Me, Him and The Phantom Love Syndrome

When my co-worker told me that he could take my shift so long as I bought him a beer, I knew he had an ulterior motive. But I agreed to it.

Sure enough, it was his way of tricking me into a date. His asking me to go for a beer meant that we could speak one-on-one without the eyes of our coworkers judging, questioning, or assuming.

I didn’t know how to react to him asking me out, so I asked my mom what she thought. She told me that I should nowhere in the text message mention that I hate beer.

“Give him a chance—he seems sweet! Realistically, what else are you doing?” Dammit, Ma, look at what you got me into…

Our “date” came to an end. I drank two virgin Shirley Temples and listened to his combination of scheming pickup lines and flattering compliments.

But then he said, “I think you’re beautiful and really fun to hang out with. I wouldn’t ask you this if I didn’t have a really good time tonight…” He licked the residual beer foam off of his glass and looked up. “Would you want to take this further?” I knew it. All this time, he just wanted to sweet talk me into bumpin’ uglies with him.

If I hadn’t been at my wits’ end after a three-year dry spell, and if I’d had a little more sense of self, I would have said no. But I hadn’t been in the throes of love (or whatever) since prom night. I was 19, I’m youthful, I’m cute, it was July 6, and he had dimples. So, yes… I actually would like to take this further. And so, it began…

After he got off work, I would wait in the same parking lot for him. After I got off work, he would wait for me at the same little round table at Starbucks. We’d run to my car and speed to my house. It was always empty.

Sure, I was skeptical. I thought I would have a hard time separating the physical act of sex from the emotions that come with it. There is nothing “new” about wanting to avoid getting hurt. I’d tell myself, “Ad, you’ll be fine—just keep it shallow so your heart isn’t on the line.” I was reluctant to get into this type of relationship, being, you know, a hopeless romantic and all. But I kept telling myself, “Ad, everyone is doing this nowadays!”

So I listened to my libido, and, you know, my heart. If the rest of my generation can partake in half-formed passionate endeavors, then why can’t I? It couldn’t be that hard…

And it wasn’t. I constantly reminded myself that he wasn’t my type. That we’re only using each other. That the only reason this is happening is because we are both lonely. That we’re only 20 and need to take out our sexual frustrations on somebody. That I shouldn’t care. But I questioned my statement and asked myself, “What am I losing from this as I try so hard not to care?”

The answer came when he said, “Addy, I’m sorry I forgot to tell you this. I’m moving out west at the end of September. And I’m not really into long distance relationships.” It would have been more heartbreaking if there weren’t his “Magic the Gathering” cards strewn across my bed. In that moment, the fire in me only managed to let out a spark of emotion. Oh no, what have I become? I have officially separated the physical from the emotional.

I stuck it out. I agreed to continue right until the moment he left out west. He left the second week into my third year of university. It offset my balance. He left two days before my 20th birthday. And just like that, he crashed through the concrete wall I had built for myself with just a single sentence: “Happy Birthday, beautiful…”

And with that came a birthday present.

He bulldozed my brick wall of “no fucks to give” with a fruity bottle of wine, two different types of chocolate, a personalized CD, and a book by Nabakov. And those dimples… Damn, those dimples. His genuine, emotional gesture smacked me across my stupid blushing cheek. Shit, I’m gonna miss this guy.

I’ve moved on… sort of. I have a full courseload, assignments, a part-time job, and extracurriculars to keep me busy. But before I go to bed, I often ask myself that same question: “What am I losing as I try so hard not to care?”

I tell myself it was just a summer fling. I tell myself that he wasn’t my type—but none of these thoughts justify my never-ending desire for an intimate connection.

Before I go to bed, I want to be kissed goodnight. I want those familiar muscle-y arms wrapped around me. I want the lingering scent of his sweat and cologne embedded in my pillowcase the next morning.

I guess I failed at keeping it shallow. But I have a lot to keep me busy, right?

12:51 a.m.—a text from him reads, “Hey, I miss you.”