We met for drinks that following week at a brewpub in my neighbourhood. I sat at a high table waiting for him industrial styled lights shone overhead. It wasn’t long before he approached the table. I slipped down from the high stool and hugged him hello, he chuckled “I forgot how short you were”. I fought back the urge to say “and I forgot got tongue-tied you make me”.
Other than our awkward greeting, we continued with an ease of conversation about politics and our personal life adventures. It felt natural, like old times with a dear friend. The bar was quiet, and the drinks were decent. All in all, an enjoyable evening together. But our goodbye was… empty. It was stiff, not like the goodbye at his doorway. His hand did not land on my hip to submit my brain into overdrive. He almost seemed in another world as we parted ways beside my car in the cold wet evening. There was no “this was great, let’s do it again sometimes.” There was no eye contact to lead to anything remotely intimate. My personal beliefs with dating are to let the guy make most of the first moves, which is why this took so long for us to get together. And he did not mention anything about a second date or “doing this again sometime” so neither did I.
I went home, my music quiet, mood sober and dull., unsure of what to think about the events that just happened. I crawled into my bed, checking my phone to see if he had texted me to let me know he was safe at home. It was approaching midnight. I debated messaging him to let him know I enjoyed his company and hoped he was safe. I had the message all typed out, but instead of sending it to him, I cowardly sent it to myself. I was afraid of coming on too strong. I didn’t want to push him, knowing his past difficult break ups he may be more hesitant to open up. I felt the situation was delicate and didn’t want to rush or ruin my chances with him. So I left it at that. A message for him sent to myself.
After a restless sleep, I quickly checked my phone after my alarm went off. Tuesdays are the worst day of the week. Mondays are hard, but that’s just expected being the first day back after the weekend break. Wednesdays at least have the joy of being half way through the week, given the title “Hump Day”. Thursdays are Friday juniors, and well Fridays are what we all dream of during the week. Tuesdays. They have nothing. They’re a day full of hard work and likely an evening spent alone on the couch watching crap reruns on the TV. Tuesdays sucked. This Tuesday was starting out rough, no message from Ryan.
I got up, showered and continued on with my routine, anxiously checking my phone when I could, even though I hadn’t heard it buzz. Once I got to work, I barely did anything productive. I couldn’t muster any energy into writing any reports. All I could think about was what went wrong, why wasn’t he messaging me?
Halfway through the day and still no message. I managed to re-frame my insecure mind and reasoned with myself, he’s probably busy with an assignment or work or maybe he’s scared too? But deep down I was truly afraid he wasn’t into me. That something I said turned him off. I wasn’t good enough. Perhaps it was my new hair, or my body weight. I ran through all of my insecurities as possible reasons. The worst thought I had was, what if I wasn’t smart enough for him? The thoughts spiralled after my lunch hour and overtook whatever reasoning I had accomplished.
On Wednesday, infamous Hump Day, my mood dropped from anxious to sadness. Still nothing. I reached out to my girlfriend, Laci. She was my go to for dating. Her voice was always one of reason.
Laci and I met for lunch later that very silent week. I brought us some butter tarts from my favourite place in town. I always comfort myself with little sweet treats. As we sat on the patio at her work, I gave her the run down. I told her about how Ryan and I met in a Starbucks line he making his characteristic witty comment about the long wait, about how deep of a connection I felt and knew he did too. I told her about Edith and how she inspired me to finally go for what I wanted.
Laci listened to every detail; she made the right nods and “mhmms” at the appropriate times. Laci suggested giving him a couple more days, “maybe he’d come around.” She questioned, “Could it be possible he was busy or that he broke his phone?” She reminded me patience wasn’t my best quality and to give it some time, especially if I really felt the way I do about him.
I asked, her my infamous question, “what if he never gets back to me, what do I do, how would I move on?” Laci knows how quickly and hard I fall for men, and how quickly and hard I hurt after it doesn’t go anywhere.
She ended the conversation by telling me by giving me sound advice. “If he doesn’t get back to you, you have to remember what is most important to you; a love story like in the movies or a man who doesn’t leave you doubting his love for you. You deserve a man who puts in the effort to be in your life. Wait for the man who can live up to that.”
There was a reason we were such close friends, she always knew exactly what to say. It was advice I had given to many of my other friends about their rubbish lovers. We changed the topic to her family; she was pregnant with her second child, due within a couple weeks. We hugged goodbye after the hour was up and I returned to my work down the street.
That afternoon, with Laci’s advice at the front of my mind, I was able to get motivated and focused on work. The remainder of my Friday afternoon went by lickity split.
That weekend, I spent time with family and friends. Relaxed with a book and cleaned my apartment. But by Sunday when I walked into the old age home for my volunteer shift, I lost all control of my thoughts.
Perhaps it was seeing Edith in all of her loneliness, but suddenly it wasn’t so easy to let him go. I hunkered down and tried my best to smile for the residents in the ward. I poured them lemonade and we played card games, Edith kicked my ass in Scrabble with the word “rejected”. I almost cried across from her when she spelled it out.
In the following couple weeks, I began to have more days where I couldn’t focus on anything but the idea of him messaging me. Though it seemed no reason or excuse could justify his silence. Either way, I’d always forgive him. On the days I really missed him I would post things on social media that I know will get his attention, but nothing. I desperately checked my phone every hour hoping for a notification from him. More of my friends advised me to move on, “he’s not worth your time”. Over time, I eventually checked my phone less; defeated I realized I won’t hear from him.
I fell back into my single life routine. When I am at the nursing home, I say nothing about it to Edith, and she says nothing back. Not a single day went by that I didn’t think of him though. I replayed our conversations in my head, dreaming of the day when I could hear his voice again.
After about a month of no message from Ryan, I began to go on dates with other men. I started to let strangers into my bed, in hopes to replace the thought of him. But nothing could do it, he lived in my heart, consumed my mind. At night I would whisper his name, almost as if I was saying goodnight to him. Whether I was alone or had a man filling the void in my bed, I would whisper into the darkness around me, “Ryan”.