This past week has been quite a rollercoaster ride of emotions, preceded by nearly two decades of uncertainty.
Nearly twenty years ago, I met a man I shall call CollegeCrush. Initially, CollegeCrush was just someone to talk to on our shared commute. Then, he disappeared for the summer and returned buff, and I immediately lusted for him. From there, CollegeCrush and I had a complicated relationship and I never quite knew where we stood. On the one hand, he seemed crazy about me. On the other, he also kept pulling back.
Our values were so different that I doubted we could share a future. I knew that I wanted a sexual relationship, and did not conceal that. However, those differing values included he being a mate-for-life Christian and I… not. Despite our conflicts, we got along well, never fought (though disagreed plenty), and had a surprising amount of physical contact (mostly initiated by him) for “just friends.”
CollegeCrush disappeared for a semester and returned again, but he seemed distant. Between his disappearance and new demeanor, I felt my chances to ever have him — sexually or romantically — slipping away. We arranged to meet one morning, with CollegeCrush coming to my house. However, my boyfriend was visiting and still sleeping in my bed. In my twisted form of honesty (while trying to cheat on that boyfriend), I told CollegeCrush about him, suggesting we go elsewhere. I then proceeded to make more overt advances on CollegeCrush than ever before. Over the next semester, College Crush treated me with cool indifference, seeming to not notice me or acting preoccupied when I engaged him. I eventually left him alone.
CollegeCrush and I saw each other a few more times a couple years after that. Our meetings were friendly again, but now unambiguously platonic. He was dating the woman he would eventually marry, and mostly kept his conversation about her. He kept his hands to himself.
Over the many years, I occasionally reached out to CollegeCrush to say, “Hi.” Brief and confusing as our friendship had been, he came to my mind more than other past friends or boyfriends. Maybe my confusion over what we had was exactly why my memories visited him most often. My greetings received friendly responses, but the brief exchanges went nowhere.
Two months ago, nostalgia for CollegeCrush hit hard; it refused to go away. I do not know what triggered it, but it felt all-consuming. I worsened it by writing a confessional letter. I realized that this one-time friend would be a part of me for all my life — not a concept I say lightly — and told him so. I told him my perspective of our history, including my doubts and confusions. I took care to ask no questions that required answering, nor to ask anything of him. I concluded the letter by thanking him for the memories, rather than asking him to write back.
Receiving such a letter could be burdensome, and I tried to respect that. He and his wife had divorced years earlier, I knew, but maybe he had a new parter who would find the letter threatening. Or he could find the letter overwhelming on its own. Our society sympathizes more with the person carrying a crush than with the object of the crush, who never asked for such attention. When I discussed the letter with SwingBot and KOH_HCl (a.k.a. BG), their attitudes were mixed. SwingBot judged me a creepy stalker, but KOH_HCl said he would be flattered and excited to receive a letter like mine. Who could predict how CollegeCrush would feel?
CollegeCrush replied with a warm yet brief message, promising a longer reply soon. “Soon” never came. A month and a half later, he finally wrote, requesting that I give him a ride from the airport to a ferry terminal very late that same night. His request message included an acknowledgement — but no apology — that he never followed up on his previous promise, and a statement that he was in town for an indeterminate about of time. His request also acknowledged — without apologizing for — the inconvenience of his request, and offered only my chance to see him as compensation.
I informed CollegeCrush that I could not help him, and he accepted my answer. Silence resumed. I could not stand it; he had promised a detailed response to my confession-letter, but had not done anything. Now, he was local to me, but making no attempt to meet. I strongly suspected that he would not contact me during his visit, until he needed a ride to the airport, if then. I took matters into my own hands once again, and invited him to join me on a public outing in a few weeks.
He thanked me for the invitation, but was not sure he would still be around for the event. He countered with an invitation for me to join him on a different public event a week sooner. I researched the event, considered my schedule, and declined. However, researching the event piqued my interest in a public park near him, and I said I would probably visit it in the near future. He suggested a couple day options, I responded with day, time, and location, and we had a date.
During our hiking date, CollegeCrush acted much like my earlier memories of him. He kept getting so close that we bumped into each other frequently, despite the wide path and my own efforts to give him space. I offered him a couple teasing hugs in certain conversation contexts, and his entire body language — eyes, face, stance — seemed to light up with enthusiasm for the contact, and he continued to hold on when I pulled away. He put an arm around me, but I wore a fanny-pack and backpack, plus had my two big dogs. He settled for holding hands. I frequently interrupted this (talking with my hands a lot, needing to control the dogs, and just generally not being accustomed to holding hands), but he repeatedly reclaimed my hand. When we stopped to pick our path at forks or to admire the view, he stood too close. Had I not been enamored, I would have advised him to back off. It all struck me as the body language of one strongly attracted to me.
I was enamored, so I responded in kind. I discussed polyamory (he knows enough to identify as polyamorous, though has no terminology and no experience). I confessed my interest in BDSM, and he seemed excited and intrigued — not repelled — when I told him I figured him for a sexual submissive. He knew even less of BDSM than of polyamory, so I explained some terminology and different options, warned him of ways he would need to protect himself if he sought a Dom, and eventually offered that I could dominate him in a negotiated scene. Yes, I opened up to my long-term crush who seemed to be heavily flirting with me; is that surprising?
At one point, after hours of this, we again stood too closely for what I consider “just friends.” I regarded CollegeCrush and asked about kissing him. I do not remember my exact phrasing, but he texted his LDR girlfriend (whom he has been dating two months, and I suspect they have not heavily discussed the boundaries of their relationship yet) to check with her; that might have been my suggestion, though he might have thought of that himself. Not having a ready answer ended the moment for me, and I resumed walking.
