Friday, February 28, 2014

50 Percent Off

Saturday afternoon, as I was mentally banging my head against a wall trying to write my first developmental psychology paper, I received a group text from Jessica.

"Hey girls, Valentine's Day candy is 50 off and I'd love to have you all over to binge eat with me. Bring wine and movies."

I volunteered to drive and bring some of my favorite chick flicks from my DVD collection. I decided I wasn't going to tell my friends about Mike, so it wasn't a good idea for me to drink any wine. I'd end up crying and blurting it out. Judge all you want, but I know wine’s effect on me.

Jessica was taking potato skins out of the oven when we arrived. My mouth began to instantly water. Who needs to worry about a beach body in February?

We began watching Never Been Kissed while passing around various candy hearts and plates of finger foods. Drew Barrymore wasn’t even in her fabulous white outfit when Jessica had to grab the second bottle from the kitchen.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you guys,” she began as she reentered the living room. “I ran into Moose at the pharmacy today. He was buying gum and some half off candy.”

Moose, which is his last name but his mother doesn’t even use his first name anymore, is a friend of ours. We’ve seen him out a few times in the past couple of months, but him and I conveniently avoid talking past a polite greeting. Moose and I became really close around the same time that Mike and I started getting closer. Everyone began insisting that Moose had a crush on me and I couldn’t really deny that the signs were there. While Moose is relatively attractive, I couldn’t help that I was starting to really fall for Mike. So, I thought by ignoring Moose’s flirtation, I could save a friendship. When I announced that Mike and I were officially dating, Moose gave me the cold shoulder for a few weeks but eventually our friendship was fine. Mike was never completely comfortable about the situation and it caused some tension in our relationship, but he ultimately realized that if I wanted to be with Moose, I would have been with Moose.

“Who was he buying candy for?” Anna loudly asked. She was definitely enjoying the wine.

“I’m assuming for himself,” Jessica laughed. “I mean, today is the day after Valentine’s Day and I was doing the same thing.”

“No,” Darlene interjected with a mouth full of chips and salsa. “You bought it for your free-loading friends.”

“True,” Jessica said smiling, “But same idea.”

“So how is he?” I asked. I assumed Jessica had something interesting to say by bringing up her encounter.

“Fine,” she casually responded. “I guess he didn’t text you for Valentine’s Day?” Darlene and Anna began to quietly laugh. I gave them all a gracious smile.

Since Moose and I always got along so well, I sometimes got the feeling that he was just waiting for me to break up with Mike. Moose didn’t seriously date anyone while I was with Mike and sometimes I didn’t feel that our flirtation was appropriate. One night about two years ago, Moose had way too many tequila shots and ended up texting me at two in the morning. I was staying at Mike’s house that night and felt compelled to show him the messages. While Mike knew the messages weren’t in my control, he didn’t like that Moose would disrespect our relationship like that. Of course, the next morning I received an obligatory message reading, “Sorry for the drunk texts.” I feel bad because I know that Moose was always bottling up feelings for me.

The weekend after Mike and I broke up, a bunch of us were out to dinner. I mentioned the breakup to everyone, while holding back tears, and Moose was genuinely empathetic. The next few times we hung out, he didn’t make any sort of advances. Around Halloween though, I guess he figured he had waited the appropriate amount of time. We went to Nostalgic for a Halloween open bar and the whole drive home he was rubbing my leg as we sat in the back seat while whispering in my ear that I should go home with him. When we arrived at his house, he awkwardly stalled for a few seconds before drunkenly rolling his eyes at me. Before we even reached my house, I had received a text message reading, “Okay, fuck you.” He apologized, as per usual, in the morning but since that night things hadn’t really been the same.

Anna stood up and stumbled her way to the bathroom. When she got back, she sat down a little bit too close to me. “Well, I don’t even care that I don’t have a Valentine this year,” she loudly stated. She hadn’t talked to Tony since the last time we went out and even though I don’t think she liked him that much, Anna never handled rejection well.

“Girl, I’ve been spending this holiday alone since 1991 and I could not give a damn,” Darlene proudly announced while raising her wine glass. We all followed her lead and lifted our drinks as Jessica squealed ‘Single Ladies!’ Of course, she also insisted we stay in that position so she could Instagram a picture of the three wine glasses along with my red cup full of diet soda.

When we all regained our positions on the couch, I felt my phone began to vibrate on my left knee. It was a text from Mike that read, “Hey, I had a great time last night!”  My heart stopped for two reasons. I didn’t expect to hear from him so soon, but I simultaneously began freaking out that Anna would see it. Before I had a chance to grab my phone from Anna’s sight, she let out a dramatic gasp.

