Red Velvet: A Love Story That’s Not A Love Story

This is going to seem like a love story, but I promise you it’s not. At least, not for me.

***

In the Cambridge dictionary, notice is defined as, to see or become conscious of something or someone. Do you have a friend that you can remember the first time you ever noticed them? Like the exact moment?  A short image, saved to your memory of when you really saw them? What they were wearing? What they were doing or saying? Their facial expression? He was that type of friend. I think the universe chooses those friends for us, because I have other close friends but I don’t remember the first time I saw them – that’s an extra special detail reserved for only certain people I suppose.

The moment occurred during Introduction to Political Science, our first semester at Howard. At 5:10pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we flocked to Room 116 of Douglas Hall to listen for 50 minutes to the words of our professor. My mind soared during these 50 minutes, preoccupied with the building blocks of democracy and discussing the differences between capitalism and Marxism. Also, there was Ol’ Boy in the class who had caught my fancy…his face distracted me from seeing any of the other males in the room.

I absorbed the lectures like a sponge to water. The class was rapture to me. I was so in love with the conversation of the polis (and Ol’ Boy) that I did not notice my friend until quite much of the semester had passed. Obviously, I “recognized” him as many of us do with those we have class with – but it wasn’t notable. His was an unimportant face at the time.

It would not be til almost the end of the semester that I would finally notice him. And if I had never noticed him? Well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.

A class debate is what sparked the relationship. Our professor split us into groups and gave us topics. My friend and I happened to be split into the same topic: U.S. funding to research a cure for the ebola virus. His group was arguing against; my team was arguing for. Him and I were both serving as the closers. This is when I notice him, because of the absolute craziness that left his mouth during his two-minute speech. He was arrogant, insulting, demeaning, and deluded! I will never forget – he compared ebola to AIDS and said that ebola is not as big of a concern because AIDS has killed more people.

Absolutely insensitive.

(Now, granted – this was a debate. He was just doing his job. But I took it personal. He was coming for my team and I was not going to let it pass).

So, when my final moment for last-minute persuasion arrived I altered my remarks just slightly to address the trash he had just uttered. I turned to him and icily declared,  “What my colleague over there failed to realize is that ebola is nothing like AIDS and they cannot be compared…” Essentially, I tore him to shreds and we won the debate. Cue the applause.

On that day though, I decided I did not like him. Little did I know that in the next year and a half he would be one of my closest allies. And it’s funny, because later he would tell me that he didn’t like me at first either. He thought I was, “pretentious.”

I do not recall seeing him much after that day of debate, but he was no longer an unimportant face. He had evolved into, “That boy I don’t care for, that I had Intro to Political Science with.”

I do not believe we had class together again until the spring of 2016 when we took Political Theory. Again, my mind was moved by the flow of the class, so I paid him little attention. Also, he was never the most talkative, often observing our classmates instead, keeping his thoughts to himself. Our connection became a little more solid when we realized that we were a part of the same organization – brought together by a mutual friend (p.s. That mutual friend was Ol’Boy mentioned earlier. I know, wild. )

Since we were going to be interacting on a semi-regular basis now, I decided that I had better let go of my judgements and be more friendly. Now we were on the occasional, “Nod hello in the hallway” basis. And that is where we remained until Junior year.

I was leading our organization now, so I spent a lot more time talking with him and discussing different issues. We developed a bond over our innate sarcasm and love of dark humor. One of our favorite things to do was serve as The Devil’s Advocate. What would start as a regular business meeting to plan events and get updates on organizational matters would quickly turn into long conversations where subjects ranged from alternate realities to family matters to ideas that other people automatically accept as valid – like God and religion.

 

Our brains became friends.

 

The coating that sealed our friendship was the night we played cards and got drunk together. We investigated each other’s pasts, learned secret fears, and found the skeletons hiding in closets.

