I knew that it was a “now or never” type scenario. Either I was going to say something to Amy, or she was going to tell this other guy “yes,” and likely be out of the picture for me. Enter tons of conflict.
Remember, I don’t even have feelings for Amy at this point. All I am really going to be saying to her is that I am willing to *try* to have feelings for her, while this other guy apparently has feelings for her already. If I say something to Amy, I may only make her decision that much more complicated, since I would be adding one more variable into the equation. Would she really want more options?
I witnessed her decision-making process on where to go to college, and it wasn’t pretty. I hated the idea of causing her even more grief for something that was clearly not a sure thing from my perspective, and I hated the idea of losing her as a friend if things didn’t work out between us. Yet I also hated the idea that if she started dating and ended up marrying someone else, it wouldn’t really be appropriate for us to be close friends as we had been.
Finally, after much talking with my mom, and Kaleb, I decided to give Amy a call to see if we could go for a drive and chat. I knew she would know something was amiss, as we never chatted on the phone, or chatted in the car alone, or really did anything just the two of us. But after working up considerable nerve, and picking up the phone several times only to put it down, I finally dialed her number.
Now back to my perspective:
I was watching I Am Sam with my parents on New Year's Night 2003 when the phone rang. My mom answered, and when she said it was Steve, I was surprised and confused. Steve *never* called me. Ever. We were close friends, but we mainly communicated via email. Any in-person or phone interaction happened only with Kaleb around. So for Steve to call me was really, really strange. Even more unexpected was his request: Could I go for a drive and talk?
What in the world was going on?!
Maybe half an hour or so later, Steve pulled into my driveway. But first, a disclaimer from him:
Before we get into the actual conversation, let me start by saying that I am not a great off-the-cuff speaker. I like to think about what I want to say well before anything needs to be said, just to make sure I don’t make a fool of myself, or convey a wrong message. For this conversation, I didn’t have the luxury of prep time…
So as we started driving, Steve began by saying: "I've been warned about you, and about our friendship, by someone whose opinion I really trust."
At that moment my stomach dropped into the floor. My thoughts immediately went to a few weeks before, when Kaleb had accidentally found out that I cared for Steve. He had made an offhand remark in front of my mom, one that could have easily been misinterpreted as referring to Steve and me getting married. I realized just in time that that *wasn't* what Kaleb meant, so I played it off and casually agreed. But my mom took Kaleb's remark the wrong way, and she said with surprise, "Did you just admit to him...?!"
Oh no. Oh no. Nonononono. I tried to cover, but no amount of backpedaling or changing the subject would deter Kaleb from getting to the bottom of this. "What's she talking about? Admit to what?" I was cornered. Finally, I reluctantly acknowledged that yes, I had feelings for Steve. But I begged Kaleb not to breathe a word. Quite honestly, I didn't 100% trust him not to tell his best friend about this new development, but I was desperate for Steve not to find out like that.
So, with this odd and ominous-sounding opening line from Steve, I assumed that Kaleb had spilled my secret. He knows. Kaleb told him, and he's trying to tell me he's not interested. I want to crawl in a hole and die. After I kill Kaleb. This is the worst moment of my life.
It turned out that that wasn't where Steve was going at all--he just wasn't very smooth with opening lines :)
What he actually meant was that a cousin of his--an amazing girl whom he was close to and deeply respected--had challenged him to think carefully about his relationship with me. Lots of people will say that they don't want to pursue a relationship with a close friend out of fear of wrecking the friendship--but Janel pointed out that eventually, our friendship would *have* to change. As soon as one of us married someone else, we wouldn't be able to remain friends at the same level of intimacy. The way Janel described it, Steve had two choices: our friendship could change by becoming more distant when we each met and married other people...or our friendship could become closer and develop into something more.
So as we drove all over county roads in the darkness, Steve attempted to clarify and explain. It wasn't the confession of undying love I'd so often fantasized about. He had realized I had a lot of the qualities he was looking for in a wife, but he wasn't totally gone over me, heartbroken at the thought of losing me to another. He was simply open to pursuing the idea, he said, and he wanted me to have options.
When he dropped me off at my house later that night, I walked into the living room, flopped face-down on the couch, and promptly burst into tears. I had been blindsided by the development I least expected in this whole mess. This moment I had always dreamed of had actually happened, yet not at all in a romantic way--and the whirlwind of emotion was more than I could handle.
[continue to part twelve]