Standing Still

I, Heero Yuy, am a fool.  I am a fool for thinking that the world will stand still for me, waiting kindly for me to figure myself out.

It won't.  And I am three times the fool for knowing this, and yet doing nothing at all in response to that knowledge.

It started back in high school.  There was a guy.  He was my best friend.  Still is, really.  We hung out, we talked, we were in the same school activities.  And then one day, right before he left for the weekend for some state competition, he told me in an e-mail that he had a crush on me.  It was like a last confession before going off to die or something, or maybe like that one last parting remark someone throws over their shoulder right before they walk out the door and maybe out of your life, or maybe just before you can make a witty reply.  And it caught me completely off guard and unprepared.

I admit, I reacted to the confession very poorly.  I can only say, thank god he told me in an e-mail.  I thought at the time that it was almost offensively impersonal, but maybe he just knew me better than I did, because if it was that hard for me to form any coherent thoughts with reading the words in the privacy of my own room, then I can only imagine how bad it would have been if he had been standing right in front of me.  But maybe it would be different now, if he had.

I followed my first impulse, followed the initial emotions and reacted, dashed off a reply that expressed what was in my heart and hit the send button before I could change my mind, or at least dwell on it too hard, because I am well aware of the fact that I have this unfortunate tendency to think way too hard about things.

It was a good plan.  It would have been better if I had stopped to consider what I was doing first, though.  I basically told him, wow, that was really surprising.  You know I don't handle this sort of thing really well, so I'm just going to pretend that you didn't say that, and we're going to move on.

At least, that's what I think I said.  I really don't remember it too clearly, although I suppose if I really cared, I could try looking it up in some e-mail cache somewhere on my hard drive, but even if I did, it wouldn't change anything.  I think that's the sentiment I conveyed.  I really wasn't thinking very reasonably at the time.  It wasn't until years later that I actually thought about it, and though it seemed completely rational at the time, these days, I just wince.  I mean, how emotionally incompetent and insensitive can a guy get?  Well, I suppose the answer isn't too hard to find.  All I have to do is look in a mirror.

Luckily for me, I guess, Duo was cool with that.  Maybe he really did know me that well, really did know what I was trying to say, maybe even anticipated it.  Or maybe I actually hurt him, and he just covered it up.  He's always been really good at that.   That weekend, I even sent him some simple and casual messages to greet him when he returned.  I couldn't know whether his team had won or lost, so I sent two messages, one dealing with each case.  I thought it was rather clever of me, and maybe just a small way of trying to say, see, we can still be friends, right?  And soon we were back at school, and everything was the same as normal, and I was glad.

Nothing was said for the next two years.  Once in a while, one of our mutual friends would joke about how he acted sometimes like he liked me, but that was swept aside easily enough.  Besides those close brushes with the truth, there was nothing.  No loaded silences, no awkward glances.  We graduated and went our separate ways to college, though we kept in touch regularly for a while.  I thought about going to the same school he was going to, too.  It was a good school, after all, but not the only good school, and I decided that it might be better for me to go somewhere else, get away from the old high school crowd and try to be my own person.

E-mails were sent between us almost every day or two for a while, and I loved the conversations we had.  They were pithy, they were funny, they were philosophical, they were outrageous.  I must have 'talked' to him more than I did to anyone around me at the time.  After a while, the replies started to take a few days to come, and then a week, and then around November, they stopped altogether.

It was December, I think, over winter break, when I was hanging out with some of the guys from high school, and one of them mentioned to me that Duo had a girlfriend.  He said it as if he was trying to provoke some sort of reaction out of me, but of course, I refused to give him one, and carried on the conversation scarcely missing a beat, but on the inside, I did a few calculations and figured out that it was about October when he started getting serious with her.

It didn't hit me hard or anything.  I just kind of took it.  There were a few moments when I thought about getting really depressed, that he had decided to choose her over me, but who was I to complain, really?  I was the one who had passed up the chance with him.  And I was happy for him, too, and not entirely just in a bittersweet sort of way.  I mean, he was still my best friend, and if he wanted to get a girlfriend, someone that could cuddle with him or make out with him and whatever it is that girlfriends do -- and read that as everything that I couldn't do -- then I certainly wouldn't speak out against that.  He was moving on.  That was good.  I just wish he could have done it without ditching me.

I knew her, actually.  In a peripheral sort of way.   She went to high school with us, but she'd had other boyfriends then, and shown no interest in my boyf--  my friend.  He wasn't mine in any way.  I forfeited that right to him long before.

Somewhere along the way, I remembered something that someone said in passing once, back in high school.  This fellow said that she looked like me.  I didn't see the resemblance at all, personally, but that wasn't the point.  The horrid possibility crossed my twisted little mind that maybe he got involved with her just because she looked like me, and it was then that I was forced to think about his little confession again.