Ugh, the jig was up.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dark Chocolate Heart

I rubbed my eyes before looking back at my phone. Yup, I correctly read that. My hands were shaking. As much as I hated admitting it, Mike still had an incredibly irritating power over me. No matter how many hours I spent soul searching or working out or trying to talk to other guys, nothing really worked. A text from him still gave me the shakes.

The text was sent at 7:30 and it was now 8:00. Why was he even awake this early? I needed time before responding so I went into the bathroom to take a shower. I literally hopped out of bed because I swear, hearing from an ex is more effective than a cup of espresso. You heard it here first.

I couldn’t deny that I was excited to hear from Mike. For the past couple of weeks, Valentine's Day had been in the back of my mind. Would he text me? Would he send me a card? Would I hear from him right away or would he make me wait until the end of the day? I didn't even want to think about the worst scenario. Would he spend it with another girl?

By the time I got out of the shower, my skin was wrinkly, but damn I was clean. I didn't even take off my towel before reaching for my phone. While in the shower, I decided on the perfect text to write back in order to remain in control of this situation. After all, I was starting with the upper hand for once.

"Happy Valentine's Day :)" I wrote back. I ignored the 'I miss you' part but added the smiley face to seem nonchalant and friendly. I wanted to make him squirm a little.

Mike, on the other hand, was never one for games. I quickly received a text back that read, "Oh, so you don't miss me?" He didn't wait to respond. He didn't try to act like he didn't care. He was always straightforward and it made me miss our relationship more than ever.

"Of course I miss you," I wrote back. Being coy is so overrated.

"So, what're your Valentine's Day plans tonight?" I didn’t respond right away. Again, I didn't know what to write back, but I also desperately needed to get ready for work. I threw on my red hooded long-sleeve shirt that I wore every Valentine's Day and quickly blow dried by hair in record time. Once I got to work I looked at my phone again. Mike sent another text with a single question mark. My friends didn't really have anything planned, even though this was the first Valentine's Day in years that we were all single, but I couldn't tell him I had nothing to do on a Friday night, let alone on Valentine's Day.

"Not sure yet."

"Get dinner with me?"

A smile forced its way onto my face. I waited ten minutes before sending him a simple, "Okay." I knew this didn't mean we were getting back together, but it felt nice that he wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with me. At least I wouldn't be alone.

I stopped home to change into something nice after work before leaving for his apartment. I hadn't seen Mike in so long. The drive to his place felt weird. Even though I hadn’t been there in months, I didn't hesitate at a single turn. It was like riding a bicycle.

When he swung his apartment door open and we were face to face, I felt a tingling throughout my whole body. He looked cuter than I ever remembered and it became apparent how much I still loved him. 

"Hi," he said with a smile as he stepped back to allow me into his apartment. The place smelt like lavender and vanilla, two scents I know his mom loves. I looked to the left at the kitchen table. It was set with place mats and candles.

"What is..." I began to ask as I felt Mike's hands on my hips and his lips lightly kissing my cheek.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”

Ugh, this felt good. I took a step backwards. Even though his touch sent shivers down my spine, I was not going down that road. At least not yet.

“Sorry,” Mike said with a smile. “Listen, I cooked us dinner but if you don’t want to hang out here, I understand.” Mike began to walk into his bedroom as he suggested nearby restaurants we could go to. When he came out, he was holding a Russell Stover heart. “It’s all dark,” he said handing it to me.

I don’t know if it was the dinner or his touch or the way he remembered that dark chocolate is my absolute favorite, but all of a sudden I began to softly cry.

Mike put his arms around me as I tried to choke back tears. I hadn’t cried over Mike in so long but I had definitely been bottling up a lot of emotions. I was so not over him.

Once I gained some composure, I told him I wanted to stay and eat the dinner he prepared.
I sat down and he insisted on serving me the whole time. He brought out a bottle of Riesling (again, my favorite) and poured us both a glass before bringing out salads for us to start with. It was the perfect Valentine’s Day night, but under the wrong circumstances. I mean, what did this all mean?

After dinner, we continued to catch up on each other’s lives while watching television from his couch. He made a few moves, but I forced myself to decline. Truth be told, I did miss sex, but I didn’t want to be more confused than I already was.

