little of each, since you can't make up your mind."

That was the type of relationship Mike and I had. We were young; kids, really. While I always thought people only described themselves as kids during their high school relationships, I can honestly look back at my relationship with Mike in a similar fashion. Maybe that's because it was my first real relationship. He was my first true love. I also look back and realize how little we knew about life. We knew so little about love and relationships. I often think that if I met Mike for the first time now, we'd be together. This time, though, it would actually work out.

But all that was in the past. We couldn't go back to what we once were, even if we did get back together. So as that memory went through my mind, I had to remind myself that it happened four years ago. It didn’t have anything to do with the people we were now.

Couldn’t people start over though?

"You're a really great girl, Caroline." That’s what Mike had just said to me before I leaned in towards him. I wasn’t exactly going in for the kiss, but rather giving him the green light. But he returned my “go ahead” with a stop sign.

“Um, I’m going to go find my cousin,” he said before abruptly standing up. I felt like I had been pushed back, even though I hadn’t been.

I took a deep breathe before standing up and walking over to the drinks. Mine wasn't empty but I knew I'd need more. Anna showed up a few minutes later.

"I sat in the bathroom until someone started knocking on the door," she said with a laugh. "I think the guy thought I was doing cocaine when I came out."

"You didn't have to do that, Anna," I began. "Besides, I don't think Mike wanted any alone time with me." Then I told Anna about my embarrassing rejection.

"He was probably just nervous," she replied as she flicked her wrist at me.

After we both had another drink in his kitchen, Mike and Anthony reappeared. I thought this was a good time to go.

"Well, I think we're going to head out. Anna has to catch an early flight tomorrow."

"Oh," Mike responded as he looked from me to Anna, who sweetly nodded to back up my story. Anna's flight was pretty late in the afternoon.

"Can I just talk to you for a second?" Mike asked. Anthony started asking Anna a question as he guided her over to the window. Apparently Mike had an ally in this war, too.

"We're cool, Mike. I'm sorry about before," I began. I thought I could stop this humiliating conversation before it even started.

"No, no, don't apologize," he insisted. "I just wanted to let you know, it's not that I didn't want to, or that I haven't thought about, or that I don't consider it." His thoughts weren't cohesive, but I knew exactly what he was saying. 

He took a deep breathe. "It's just, I started something kind of new back home. I don't know if it's even going anywhere. I mean, it wouldn't even be cheating. But I wouldn't want to do that to you. If anything happened here," he said as he motioned repeatedly from me to him. "I don't want you to see anything on social media in a few weeks, if that even happens, and think that I did something shady. And I definitely don't want to lead you on. I mean, if you were back home, it'd be different. Maybe."

I nodded through all of Mike's chatter. "I get it," I said as I put my hands out and onto his. "It wouldn't have been a good idea regardless." I reached out and gave Mike a hug. It was one of those long hugs that neither person wants to end because you know it might be the last one.

I didn't cry at all that weekend. I didn't cry until I got home from going with Anna to the airport. Everything hit me and I had nothing to distract me. I was lonely here in California. I went from being around family and friends in New York to being completely on my own. I also went from having being with Scott, somebody that I genuinely fell in love with, to having to end things with him.

Mike was a reminder of everything I had back at home. I wasn't upset about seeing him and being rejected. We had closed that door a long time ago. But it was time that I started making a real life for myself here. I had been living in California for about a year. I loved my job and Santa Monica had grown on me, so there was no reason for me to keep living like a visitor in my own city.

I opened my laptop and opened WebMatch. The first step towards my new life was to open up to dating again.