During our hike, despite discussing polyamory, swinging, kink, and BDSM, I avoided the topic of “us,” and he left me in control of the conversation. As we neared the end of our hike, though, I finally pointed out to him that I had opened myself to him, and met with him, but still did not know his feelings towards me.
CollegeCrush figured answering me with long looks of sad puppy eyes was enough. I mocked his facial expressions and verbal silence, and instructed that he use words. I even gave him words to use, letting him take his pick. He asked me to describe our relationship, and looked shocked when I answered, “One-sided.” My explanation for that answer received more sad faces, but no words. He claimed that he was “nothing if not transparent,” and I countered, “I cannot read eyes or minds.”
Eventually, with much effort on my part and little on his, I finally got the closure I craved all this time. He confessed what I had suspected: that he was interested in me those many years ago, but considered me a danger to his conservative Christian values. As for when he went cold, that had nothing to do with me: he briefly moved away, endured a very stressful time, suffered a breakdown, and returned with a renewed focus that resulted in tunnel-vision for a while.
I had my closure, but CollegeCrush had a question for me: What about us now? Our lifestyles and goals had become, if possible, even less aligned than before. However, despite the years, the mutual physical attraction still ran strong, and we could pursue those feelings. We briefly discussed some practicalities and a general arrangement.
We had spent hours together, first hiking and then sitting and talking in the parking lot. I knew I would linger hours more if I did not just go, so I started my car, rolled down the windows, dumped my stuff inside, and let the dogs into the back seat. I figured I would wave at CollegeCrush from a distance and shout a quick, “Good seeing you; we’ll sort the details later!” Instead, he joined me after I shut the dogs safely inside and asked, “Do you still want to kiss me?”
As I clarified this meant he got approval, he gently pushed me back against my car so that I faced him fully and was braced by the car. He leaned against me, establishing our bodies’ alignment by pressing his groin against mine. We kissed. I had expected him to shyly follow my lead, but his tongue was as quick to explore as mine. I found myself ending kisses before he did, sometimes for air, sometimes for a break, sometimes to just hold him and process all that was happening. He was always eager to resume, whether I reinitiated or he did. I sometimes tested him, tugging his beard or hair commandingly, wondering whether that would hurt or annoy him and end it. He seemed incapable of getting enough, only stopping for long, lingering gazes into each other’s eyes. My sexual experience far outreaches his and I am extremely passionate, yet I wondered whether his passion would overwhelm me.
During our discussion about what a relationship between us would look like, I had told CollegeCrush it would have to be physical. After our first round of kisses, I told him, “And that is why it would have to be physical.” I wanted him. He wanted me. This was what we had in common — not goals or beliefs — but this physical desire. We eventually parted ways, and I went home with refreshed desire and appreciation for my waiting SwingBot. He and I had great sex that night, despite my fatigue and dehydration from the day.
The next day, I read two messages CollegeCrush sent. Each contained some writings of his, so I could get to know him better. He understood that my attraction might be to the old him, rather than the new him… and he has changed dramatically… including his entire belief system and life goals. The dramatic shift ended his marriage, for example. He also noted that a relationship with him would “challenge” and “change” me.
I replied to the topics of attraction and to change, adding that I would read the additional materials soon. About attraction, I clarified that my attraction was never about his beliefs or ideals, but was — and is — physical. I noted that he felt the same way about me. I explained that this was not as shallow as it sounds, but one way that physical creatures connect, and that our physical interactions still could impact our minds and emotions. About change, I pointed out that change is an incentive to interact with others, but it should never be counted on (being too unpredictable), and that I would likely change him in as-yet-unknown ways, too.
And then he pushed me away.
Saturday, CollegeCrush responded to my reply. He told me that he was not physically attracted to me, but attracted to the idea of being physically attracted to me. He went on to describe how sex with his second partner (of three, the third being the LDR girlfriend) had been more to accommodate that partner’s wishes than out of his own desire (that partner was a close male friend). CollegeCrush said he considered the interaction with me similar to that. He expressed doubt that I was worthy to dominate or top him, but he would let my words “seduce” him, and gave me a writing assignment. He concluded this missive by noting that he “felt guided” to tell me that “a beautiful Brazilian” had named her dog after him as tribute to her devotion to him.
I had been reading some of his writings that morning, and had been horrified by the arrogance, selfishness, and narcissism I found there. I had already seen hints in his social media content, and, of course, in the way I had to pursue him, do all the talking, and drag out of him anything about us. His insulting letter made me realize what I pursued: a lazy, egotistical people-user.
CollegeCrush was not always like this. He suffered some serious illness several years ago, and recovered with a self-obsession that excluded the consideration of anything beyond his own wants. He dragged himself and his ex-wife (when they were still married) into bankruptcy in pursuit of his new-found pomposity. Part of me wonders whether the infection reached his brain, but I know there are plenty of narcissists in the world who got that way without a debilitating disease.
I answered his vain message with a curt reply. I told him that I was done doing all the work in our one-sided relationship, that I deemed him lacking in self-awareness and sensitivity, that I had my closure, and that I wished him a nice life.
I received his brief response on Sunday morning. His tone toed the line between patronizing and neutral; he had just lost an easy mark, not a potential lover. He wished for me to surround myself with those who make my happiness a priority… or words to that effect. In a brief flash of resentment, I started to type that knowing he would never make me a priority is why I bid him farewell. However, I opted for the more prudent path of simply deleting this final communication between us. I had already deleted all our previous messages and his contact information after I sent my curt farewell Saturday evening.
Now, all I have left of the emotional rollercoaster of the last few days — and last two months, and on-and-off of the last twenty years — are this entry, my memories, and my closure. Honestly, though, I prefer this closure over the confusions and hope I bore for so long.