When it was time to go, I gave him a quick kiss goodbye. I left with a complete feeling of uncertainty. The whole night was a lot to process. This might get pretty messy.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Schmalentine

Saturday night, I gripped the belt loops of my jeans, jumping and wiggling to fit into my tightest pair. I settled on a ruffled black top to go with them because the loose fit of the shirt hid the love handles that the jeans gave me. Our train was leaving at 8:12 and it was almost 7. The girls were on their way so we could hang out and have some wine beforehand. I mean, how lame would it be to show up sober?

The guys suggested a trendy bar in New York City that had about thirty different seasonal beers on tap. I hadn’t talked to Evan at all since we didn’t exchange numbers, but I was crossing all my fingers and toes that he would be there.

I was lying on my bed catching my breath (let’s face it, getting into tight jeans should be an Olympic sport) when I heard the doorbell ring downstairs. I didn’t move as I heard my mom let my friends in.

“Hey… What’s the matter?” Darlene asked when she saw my exhausted expression. She was holding a bottle of wine with four solo cups on top.

“Nothing,” I exclaimed as I shot up. Anna and Jessica both walked in behind her as they texted on their phones.

“I am so excited,” Jessica squealed as she looked up. “Kyle said the guys are heading over there around 9 so we’re good.” Jessica and Kyle, Evan’s friend, had been texting all week.

Anna let out a heavy sigh. We all looked at her for a moment until she looked up from her phone. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I’m just annoyed with Tony.” Tony was the same guy from New Year’s Eve. The same guy that completely ditched Anna, and us, the weekend before. Anna had given him another chance, but apparently he wasn’t redeeming himself. “I’m getting with someone tonight,” Anna announced as she grabbed the cups and wine from Darlene.

I looked over at Darlene and rolled my eyes as Jessica helped Anna open the wine. Anna usually came off as annoyingly confident when we went out but we slowly realized that this was because she needed a lot of validation. She even intruded on our men of interest sometimes just to prove to herself that she could get with anyone she wanted. I don’t think it was intentional, but still. The night was off to a grand start.

We arrived at Penn Station with a slight buzz and immediately got a taxi. Even though I live so close to the city, I don’t know it as well as I should. I would never be able to successfully take a subway anywhere, which makes me feel like a European tourist rather than a legal New York resident. I knew the address for us to give the taxi driver so whatever.

As soon as we arrived at the bar, Jessica spotted Kyle out of the crowd. I scanned the area around him for Evan but sadly didn’t see him. I decided to drown my sorrows with Anna at the bar. I hadn’t even settled on a beer from their unique menu when Anna began flirting with an older man sitting near us.

“Caroline, this guy said we need to try the Blizzard Ale,” she slurred as she poked me on the shoulder.

I pressed my lips together and took a deep breath. Don’t be mean, Caroline. “Okay,” I said, trying to be cheery. Anna’s new friend ordered three of them. I looked down to get money and when I looked up, I was suddenly face to face with Evan. I let out an accidental gasp.

“Oh… Sorry,” Evan said putting his hands up. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he continued with an awkward laugh.

“No, no,” I exclaimed a little too immediate and loud. I let out a little laugh and he smiled.

“You want a drink?” he asked pointing to the bar. As I opened my mouth to answer, Anna knocked into me and I almost fell on Evan, practically touching his crotch. Ugh, could this encounter be any more awkward?

Anna began slurring an apology as she handed me my beer. “He said it’s on him,” she bragged. I turned away from her towards Evan.

“Um, I’ll get next round?” I suggested.

Evan laughed and flirtatiously grazed my arm as he moved closer. “You’re a funny one,” he said. Well, be still my beating heart! I took a sip of my Blizzard Ale to hide the embarrassing smile spreading across my face. Damn, it was a good beer.

I didn’t have much time to bask in my glory before Anna walked over. She looked directly at Evan. “Have you tried this beer? It actually tastes like you’re in a blizzard.” I could feel my face getting warm. I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. I felt enraged. It’s not that Anna ever really succeeded in stealing guys away from any of us, but she made it uncomfortable enough to ruin the moment. Serious girl code violation! I would not allow this with Evan.

“Anna, I think Jessica is looking for you,” I blurted out. Anna looked puzzled. I thought she was about to call me out of my bluff, when she suddenly walked off without saying a word. I don’t know if she was really drunk or finally took a hint but regardless, I was grateful.

Evan ordered a beer for himself and we made some small talk. He was polite and attentive, just as he was when we first met. The rest of our friends eventually joined us.

I wanted Evan to kiss me at the end of the night. I wanted him to ask for my number. I wanted any type of move, but nothing. I refuse to give up hope.