Of course, I slapped myself immediately when the thought came to me.  It was entirely uncalled for, entirely conceited of me to presume so much about his liking of me.  I was nothing compared to him.  With two, two and a half years of never another peep out of him about the whole thing, surely he couldn't still have me on his mind, right?  It was a crush.  Puppy love.  Nothing serious at all.

But the thought implanted itself in my mind and wouldn't let go.  I accepted the fact that I, of course, was being entirely delusional.  I didn't mean that much to him.  Not that way, anyway.  And so if the problem didn't lie within him, then maybe it lay within myself.

Why would I even think such a thing?  I deduced, perhaps correctly, that I must have liked knowing that he liked me, that I was someone special.  He was the first person to ever say such a thing to me.  He actually wasn't the last, either, but he was the only one I ever seriously considered.  I'd been propositioned, asked out, etc., but everyone else was just a nuisance, and I quickly disposed of each of them in turn.  Eventually I had to ask myself why the hell didn't I act like everyone else and just say yes?  Duo was just a fluke until this pattern started to emerge.  Certainly, each of them had their flaws, but the one that they all shared in common was that they paled in comparison to him, so much so that envisioning myself with anyone else was just plain wrong.

So of course, the obvious question was, if I liked him so damned much, why didn't I hook up with him?

Easier said than done.  Well, like I said, I didn't handle 'those' kinds of things very well.  Emotional ties and all.   Very confusing.  I tried to avoid them when I could.  And yet I had to realize that, if I ever wanted to hook up with anyone, it would be him.  On the other hand, this whole 'hooking up' business always seemed rather ridiculous to me.  And while I didn't find human touch repugnant, it did come rather unnaturally to me.  I wasn't raised in an affectionate household at all.  It wasn't just that my parents didn't touch each other in public -- they never touched each other at all.  I could barely imagine how they could ever have come together in some heated moment to have produced me.  Perhaps there was some sort of immaculate conception involved, or a whole lot of alcohol, and it somehow imprinted itself onto my genes, because the idea of touching another human being was just strange.  I could picture it in my head -- just touching.  Being able to lean against someone for comfort.  Sitting close to someone just for the warmth of the company.  Just that much.  I could even imagine how nice it might feel, but I could never bring myself to do it, not even that little.  I don't know what stopped me.  It just made me uncomfortable.  I think it was the idea that people can't just do that sort of thing innocently, that people are never satisfied with just that, and they have to have more -- a more that I couldn't imagine myself giving.  I didn't want kissing, or sex, or making out, and since those tiny little touches were often prelude to that sort of thing, I trained myself against wanting any of that as well, and somehow it got turned into this huge mental block reinforced by years of conditioning that could not be overcome.  I was caught in the quandary of desiring simple human intimacy, without any sexual attraction.

I have absolutely no idea where my hormones were.  I figured they had to kick in sometime, and then they would resolve my little problems with intimacy, but they went on an extended vacation and never came back.

It's amazing, the way the human mind works.  The way I could hold two completely opposing thoughts in my head at once, and find it perfectly natural.  On the one hand, I knew that he could be the one for me.  There were so many things between us that just clicked.  On the other, I knew that there would never be a 'one' for me.  I wanted it, I think.  At least, part of it.   Maybe just that easy intimacy with another human being, which, in my mind, seems to encompass something entirely different than everyone else's.

I saw him later that year, during spring break, it must have been.  He never said a word to me about his girlfriend, and to this day, I wonder why.  I don't know if he was deliberately avoiding the topic, or if it just 'never came up'.  I wondered why other people knew, but I didn't.  Was I being deliberately kept in the dark, until the truth came out by the calculated, stinging words of a third party?

But from what I heard from secondhand sources, they were doing pretty well together.  I heard that he hung out at her place a lot, even stayed the night sometimes, although I doubt they were really doing anything they shouldn't have been.  Hn, 'shouldn't have been'.  What a silly statement.  We were college students, after all.  He could have been doing anything.  But I just knew, from what I knew of him, that he wouldn't.  Duo was bright and cheery and outgoing and everything that I wasn't, but...  I was surprised enough as it was to hear that they had been caught necking on the sofa by the girl's roommate, but nevertheless, I knew with conviction that he wouldn't have gone all the way.

I don't know why I cared.  He was just a good friend, after all, and a perfectly responsible adult.  If I didn't want that sort of relationship with him, then who was I to begrudge him that with someone else?  Who was I to blame her for his slightly flagging grades?  Who was I to blame her for taking his attention away from me?  Who was I to blame her for corrupting, changing my Duo into someone I didn't recognize from the descriptions anymore?  Why did I always assume the worst of her, even though I barely even knew her?  Just enough to be able to put a face and a voice to the name, really.  And a few boyfriends, too.  I had heard that her breakups with them had been messy, and mostly initiated by her, and I was ready to call her an evil bitch and beat her black and blue if she dared do the same to my friend.

