10 years on

I met K in October of 2006. That was when I got a job at a Target in a small city in Minnesota. Not technically a suburb, it was definitely a more moderate or conservative region, a lot of families and professionals, not really a cool scene for art kids. Nothing much to do for a twenty-something if you’re not into sports or drinking.

K was one of the first people I met at Target and I was attracted to her immediately. She had a big floof of wavy hair, wore shirts that would accidentally rise above her waist, was tan, very curvy, very made-up, a well-manicured normative woman aesthetic. She was like the popular girl at your high school or someone walking in a mass of sorority girls who won’t walk single file on the sidewalk so you have to step off into the grass when you pass. And while she was always nice to me, she would shit talk the other weirdos at Target, even though I was one of the weirdos. I always felt nervous around her because she was pretty, but I quickly learned that her personality was not a good match for me. She would lament if she found out a celebrity was a democrat, she referred to one of our customers as “that oriental girl,” and there was once a Middle Eastern woman who was trying to pick up her photos and K quoted her a time and the woman, in thought, was like, “this does not work.” Like just communicating what kind of timeframe would work at the one hour photo, just like every other (white) customer does, except she had an accent. And K was like, “That’s my biggest pet peeve in this country. If you’re going to come here.. LEARN ENGLISH.” which was strange because she was definitely speaking English.

Anyway. These were the red flags that made me want to keep a safe distance. Like, just imagine what she must think of me; out of shape, a general disregard for his appearance, college graduate who now works at Target. I think I was worried she would be judgy about me and then I would feel fat and gross. Another thing was that she was recently divorced from the guy at the photo lab who I was replacing. Apparently he was Mormon and had been having a secret relationship with someone online. I guess K could never really catch a break despite seeming like she had it all.

She started dating this guy James from Electronics who gave off creepy vibes. Like maybe kind of Ted Cruz vibes. She could have done much better than this dude, but I think she didn’t know that, and he asked so she probably went. I think he also had a car and I didn’t. So. But he was interested in me because he was actually a weirdo. The three of us went to see Zodiac together which was great. But the next day he was like, “here’s what I would have done.” And then described some serial killer shit to me. I decided to keep away from James as well. Later, some photos of K were found on one of the display cameras in the electronics section. Which means someone in electronics was zooming in across the store to the photo lab and taking photos of K unaware while she was working. Rumor was it was this dude Kendall who was nothing but kind and geeky. But later we found out it was James. I think they broke up after that.

She got a different job selling granite counter tops or something but would still pick up a few shifts here and there, but it was clear she had some major senioritis and got out of there as quick as she could. I transferred to a Chicago target and started my life here.

Over the next 10 years I would watch was K would post things on Facebook that were similar to what I was posting. She was no longer a republican and expressed her support for Barack Obama, a person I really like also. This made me respect her a little more, made me realize people can change. She started posting baby photos and changed her last name and K became one of many people from back then that I filed away in my memory assuming I would never see again, but also never forgot either.

In January of this year she posted a GoFundMe on Facebook. It was for a legal support for a custody battle. As I read the details, my heart broke. K was saying that the father of her youngest baby was not her exhusband. It was a friend who assaulted her, and after he found out about the baby, told his parents who were now suing for either joint or full custody for the father. For a rapist. I reached out to her to let her know how sorry I was that was happening, and I shared the GoFundMe page on my page. That was the first time we had talked since 2007. She had to take the page down because he was suing her for defamation or something. What a nightmare. Eventually she deleted her facebook as well.

In July I got a DM from an Instagram account for a real estate company. It was K, reaching out to me from her business account. She was going to be coming through Chicago in August and did I want to meet up? Sure! We caught up a little bit and the conversation was really good. I was getting positive vibes from the thread, and it was actually going late into the night sometimes. She was a little bit flirty in general, and that made me feel like I was getting a green light to also be flirty and be like “i wish you were here right now” yaddi yaddi yaddi talk about slumber parties and exchange pictures, and so on and so on and eventually she’s like “Why have I never seen this side of you before? I like it” and I’m like “Oh I was way too insecure before” But also PS We worked together and I never want to be the dude that you avoid at work because he asked you out and now it’s awkward. But now K was far away so what did it matter? She was like, “I always just thought I wasn’t smart enough for you.” That is a real thing she said to me which is strange. It’s strange to think that a beautiful person would have an opinion about me and about how they wouldn’t be smart enough for me to date them.

We started texting a lot and exchanging pictures. We never talked on the phone but I actually hate doing that anyway. She told me more details about her custody trial and also told me that the reason she left Target was actually because they made her feel like she was “asking for it” with the pictures thing, based on how she dressed, or something. Pretty fucked up!!!