I woke up this morning to the sun’s reflection on the bright snow. I also woke up to a text message.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. I miss you.”

It was from Mike.

Friday, February 7, 2014

T. G. I. Effing Friday

Man, do I appreciate Fridays lately. For the past couple of weeks, I have been living for the weekend, y'all.

Let me explain. I graduated college last May with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I didn't get much experience outside of the classroom, so I felt a little confused with where to turn next. What kind of job could I even get? Did I need a doctorate to do anything worthwhile? Why, oh why, did I get this degree? Who would want to hire me based on my random knowledge of Freud?

I didn't worry about it too much. Stressing wouldn't improve my future plans. I figured I could take some time to look into all my options. After all, I had a steady job bookkeeping at a small grocery store and they offered me a full time position after I graduated. I worked there all throughout college in addition to having a hefty academic scholarship, so I had no student loans. It wasn't exactly my dream job, but I began to save a lot of money since I continued living at home and tuition payments were out of the equation. No matter what my future was going to bring, a nice savings account couldn’t hurt.

I was still dating Mike and we spent a lot of time together over the summer. Mike was a year older than me but didn’t exactly follow the four-year college plan, so he had another year of school left. Even though I was working full time and he had two summer jobs, we still had a lot of free time. Maybe all that time together hurt us in the end. We had some problems earlier in our relationship but they rarely came up that summer. In hindsight, our relationship started to grow stale. Sometimes I would drive to his house to hang out with him and end up taking a nap while he went out with his friends. He would invite me, of course, but I would tell him to have a guy’s night. We both knew the reality was that I’d rather snooze than hang out with his friends.

I would occasionally spend weeknights looking into graduate programs or jobs in psychology with growth potential, but I didn’t take it all that serious. I was content with my life, even though I did want to move on from the grocery store.

When Mike broke up with me, I threw myself into looking for new life paths. I'm glad I did, because I made the deadline for the graduate program at the university where I received my undergraduate degree. I made my schedule for the spring semester. I decided to continue working full-time while adding three night classes. I have finished two weeks and while I’m glad to be back in school, it’s difficult with a full-time job. However, I’m rationalizing that a hectic week means an even sweeter weekend.

So last Friday, after my week consisted of three syllabuses demonstrating just how difficult my semester would really be, I anxiously sent a group text to Anna, Darlene, and Jessica insisting on a girl’s night and enhancing the offer by volunteering to drive. After that, it didn’t take much convincing before they all agreed to go bar hopping in a town twenty minutes away. I rushed out of work so I could get home and begin my girl outing preparation. Sometimes I preferred being the designated driver, because I didn’t have to worry that my make-up and hair would fall victim to my sloppy antics. By eight o’clock, I was out the door with an energy drink in hand.

That night we ended up at three different bars. The first one was dead, but we loitered there for a while based on Anna insisting that her New Year’s Eve man was going to stop by. Eventually, she texted him to let him know we were leaving. She didn’t even get a response. Guys can be the worst.

The second bar was much better. Guys with flannel shirts and beards lined the walls. “Hubba, hubba,” muttered Darlene.

It didn’t take long before a guy near us started talking to Jessica. His friends quickly followed suit. Our two groups merged into one. I was particularly attracted to a particular guy, so I performed my trademarked flirting technique of shyly looking at him and playing with my hair until he got the hint. I know, I’m so slick. Fortunately, it worked. His name was Evan and he had the most defined jaw line I have ever seen. It wasn’t long before the guy talking to Jessica turned to the rest of us and asked if we’d go to another bar.

“We know the bartender and promised we’d head over there,” he told us. I looked at Jessica who feverishly nodded to let me know she was into him.

“Sounds fun!” I replied. Anna and Darlene, who had been talking to the other four or five guys, also nodded at Jessica’s new man friend.

“Okay then,” he said with a smile. He turned and grabbed Jessica’s hand before leading the group out of the bar. I could always tell when Jessica was really into a guy, because she would let him make physical contact with her in public.

Evan continued to stay close to me the whole walk over to the other bar and began asking me a lot of questions about myself. It felt so effortless to just talk to him. Once in the dimly lit bar, he still didn’t make any creepy moves. He looked me in the eyes while we conversed about our families and education. Where has this hidden gem been hiding? He was a complete gentleman and they were all cool in general. We couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Jessica texted me and told me her guy wants us all to go out with them in New York City tomorrow night. Now I just need to figure out what to wear.