After this night, I felt I could tell him anything, and know that he would still accept me regardless – because that’s what friends do. I was never concerned about being judged or saying something offensive because I knew he understood me, and I him. This was the foundation of our relationship. We clicked like a seatbelt.

But something must have changed for him this night, that did not change for me.

Feelings.

Yep, the F-word. This horrible little word, that can alter so much.

As I felt closer and closer to him as a companion, it became evident that Cupid struck him with the arrow and missed me in the process.

The divide began.

I won’t go into the messiness of it all, but over months we had our quarrels so to say. I felt I was always very straightforward, but maybe I should have taken more responsibility over my actions…who knows? As blunt as I thought I was being, and “non flirty” – it never sank in.

Junior year came to its end and he knew he wasn’t going to see me anymore, for the summer at least. We both agreed that was good –  the space and time would be beneficial and maybe he would be able to move on, and we could be friends. I was hopeful. He was hopeful too. I think.

But hope is for those who do not want to face their present reality. (At least, I feel that way now).

His cleanse of me did not last for long. We both broke our deal of “No contact.” He texted me when I shittily forgot to tell him Happy Birthday. Accusing me of  – rightfully so – forgetting his special day. And that sparked us talking again.

Then I reached out to him in a time of overwhelming stress and depression. And he was there. We didn’t even talk on the phone – just texts. Yet, I could feel him listening. And just through these green messages on a screen he comforted me. I don’t know how, but I felt his presence in that moment even though he was thousands of miles away.

My friend, my lovely, giving friend.

However, these Hallmark moments did not last for long.

He reached his final breaking point with me when I posted an affectionate video of my then boyfriend. Well, he lost it. He couldn’t take it. He was fed up and frustrated. So tired of being frustrated. He said some rude things to me after that, so I was honestly done with him as well.

Other than the minimal contact necessarily required from our mutual membership of the organization – we no longer talked. Ever. It got to the point where we did not even say hello. He would walk past me like I didn’t exist.

Can we address that? Having to pretend like we don’t know one another and never shared deep, hilarious conversations til 1, 2, 3 in the morning sucks. It SUCKS. It’s bullshit. I feel Tantalus’s pain.

However, I digress. This was our new normal – until recently.

I contacted him out of the blue. I missed him. (And also, after a couple glasses of wine I had the briefest of thoughts of kissing him).  It had been so long since we had actually talked. I thought maybe he was good now. There was a philosophical quandary I was puzzling over, and I knew his mind would be the perfect wall to bounce my ideas off of. When I sent the text I was nervous. Then, when he didn’t respond after 20 minutes I got irritated. I assumed he was still ignoring me, and like the child I am I started having the petty thoughts we all resort to when we don’t get what we want, “Well whatever, I don’t need him. I can go talk to someone else. “ But then when he finally did respond I was so giddy, and we met later that night. For an hour it was like nothing had ever happened. The tide continued to flow. We spent the next day together, riding rollercoasters and eating fast food. It was great.

But then – well. Then today happened.

“Where are we going with this?”

And I still didn’t have the answer I know he wanted…He always thought there was a “this” but I never saw it that way. What this? We’re just us.

“I don’t want to hurt again. I can’t keep going through this pattern with you. And like I’ve said before, maybe one day we can be friends. But right now I can’t.”

And just like he knows what my answer is going to be to the “What are we?” question, I knew that he was going to tell me goodbye.

With that, he won the debate. His closing remarks were final.

***

I can’t explain why my brain never saw him as more than a friend. All I know is that I cannot force feelings that do not exist. It just never happened. It really is too bad, because feelings aside, we would be great. We would probably be the second Barack and Michelle circa the 2030s. But right now, it just isn’t in the cards.

So, that’s the story of how I lost a friend. And it hurts. I was sad. But I know it is what he needs, so I’m going to be there for him by not being there.

Hopefully, maybe, our love story that is not a love story will have a happy ending – even though he knows I love tragedies even more.

C’est la vie mon ami.

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