What is more beloved than I?
Nothing, I think.
Only I have your undivided attention.
“I love you”
It wasn’t a one-night stand, but it was the first and only night we ever spent together.
His name was Richard, and he was a History and Political Science double major. His favorite show was Game of Thrones, and he read biographies of Thomas Jefferson in his free time. We both liked board games, intramural sports, and outdoorsy shit like hiking and kayaking. We met through my campus church group, which I attended lukewarmly and he essentially dedicated his life to. One day after church-affiliated IM soccer, he mentioned his love of board games and I noticed for the first time how blue his eyes were, how cute the dimple in his chin was.
A few weeks later, I got smashed with my friends during a Lord of the Rings marathon and drunkenly texted him that I liked him. He said he liked me too. I said we should go out sometime, and he agreed.
Every date with him was awkward. It’s just me, I’d tell myself as we made small talk about dogs and our sisters and our plans for junior year. I was just nervous because I hadn't dated anyone in over a year.
But it only got worse. One night we snuck into an academic building and watched his favorite movie, which I don’t really remember but reminded me of Around the World in 80 Days. Afterwards we just sat there in those stiff plastic chairs, side by side but not quite touching. The harsh florescent lights glared down on us. All I could think in that moment was that I didn’t want him to kiss me. It was our third date, and the only time we had been completely alone, so I knew it was coming, but I just prayed that it wouldn’t happen. I stared straight ahead at the screen, feeling him looking at me. When I finally turned to face him, his face was beet red.
“I tried to kiss you just now,” he muttered under his breath.
“What??” I said, dumfounded.
“But I missed.”
I burst out laughing. The whole thing was so ridiculous. I had no idea how anyone could miss while trying to kiss someone, but the worst part was I hadn’t even known he was trying to do it. He literally made a move and I was so determined to ignore him that I actually didn’t even see it happen. I laughed and laughed until actual tears ran down my face. The poor bastard just sat there, turning redder and redder until I really began to feel bad for him. He probably thought I was laughing at him, and in part I was, but it was mostly at myself.
Of course, after that, I had to kiss him. It was awful, too. His lips were so dry he had to stop making out with me and wet them with his tongue. I pulled away after about thirty seconds and said I had to go.
But I digress. The real culmination of our relationship, and the night we spent together, was after the school year had ended. I took summer classes that year because I was a little behind on my major requirements, and at the end of the summer semester my roommate and I decided to throw a party at the frat house we were staying at. Richard came, and it was the first time I had seen him all summer. We had been keeping our relationship (was he my boyfriend? I had no idea) strong through texting. We texted almost every day, and had been for the past two months. For reasons inexplicable to me at the time, I much preferred texting him than hanging out in person. The kiss awkwardness, and the occasional revulsion I felt sometimes when I was around him, I attributed to my crippling relationship anxiety.
The party got pretty wild. We had made Jell-O shots for the occasion, but got the recipe a little wrong, so they were about twice as strong as they were supposed to be. Richard didn’t usually drink, but he made an exception for the party. We had a pretty fun time, but after a bit my stomach wasn’t feeling so great and I had to go lie down.
The next morning, I woke up pretty early, around eight. Because we were only allowed to sleep in one room in the house, everyone who had stayed the night slept in that room with us, on sleeping bags and blow-up mattresses. There were maybe seven or eight people crammed in there. I knew that they probably wouldn’t be up for several hours.
Richard and I shared my bed. I didn’t remember him climbing in during the night, but I had told him he could sleep there, so it wasn’t a big deal. I stretched and accidentally bumped him, waking him up. He smiled at me blearily. I smiled back uneasily. For some reason, I always felt a little uncomfortable when he smiled at me.
He said, “how are you feeling?” I remember thinking it was sweet that he remembered to ask about me.
I said, “I’m fine, how ’bout you?” Those are the exact words I said. Now, because there were seven or eight other sleeping bodies in the room, we were whispering. So it may have been possible to misconstrue what I said. Although, considering the context, I figured there were probably only so many ways you could take it.
He replied, “I love you too.”
I stared at him, face frozen. He smiled at me again. I couldn’t seem to make my face change expressions. We had been dating for two months. Hadn’t even discussed if we were boyfriend and girlfriend or not. Had just spent our first night together, and hadn’t even had sex. In what world would I have ever said, “I love you”? And even if I had, did he say it back to make me feel better, or because he actually felt that way? Either option was pretty revolting.
I replied the only way I could think of.
“No,” I said, making direct eye contact to make sure he heard me this time, “I said ‘I’M FINE, HOW ABOUT YOU’.” I said it so loudly I woke up a couple of the people nearby.
“Oh,” he said. I turned over and faced the wall with my back to him. He asked me if I was okay a few minutes later, and I nodded. I couldn’t bring myself to turn back around. I didn’t know what either of us could have possibly said to fix the situation.
We broke up a week later. It was only after this horrible fiasco that I realized how completely wrong for me he was. That I had never even been attracted to him. I had only tolerated his presence because I thought I could trick myself into liking him just for something to do. I should have known at the first kiss, but in my defense, he was only the second guy I had ever kissed. In a way, I was grateful he had so ineptly declared his love for me. Nothing has ever better encouraged me to get the hell out.