Unrequited Love…done.

harry_met_sally_1-791854If you are ever trying to put an unrequited love to rest, or you’ve killed one off and want it to stay dead, here’s how not to do it.

Don’t take a vacation from waiting tables with a pocket full of cash. Don’t go to Chicago where she lives in the ‘burbs. Don’t sleep on her couch, hang out with her family and see where she lives now. Most importantly, don’t spend a warm, sunny summer day with her walking around downtown Chicago together. Don’t go to the Navy Pier with her to eat strange, ethnic food together and catch some of the International Jazz Festival. Trust me on this, it will not help you get over her.

The great news was that C.D. was going to be going to the U of I, only a few miles from where I was living with my folks. Well, 70 miles or so, but that was much closer than Chicago and much closer than she’d been for the last 3 years since she’d left Rochester. I was taking anthropology at Community College and looking to transfer after the next summer semester to SIU. That would increase the distance between us again and thought I’d better make the most of proximity while I could and visit her at the U of I. As friends. Just friends.

It would have been helpful to me in those days to have had access to the wisdom of Nora Ephron. Here’s a sample from “When Harry Met Sally”:

Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

Sure, Harry is in cynical mode and I would’ve argued with the screen, probably out loud, but it would have at least made me think before I made a fool of myself one more time. It really wasn’t about wanting to have sex with her, *seriously* but it was definitely about the possibility existing that things might turn romantic and then I could have sex with her.

I drove up to the C.D.s Uni and got to sleep on her dorm room floor. Her roommate was there too. When I look back I sometimes wonder if, for reasons of her own, she had decided that I was gay. An alternative theory is that she was knowingly torturing me but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t like that. Either way it was clear that I was “like a brother” to her. Yeah, she probably decided I was gay and just stuck deeply in the closet.

But I was madly crushing on her, particularly after being with her in Chicago and feeling like I had connected with a soul in sync with my own. Someone who laughed with me and at me and seemed to get the stuff that I got. This was a rare combination in my experience. And that’s when I decided to do the second last stupid thing I would do because of my unrequited love for C.D.

She and her roommate decided it would be great fun to go out to a bar and hang out. The only problem was that I was still a youngster according to the rules of the state of Illinois. “No problem,” C.D. explained to me, “we’ll get some guys to help us.” Before I knew it, I had in my hand an I.D. that would prove I was “of age” and would get me by the bouncer and up to the bar. Immediately I was imagining the phone call from jail to my parents, waking them from their 9 p.m. bed time, to ask them to drive 70 miles and bail me out of jail. But C.D. thought it sounded like fun so I thought it sounded like fun and off we went.

As we approached the door of the bar I prepared myself. I memorized my fake self’s birthday. Made up first names for his mom and dad just in case I got quizzed and needed some back story. The guy on the I.D. didn’t have glasses on so I slipped my off and into my pocket while I tried to remember details from 1962 for any trap the bouncer my try to catch me in to prove I wasn’t really old enough to be there. I was only a couple months short in real life but I was playing a guy who’d been doing this for almost a year and was obvious so cool with it that he’d let a stranger take his I.D. for the night.

My heart pounded and I wondered if the bouncer could see my chest thumping. I handed him my idea and (I’m pretty sure) held my breath as he scrutinized the drivers license. He pulled out a special light and looked at it closer and then put a drop of some chemical on it to see how it reacted. And then I woke up from my daydream and realized he’d handed it back without really looking at it and we were through the door and on our way to the bar.

I was still freaking out though. Some part of me was sure this was part of some elaborate sting organized by the police. I was so nervous I kept my glasses in my pocket in case there were regular checks inside the bar. I was expecting Bar Nazis to come around to the tables demanding to see our papers. I kept thinking about that scene in The Great Escape where the guy is about to escape the Nazis and board a train when a Gestapo agent tricks him by speaking English. Any second someone would tap me on the shoulder and ask me if I was excited about turning legal soon.

I walked up to the bar to order a drink and pass the final hurdle to see if even the bartender would buy that I was old enough to be there. I tried to figure out what a University student would order. I couldn’t just look around. Without my glasses on I was pretty blind so I took a shot and said, “A glass of red wine.” to the bartender. And then he asked me, “What kind?” Damn his Nazi trick questions! “Um, whatever, it, um, it doesn’t matter.” I said, my voice cracking as I said it.

He handed me a glass of red and in my imagination he did it with a smirk on his face. I wandered around the room trying to figure out what fuzzy shapes were C.D. and her friends that we came with. Hearing her voice in a corner I turned and tried not to spill my wine as I crossed the dance floor. I sat down and became conscious that I was sweating. A lot. Every time someone came near the table I became jumpier and jumpier in expectation of that cold, iron hand on my shoulder that meant a night in the jail between Bubba and Mohaja Lee. It didn’t take long and C.D. realized I was not having the time of my life and kindly suggested we cut out early.

Another long walk. A talk. Some laughter. Finally laying down to sleep and realizing that no matter how much I “liked her like that” there was just no vibe that it was ever going to be reciprocated. I wasn’t mad, not disappointed, not sorry about any of the time I’d spent with C.D. I was grateful for her friendship, for the experiences shared, for the moments of extreme stupidity on my part (including singing to her on the phone), things that should have embarrassed me but didn’t.

She resolutely refused to be the girl I wanted her to be. She wouldn’t be the girl I thought she was. I have no idea if she was being the girl she thought she was. What I do know is that she was who she was and I was glad, and continue to be, that she was a friend who liked me like I was, that at least she “liked me like that”. And I’m convinced now that those kinds of relationships are so unusual, so rare, that they should be held on to, at least in our memories.

A few months later I met a girl. I’ve told that story here.

About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Friends, Life, love, Meaning, Once upon a time, Relationship, sex and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Unrequited Love…done.

  1. Will O'Neill says:

    Hi there,

    I found your blog under a tag that our most recent posts both shared – “unrequited love”.

    I thought it was the kind of tag that I should go looking for others over, I hope my unrequited love entry will cheer you up:


  2. brianmpei says:

    Thanks for stopping by Will. That’s a very interesting blog you’ve got there.

  3. Will O'Neill says:

    Thanks, Brian! Same to you.

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