Why can’t I just say how I feel? It shouldn’t be hard. It should be natural. The most natural thing on earth. Everyone does it, right? Everyone’s always done it. It’s nothing. Just one small step. A few words. A few taps of a keyboard, even.
I reach for my phone. I’m gonna do it. I could call you, or… no. I’ll text. It’s less stressful that way, for me and for you. It lets us make sure we say precisely what we mean. Less chance for misunderstandings.
I open up my messages and scroll to your name. It’s not hard to find. I could pick your face out of a crowd anywhere. Opening the conversation, I start to type.
Hey, I was just wondering, would you maybe-
No. That’s not good. It’s too weak. Too apprehensive. You’d smell the fear through the screen. I need to project confidence.
I try again.
Hey, do you want to go to dinner with me sometime?
I ponder this for a while, eventually shaking my head. It’s too abrupt and unclear. You might not realise that I mean as a date. You might think I’m talking about a casual platonic meetup. That’s not a mistake I want to make. I want you to know what I’m asking. I want to know what your answer means.
Sighing, I glance around my room, searching for inspiration. It’s a waste of time. Hundreds of books and movies, yet not a single one can give me the answers I need.
In desperation, I turn to the world’s most treacherous source of advice. The internet. Sure, there’s a lot of garbage on there, but if you slog past the cheesy pick-up lines and pseudo-psychology, there really are a few hidden gems.
Not that I can find them. Almost everything I read is about dating in person. Standing up straight. Projecting confidence through physicality. Maybe even a bit of light contact, a hand on the arm, that sort of thing. Solid advice, but utterly useless to me since, you know, you’re halfway across the country right now.
Still, slowly but surely, I cobble something together that sounds more or less decent.
Hey, I know you’re back in town on the fourth. How about that Friday we go for dinner at that pizza place you like, then afterwards take a walk through the park? They’ve revamped the gardens, and I think you’d love them.
Dinner and a romantic, moonlit walk. That sounds like a date, I think. I’ve managed to make my intentions clear. Plus, I sound confident. No umming and ahhing, no self-defeatism. The best thing of all is it gives you an easy out. If you’re not interested, you can say you’re busy that night. If you genuinely are busy, you can suggest another time. It’s not like the park is going anywhere. The message is perfect.
I’ve done it. I’m ready. Now, there’s only one thing left to do. It’s just a shame it’s the hardest thing of all.
My finger hovers over the send button, unable to take that final step. I keep telling myself to just press it and get this whole thing over with. But that annoying little voice in my head keeps arguing. What if they say no? What if they decide they hate me? What if they don’t want to talk to me anymore? It’s times like this that I wish I drink. A little bit of liquid courage is exactly what I need right now. That’d shut the damn voice up.
But I don’t take a drink. Instead, I do the stupidest thing possible. I give myself time to think. Yeah. I’m an idiot.
Before long, that little voice is running rampant. What am I doing? This is stupid. So, so stupid. Sure, I want more from our relationship. But what if you don’t? What if, by doing this, I ruin our friendship? I don’t want to lose you.
I tell myself again and again that I’m overthinking. That you aren’t like that. That it would take more than a bit of awkwardness to drive a wedge between us. But I’m not convinced. Sure, maybe we’d be fine for now. But what if you find someone else? Will they be okay with us being friends, knowing how I feel about you? I’m not so sure.
Besides, I know that you’re not exactly looking for a relationship right now. Truth be told, it’s probably not the best time for me either. But that shouldn’t matter, not really. If two people are right for each other, they can overcome anything, can’t they? The timing might not be ideal, but we can get past it.
I almost scream in frustration. I can’t do this anymore. Picking up my phone, I delete the message, deciding to wait until you’re back and tell you how I feel face to face. It’ll be better that way. I can put all that advice to use and win you over with my charming smile.
I’m lying to myself, of course. I know the odds are good that I’ll still find a way to bottle it. I’ll still talk myself down. But maybe, just maybe, I won’t. Maybe I’ll find a way to beat that annoying little voice.
Do you know what the worst thing is? You probably think I won’t say anything because you don’t mean enough to me. That my fear of rejection is stronger than my feelings for you. You couldn’t be more wrong. In a weird, paradoxical way, the strength of my feelings for you are what stops me from saying anything. You’re amazing. The most perfect human being I’ve ever met. Every time I see your smile, my heart soars like an eagle. And when I hear your laugh, my body glows with happiness. Even when I’m just listening to you vent about your troubles, I feel like I’m hearing a classic tale equal to anything Shakespeare, Austen, Hemingway, or Joyce ever created. Because you’ve nailed the most important part of storytelling. You’ve made me care about the protagonist. You’ve made me care about you. And I couldn’t bear it if I did something stupid enough to drive you from my life.
The next couple of weeks pass in a blur. I throw myself into my work, glad of the distraction. In the brief moments I let myself think of you, I begin to convince myself that I really will tell you how I feel. That by not saying anything, I could be robbing us of so much time together. By the week before you’re due back, I’m certain. The next time I see you, I’m asking you out.
My muscles finally relaxing, I slump back into a chair. I’ve spent a long day at my desk and am ready to unwind. Turning on the TV, I grab my phone and begin swiping through social media to catch up with what my friends have been doing. I see some pictures of you celebrating New Year’s. I smile. You’re happy, and that makes me happy. But then I swipe to the last picture and see you wrapped up in somebody else’s arms, your rosy lips pressed against theirs. My head spins. My chest tightens. I feel like I’m about to pass out. Putting down my phone, I put my head in my hands and cry. Why didn’t I tell you how I feel? Why didn’t I at least try to see if you felt the same way? Why do I have to be so damn broken?