tagNon-EroticStill Crazy After All These Years

Still Crazy After All These Years


Finally, after nineteen years, HE dumped ME. What a nerve! So now, the world's longest series of unfulfilled mutual crushes is finally over...or is it?

Let me tell you the story. I've known "Buddy" since college, almost twenty years now. He sat directly across from me in the college band, a freshman smugly dropping himself into the first trumpet section. I was a sophomore, comfortably seated in the first flute section of the concert band. My first thoughts were along the lines of "arrogant jerk." My roommate thought he looked like a cartoon character. He was the proverbial Nice Jewish Boy - tall, thin, fuzzy-haired, impressive schnozz (nose to you non-Hebrews, get your mind out of the gutter) to match.

Somewhere along the line, though, his arrogant front gave way to an awkward sweetness. I found out he was smart, talented and caring beyond all expectations. We became great friends. Up late, having legendary all-night chats about life, sex (or the lack thereof), music, science, and sex...typical smart-kid stuff. We'd share the occasional blow-out bender in one of our kitchens or at some local bar. Sometimes these things would overlap. We formed a jazz combo together, me playing saxophone, and got paying jobs all over the city. I introduced him to pot brownies right before a gig, and watched him giggle like mad while playing the clarinet. We'd crash at each other's apartments, oh so platonically, a quick hug before we crashed, watching the sun come up over the city.

Somewhere along the line, I developed more than just a friendly affection for him, especially when it became clear that I was dumping my long-distance boyfriend. I sweetly got Buddy to 'share' his extra-long scarf with me on cold wintry nights. He didn't seem to mind me putting my hands in his coat pockets. Just for warmth.

Things didn't change much, after college. He'd come visit me often in New York City, whether he was off in California, Michigan, Providence. He'd come along with everyone else to my annual New Year's party, too, with all my other college buddies. We'd wander the streets, go to the movies, go out for coffee, and go out for drinks. We'd talk all night, we'd share beds when my apartment was packed with visitors, awkwardly kissing goodnight while horizontal. I wondered what would happen, nothing ever did, that was cool, though. We'd always kiss goodnight, though, hugging in darkened hallways and whispering long after everyone else had fallen asleep.

He turned down the first real pass, the one I made in college, a few weeks after the night of the scarf, before I broke my engagement. I turned down the next one, that he made a few years after college, just after I started dating a co-worker at my social work job, cursing my poor timing but pushing him away at the same time. He turned down the next one, made by mail, when he was in Berkeley newly single and I was in New York newly single and I said alright already, lets do this, and he said No. I was angry, terribly angry, cursing him out on the phone long-distance in an argument I could ill-afford. And so I devoted myself to the man I'd eventually marry, and separate from this year, and he married the woman he'd lived with for years.

We kept on being friends. I became friends with his wife. He and my husband were never close, though; I always suspected that Steve sensed the muted sparks between me and Buddy.

So when she dumped him this year, here we were. Again. Single. Back to square fucking one.

You know, when you make a clumsy, abortive pass at your best friend when you're twenty, it's charming; at twenty-five, amusing. At thirty-eight, it's absurd.

This brings us to New Years' Eve, when I found myself being kissed and caressed on a soon-to-become twenty-minute trek to take out the trash. Fortunately, none of my other friends had the wherewithal to clean up; our absence went slightly, drunkenly noticed. After some animated snogging and furtive caresses, I asked him, casually, if he wanted to move the Aerobed (his usual sleepover spot) into my room.

"There's plenty of room...on the floor..." Just steps away from my underutilized queen-size bed.

"No, that would be weird." Weird? When was this not weird? We're grown adults and at this point it would be weird not to seal the deal.

Fine. I was stunned, disappointed and not a little bit horny.

I hit the sack and had the good sense to contract strep throat in the meantime, avoiding the awkwardness the next morning with a raging fever and no voice to speak of.

He stayed at my place a couple weeks later. At 3 AM or so, our peak conversational time, displaying an odd mix of body language, I found myself with my head in his lap (an unusually cuddly move) and my arms tightly crossed over my chest.

With his thin but strong hand awkwardly resting on my shoulder, he laughs and says, "Catherine (his very recent ex-wife) says we should hook up."

I don't mention that she said the exact same thing to me. I'd wondered if she'd felt guilty, or had some kind of material inside information to which I was not privy.

I looked up at him, half-jokingly, and said, "You know, I'd be perfectly willing to take one for the team here...if it'll make her feel better, after all." Ha ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Awkward pause. Awkward laugh. Fumbling array of uncertainties. "You know what happ-" "Why do we have to-" "We should talk about-" What's the big-"

Deep breath. "I don't know, babe. I just never thought it would ever work with us..." Weakly, "I just think we'd kill each other if we ever got together."

I get it. It doesn't take eighteen years of abortive sexual serve-and-volley to realize that someone just isn't hot for you. Or willing to take a chance on finding out the truth.

Fine. Full stop. It's over. No mas. Buh-bye. No more hugs, cuddles, snuggles, misinterpreted trash-can passes. However, I'm not one to leave anything unfinished. And I just can't resist one more....

"You do realize," I say, stretching, rising up off his lap, "that you started it this time."

He's genuinely stunned. "What?"

"Yeah. I remember mine. This one was yours, babe."

I leave him the couch, puzzled, and alone. It's the end of an era. Or is it?

See you in 2014, babe.

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