He’s getting married tomorrow, this guy I liked one time.
I never wanted to be the one he turned to see when waiting anxiously at the altar. I just liked making him laugh. I was never sappy and love-sick, moony or weak-kneed. But we understood each other and at the time that was enough.
It’s been a year since our little chat, when I explained why I needed to take a step back from our friendship. There isn’t a template for that conversation, by the way. In youth group, I never learned how to tell a friend’s significant other that I had feelings for him and our friendship was no longer healthy, and then also know how to talk to her about it or if I even should.
In a classic, evasive move, we chatted normally for half an hour, and when he said he needed to go, I said, “Cool. Before you go, there was a serious reason I called.” I then proceeded to recite the speech I’d been running through all week. We signed off on good terms, though without the intention of resuming a friendship. Or so I thought.
I received an invitation to their wedding eight months later. Maybe there is a human who could waltz into that situation filled with foppish aplomb, jauntily skipping to her seat with all dignity and presumption. I am not that person.
When I RSVP’d, there was a box to write a message to go along with my response. 150 characters, a blank box and a cursor blinking judgmentally at my rejection of the invitation. How does one communicate such complicated feelings and reasoning in 150 characters? That’s not even a full tweet. Did I go all southern belle on them? “SUPER bummed to miss your big day!! Congrats! I’ll be there in spirit <3.” The obvious subtext being “I am clearly overcompensating because I’m uncomfortable and do not know what to say.” My instinct was to send that Randy Jackson meme which says, “It’s a no from me, dog,” but there wasn’t an image option.
I left it blank.
The eve of the big day, I’m left with recollections of awkward moments, messy feelings, and the back and forth pull of wanting and not wanting. I sit with the memories of two friendships, once vibrant but now broken. I’m turning the scenes over in my head, wondering when the shift happened, and how much of it was my fault.
I don’t regret my decision to not attend, and I’m not weeping into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. But oddly enough, seeing the pictures already on social media leading up to the day, my feelings are complicated. I’ve gone from wanting to block them both to feeling an impulse to comment on how amazing the bride’s hair looks, and occasionally pettily holding out likes on Instagram as if they will even notice because, hi, they’re getting married tomorrow.
It is an inconsequential weekend in September, but many of my friends are out of town. I would have to make a concerted effort to find someone to hang out with. Turning my options over in my head, I’m leaning toward isolation.
I didn’t call it that at first, obviously. I thought, You know, I just really need to make sure I’m taking care of myself spiritually and spending quality time with Jesus. But no matter the purity of my intentions, my day would not live up to any of my optimistic plans for spiritual renewal. I know myself too well. I would do some reading and writing, have pretend arguments with various people, meticulously laying out my point of view, defending my frail dignity to thin air, then end the day writing at my favorite bar, surrounded by people but completely alone.
Letting people see me when I am so emotionally conflicted and unsure sounds like an actual nightmare. By retreating I can pretend that I am running to Jesus, when really I am just folding into myself.
Pondering my situation, I think about when Jesus was in the garden, sweating out drops like blood. He asked his closest friends to stay up and keep watch with him. They immediately fell asleep… thrice. But still. If Jesus, on the brink of humiliating and excruciating torture and execution, reached out to God and his derpy friends for support, why do I think I am above it?
Mulling it over, I decide that I don’t want to sit and wallow. Texting my work husband from my restaurant days, I ask if he’s tending bar the following night. I envision walking in, him greeting me with a squeal and a “Hey, boo! French 75 with a splash of St. Germaine or an Old Fashioned?”, taking my seat and pulling out my book, my other friends and former colleagues occasionally sneaking over for a hug or a story about a ridiculous guest. We’ll all go to The Old Haunt after they’re cut, and laugh over the pervasive nonsense of the industry.
I smile to myself as I picture it. Why sit alone overthinking my feelings when I could spend that time with people who have already seen me in innumerable moments of unguarded stress and joy?
My phone buzzes. His message says that yes, of course he’s working. I shoot back, “I’ll see you then!” A tension releases in me with those words, and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. At least for the moment, I have this plan. And it’s enough.
*Note: Some details have been changed to respect the privacy of certain characters.