At some point, I went up to his college and visited.  There were some other people from high school there, and I arranged to stay with them.  They gathered the old crowd together, and as I was talking to them before lunch, they came.  Duo and his girlfriend.  I nodded to him from across the square, but kept on talking with the friend I was already talking with.  I figured that I would have later, all of lunch, maybe some of the afternoon, too, to talk to him.

Next thing I knew, he wasn't there anymore.  He and his girl had decided to go off and have lunch on campus somewhere, and I didn't see him again that weekend.

That hurt a little.  Even if he wasn't mine, he was still my friend.  He at least could have said hello.  I missed him, dammit, and the good company we used to keep.  And that was when I realized that the world would go on without me.  No one had the time or the desire to sit around and wait for me to catch up with everyone else.  Indeed, I did miss him.  I seemed to have missed a whole lot of things.

Well, bah humbug to all of them, then.  They weren't passing me by.  I was just following a different path.

But then I heard that they broke up, and for some reason, my heart rejoiced.  I think I heard about it way after the fact.  That summer, e-mail correspondence was re-established, and I thought that maybe he had just lost his momentum, that last November.  That maybe the mail had just gotten somehow lost in the shuffle somewhere and that he didn't really mean to lose contact with me.   But then a few months later I heard about the break-up, and I decided that maybe he just started having time for me again.  Well, that was better than nothing.  I was glad to have my friend back, no matter the reason.  I forgave him for that whole girlfriend thing.

Did I just say forgive?  How completely self-centered is that?  It's not like he was cheating on me or anything.  Even if there was a faint tinge of that emotion lurking in my brain somewhere.  I wanted him.  Not in any particular way.  I just wanted him to be mine, I think.  I wanted to know that someone cared for me, and that I was his number one priority.  And that I wanted that from him without ever giving anything back was completely selfish.

We fell back into easy friendship after that.  Over e-mails, anyway.  But somewhere along the way, things changed in my head, and I was no longer as comfortable with him as I once was.   Just like I remembered that passing comment about the girl looking like me, I remembered that someone observed that he must have had some crush on me in high school.  The guy must have had some sort of basis for that opinion, and I started realizing that Duo chuckled a lot when he talked.  Joked around, seemed sort of unsure at times.  I thought it was cute.  But when I started wondering if he only did that with me, I started driving myself crazy.  I thought very highly of Duo; why, then, was my mind imposing schoolgirl-like behavior upon him?  He wrote similarly in his e-mails, but I couldn't shake the thought that maybe he was more aware of what hung in the air between us than I was, and then I started feeling guilty.  God, that whole crush thing was, what, four years old?  Surely he was over that by then.  Maybe?  He didn't seriously think he'd ever be able to win over as unemotional a brick as I, right?  I was completely unequipped to respond to his attentions.  If he were smart, he'd find someone else to like.  Someone that could give him everything that I couldn't.

I enjoyed our conversations, e-mail and otherwise, but fool as I was about some things, I was not so stupid as to think things were as simple as him simply 'finding someone else'.  Love is a blind and irrational thing.

I use the term 'love' somewhat lightly, although not quite.  We wrote of relationships at some point, and at some point, he told me he still thought that I was the ideal guy for him.  So much for one-shot puppy love.  It made me smile when I read it, but it really didn't make me happy, because then I thought that maybe I should ease up on the e-mail thing.  I suddenly didn't know if I was leading him on, somehow.  I was absolutely positively sure that he knew where I stood on the issue of relationships -- I didn't want one, and that was that.  I found the whole thing completely unappealing, and that was supposed to free him up to move on.  But still.

Or maybe he was just content with getting what he could out of me -- my friendship.  I was perfectly happy with that, but I hoped that I wasn't holding him back somehow.  Once again, being self-centered, thinking much too highly of myself.  But it was a valid possibility.  I was overcome with this guilt that I was keeping him from his one, truer love.  I needed him to write me, stay in touch with me, talk to me.  He was my best friend, even if maybe I wasn't his best friend, and even if he didn't know it.  But I still wondered with every message exchanged, whether or not I was just hurting him, taunting him with something he couldn't have, and if there was one thing that I didn't want to do, it was hurt him.  Not him.

I had been so sure that I knew where I stood with him, and then that little idea started crumbling around me.  That was about when I started trying to remember just what it was I said in that first e-mailed response to his confession.  The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that what I said was absolutely and completely tactless and terrible, and that I must have hurt with him with that reply, and then I tortured myself with coming up with better ways I could have said it, flogged myself for being so damned pathetic that I had reacted that way to begin with.

I managed to beat my mind into rejecting the idea -- there was absolutely no logical reason for me to imagine myself kept on a pedestal by him.  My heart was reluctant to follow.

And from the amount of thought that I put into this, I started thinking that maybe I loved him back.

And I did absolutely nothing about it.  The thought haunted me in my ponderings, followed me through my dreams, and I could not be rid of it, and finally, I decided to stop trying to lose it and just accept it.

And I am still doing absolutely nothing about it.

God, I am such a loser.

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last modified : 9/11/2002 00:59:10 PST