But she is also like “I can tell you are a nice guy and won’t hurt me,” which gave me pause, because I am perfectly capable of hurting someone if we want different things. Happens in every relationship. Also, most of my relationships don’t work out. In fact, chances are good us meeting up isn’t going to happen at all, just because it is hard for me to imagine THAT person wanting to see me. I figured it was nice to flirt with someone and maybe they liked the attention but we were clearly not going to try to BUILD something. I mean, there is a chance, I told myself, we if we meet and it is clear we are soulmates, we will make it work, but what is more likely is it is awkward because we haven’t seen each other in 10 years, so it’s like internet dating and it will “feel” different in person.

So I let her know I am generally against long distance relationships and while I’m able to be her friend and happy to flirt with her, I wouldn’t set expectations too high. And she said, she didn’t want to rush into anything either, and we should just feel it out and see what happens and not shut it down before it happens. Proceed without expectations.

Great!

So the day came. She was coming in with her brother who was going to stay at the hotel while she and I hung out. We didn’t plan anything, she was just goint to come to my house. She asked if I could find them a hotel near me and I recommended 2 but she poopoo’d them without explanation. They ended up going to one in Skokie. And she was like do you want to meet me here? And i’m like we can hang in Skokie if you want, or are you suggesting I cab out to Skokie and then cab back to Chicago? and she was like “Why would we hang here?” which is both an answer and not an answer, but she must have picked up what I was saying and was like I will just uber over to you. Cool.

Keep in mind she was expecting to be here at like 5:30 but didn’t arrive until after 9 because traffic was so bad. I also didn’t eat because I thought we were going to eat together but she wouldn’t tell me to just go eat something, just kept saying she wasn’t hungry. So I ate a slice of pizza before she got there. I gave her instructions on how to buzz my apt and where to go and I would buzz her in, and she was like “Or you could just come down and let me in :) “

I’m sorry if I’m an asshole, but we have this whole buzzing system for a reason and that is like I am giving you access to just come in. The whole system breaks down if you don’t use it. Anyway. she traveled for days to get here, so I should stop being an asshole.

So I meet her outside and we hug. She is wearing high heels and a short skirt, has a pompadoor now and is very skinny, like kind of skeletal. She also told me the day before she hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. But this doesn’t matter and I hate to be judgy. We go back up to my house and I show her around and she asks me if I’m on crack. I think because I seemed excited? or energetic? but I was nervous that she was at my house and excited she was here, and I’m like “No this is just my personality”

So we sit in my living room and she puts her feet on my couch without taking her shoes off but I tell myself it’s OK because she probably never walks anywhere with them, just like Target or the parking lot of Target, since she doesn’t really live in a walking city. And I try to ask her about her trip and she is kind of evasive and trails off a lot. And doesn’t really ask me about myself. It’s like a bad OK Cupid date. Except she’s in my house. And there is possibly the expectation of sex. Which I no longer wanted really. It was already assumed she was going to stay with me, to avoid hanging out with her brother.

Apparently the reason they were coming through was, her recent exhusband got the car in the divorce so she and her brother went down to Florida because the ex had an old VW Beetle down there for some reason and the brother was goign to fix it up and she would have that car. But it didn’t work when they got there and they had to tow it back. Possibly why they didn’t want to stay at the hotels near me? Not sure. Anyway it sounded really stressful and they were fighting a lot. I was happy to give her a sanctuary away from that. But the chemistry felt really off between us. Our communication was bad and she was kind of strange. Like evading questions or responding with “really?” if i had a question. And she would not know what I was asking a lot of the time. Like we were speaking a different language. AndI was kind of making up my mind that this wasn’t going to work. We started kissing and went to my bed, but I wasn’t enjoying kissing and my body wasn’t responding to her really, like I just felt nothing, no flickers of desire or fireworks or sparks. Just dry, inpassionate kissing, grinding without purpose. Until eventually I just stopped and we cuddled. She would tell me to stop yawning until eventually I was like, well I need to go to bed because I have to work in the morning. She conceded this and we went to bed. I offered her clothes to sleep in which she didn’t take. She also had really bad eye irritation because of her contacts and i told her we could go to 7/11 and get contact solution but she kept refusing, but then continued to be irritated all night about her eyes. It was really dumb.

In the morning she went back to the hotel. We kissed goodbye and I went to work.

I texted Daria to be like, that was the worst thing ever. I am so glad we didn’t have sex. and she was like “how do you feel?” and i said “relieved.” and she said “that’s a good sign.”

