You’re not supposed to fall in love with your friends. If I had a child, that would be the first piece of advice I would give them when they got to dating age. Make any and every mistake possible: break some hearts and have your heart broken a few times, date someone totally wrong for you and let that seemingly perfect person go, feel bad about all that, learn from it and become a fully rounded person. But never, EVER, fall for one of your friends.
If only it were that simple…
Of course, that isn’t how it works. Falling in love is such a strange, unquantifiable event and it simply isn’t in our control. If it was, I would never have fallen for you. I wouldn’t have had to keep hanging out with you, all the while having to stop myself telling you how I felt. I wouldn’t have let our friendship quietly die because the coward’s way out seemed far preferable to the other outcome. In my head, telling you how I felt could only go one of two ways: 1) you would tell me that you didn’t feel the same, and then it would become too weird and we would never speak again, or 2) you would tell me that you did feel the same but it would be too weird because we’re friends and we wouldn’t want to ruin that so, instead, we never speak again. I chose the alternative: ignore my feelings and, ultimately, my friendship with you too, and then never speak again. Before you say it: yes, I see the irony, but I was scared and that was the only way of making it through.
Admitting it to myself was hard enough, let alone telling you
I can still pinpoint that moment when I had to accept that I didn’t feel right about you anymore. It was a sudden click, one of those instantly altering changes where everything goes from normal to un-normal. We went out to celebrate for your 21st birthday. I don’t remember how we got separated from the rest of the group, but I do remember you laughing and holding my hand as I looked into your eyes. It was like magic. Your hand in mine was electricity and I felt like I’d been switched on for the first time. When we finally found the rest of your friends again, my world had changed. It seems ridiculous doesn’t it? No words exchanged, no grand romantic gestures, just two friends doing something that any two friends could do. To this day, I still wonder whether you had the same experience in that moment. Somehow, I doubt it.
Under the surface
I also wonder whether you noticed that I was acting differently around you after that. I didn’t mean to be if I was. I was trying to be normal, as if nothing had changed at all. For a while, I tried to pretend that nothing had. But then I would see you, and the butterflies in my stomach would rise up, trying to push out the words to tell you how I felt. Every moment became a balancing act of trying to be normal without it slipping out. My lowest point was seeing you and him happily together. I have no doubt that, had our friends known how I felt, they would have pushed me to tell you just how I felt. I guess that’s partially my fault. I’ve completely and wholeheartedly moved on, but I can still feel the point of the knife in my heart when I looked on Instagram and saw you kissing him. World-shattering, frankly. It’s the only time I’ve ever understood what people mean when they talk about feeling “weak at the knees”. I drank a lot to compensate, hoping I would forget that image. How well that went.
Letting you go
As bizarre as it sounds, I had to do the same emotional processing to move on from my feelings for you as I normally do after a break-up. I had to remind myself of why we couldn’t be together, why we would never work together and that it was better off this way. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, I’ll never truly know and I’ve made my peace with that. I certainly wish I could still message you at 2am with a pointless thought, and have you reply as if it’s the most important thing in the world. God knows I miss that.