Surely K also noticed the lack of chemistry and we would go our separate ways and give each other the slow fade that OK Cupid dates do. We are adults, we have done this before, this will not be the last date we are ever on in our lives.

But she didn’t. She texted me updates when she got home and was also pretty direct in asking “Why were you restraining last night?” like i came all that way why didn’t we fuck?

and I was honest and said, “Sorry, I was sort of trying to navigate how i felt and it didn’t feel like the chemistry was right”. She had asked straight up what the deal was,I was going to straight up tell her what the deal was.

This was apparently the wrong thing to do. I should have lied and said I was tired or something. And then slow faded from there. But no. She took a risk and was apparently not ready to accept the risk of asking point blank.

Text 1: Then why did I stay?

Text 2: That’s awful

I’m like “Why is it awful? We were feeling it out” We were literally doing what we said we were going to do. Feeling it out means there’s a chance we won’t feel things and that is what happened. I am being honest.

“OK you weren’t feeling it and still watned to cuddle and sleep, you don’t think that’s weird? I easily could have back [to Skokie] or slept on the sofa”

I let her know, no, it’s not weird for me to share a bed with someone, esp someone who I have been like snuggling and kissing for a few hours. ???

“I’m sorry I had a shitty day and was probably in no condition to come there.” This was the beginning of us text-fighting like a couple about to break up, and also the first time she started in on this narrative that the reason the chemistry was off was because she had been stressed earlier that day. However, I can safely say, for me, it was mostly in the kiss. Like I felt literally nothing and wanted to be alone. I practice listening to what my body is telling me, and my body was telling me, don’t do this.

At 5:02 she said “You’ve made a fool of me. Please don’t contact me anymore.”

At 5:59 she said “Chemistry is so vague. And after everything yesterday dead and beat I still made sure I was there. I want to get to know you. Not the old you, not this 10pm we’re both walking zombies shit. My suggestion was goign to be pick a weekend I can come down so we can be sane adults and go on a date but if you can base anything off of 4 hours of half sleeping conversation, so be it.”

So she wanted to go on a proper date? While we live in different states? And I can find people here? Nah. Nah.

Me: “I feel like we both deserve people closer to us. I think if we just agree to stay friends we will save ourselves so much heartache”

“That’s what this is about, distance?What happened to no preconceived notions and expectations? Plus you know I’ve moved across the country before SO I DONT GET THAT CONCERN AT ALL”

RED FLAG RED FLAG ABORT ABORT

You clearly had preconceived notions about what was going to happen and you are not LISTENING to me telling you what my feelings are and are trying to talk me into something I don’t want.

I was like “I’m with people, I will talk to you later.” Because I am not your boyfriend and this is not a relationship I am trying to save.

“Sure let me know when”

and then

“Alright I’m going to bed , pick a weekend or weekeday whatever I’m flexible but I cannot just be friends at this point, it’s not how I operate (?????) How unfair, how much I was looking forawrd to meeting up and then ntohing went according to plan (???PLAN????) I didn’t feel well on top of that. I’ve always liked you, your quirkiness, mannerisms and sense of humor. Sorry I was beat down and couldn’t delve into deep conversations, but come on, be fair to me!”

I did not respond because I felt like this was just going to drag out longer, or she was trying to drag me into a protracted ground war like Iraq or Viet Nam, or do emotional work to save something that never started that I did not want.

But at 6:30am Saturday she sent the exhausted face emoji.

I said “Sorry, this is not what my heart wants. If I could just do it anyway, I woudl but I don’t think you actually watn or need that. I wish you the best of luck and am confident you will find someone who is actually able to fulfill what you need. Sorry again.”

She argued with this a while longer and I said “We need to stop. Goodbye.”

She sent 8 more texts, the last of which was “Don’t hate me, I’m not being mean. Talk to me!” and then an emoji of a person wearing glasses and smiling.

I said “I don’t hate you, we can be friends but I may need a little space though”

And she said “Space from what?” and I didn’t respond.

Then the next day she reinstated her Facebook account and sent me a friend request. It is still pending.

Final thoughts: I have always wanted something like this to happen, to find out “what if?” about someone from my past. I have a million people in my life who I wonder what if about. And this is confirmation she liked me at the time (though I think she might have turned me down if I had asked, because timing is also important, but maybe I can’t break out of my insecurity). But with this particular person, I think I am glad I never tried because I don’t think I would have been happy. I get crushes on everyone! But I think there is only a tiny minority I would actually be happy with. And this is why I choose to be alone more.

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