We Were Happenstance
By: Mackenzie M. Hebner
Based on true events
“Wanna grab lunch?” Goosebumps decorated my arms as I saw his name seep into the pixelated color combinations of my phone screen and proceeded to open his text. We’d been anonymous friends for ages, and everyone I knew thought we were what the kids call “endgame” material. By anonymous, I don’t mean the people who met online and don’t know a thing about each other but deal out personal information just for the heck of it, just that we became friends long after we had our chance to know each other in person. Everything was online, including our deepest secrets.
Growing up, people always used to tease opposite sex friends who were as close as him and I had unexpectedly become. They used to say that it was impossible for one or the other not to develop feelings being that close and personal with one another. And I always tried to set them straight. It was possible because I’d been doing it all my life. Sure, we’ve all thought about it. I mean you’re not that close to someone and never wonder if it’d ever work out as more or if you’d be cute couple goals. But then, somewhere along the line, you realize that it’s fun to ponder but never needs to be anything, and you’re okay with that, but the rest of the world isn’t. They compliment you ever so slightly, and of course you get a little giddy because anyone would, but it’s not like that. Sure they smile ear to ear when they talk to you, and it makes your stomach twirl a little and your heart dance to the same beat, but anyone would feel the same. It’s not romance, it’s happenstance.
Him and I: we were happenstance. We smiled together, cried together, laughed together, and fell asleep on the phone together, but that’s all we were, separately together. Chasing different lives with different goals and only one commonality in all of it: each other.
At least, that’s what I wanted to believe. And I did, for years. Genuine years. But then it all hit me. It wasn’t the endless repeat of warnings that two people so close could never just be mutually content as friends that flipped a switch inside my head, but the point blank question that, in all those years, no one had ever thought to ask me, and I had never dared to think or answer—”Well, do you like him?” she asked while clutching her caramel latte close to her chest.
“It would never work. We are so different.”
“I didn’t ask if it would work; I asked if you like him.” And there it was: the real kicker. Did I like him? Not would it work out. Not applying all the logical rationale people kill themselves over to obliterate the direct line to happiness, just a simple question where, for the first time, no strings were attached.
“I do.” As the words left my mouth, everything changed. It was supposed to be just a simple acknowledgment that it was okay for me to have feelings. And at first it was; it was innocent. But, after a while I liked the idea so much, because it started to feel less far-fetched by the day. You see, he smiled and suddenly the world knew I was bubbling inside, whereas before it was safe in my head. He complimented me, and the barista in front of me saw my cheeks go red. Suddenly, the world felt like it was closing in because they knew, and it was as if it was forcing me to take mental action, to plant the concept so deep that everything became associated with it.
By then, we still had never been together in person, but suddenly I was desperate for connection like I had never been before. Desperate to be in the same room as him, for his eyes to fall on me, for the laughter to be infectious audibly, for the rosy cheeks to be hidden behind a pillow for safe keeping as he sat next to me, for the chance to have something, anything affirming. Suddenly, his lips were in my head like they’d never been. His smile stayed in my memories for unquantifiable moments longer than I was used to. His existence penetrated my dreams, awoke me in my sleep, kept me from REM, motivated me, empowered me, shook me, broke me, stripped me to the core of my vulnerability and rawness.
Suddenly, we were up late, and I was ready to take a leap, to open a door I might not be able to shut, to begin asking him some of the questions that kept me up at night. The: what am I to you? and do your friends know about me? questions. It was a small start, but a start nonetheless. And, as the answers rolled in, so did the curiosity, the longing, the pictures in my head. The more I asked, the more uneasy I felt. The more the pictures in my head began to fade when all I wanted was for them to stay. When all I wanted was something to hold onto, even if it wasn’t real, something to be steady while everything else in my life spun and spun. A constant, if you will. All I wanted was a constant, but I felt it washing away as I asked and he answered, and he answered well, but there was this picture in my head beyond his answers. It wasn’t fair to him. None of it was fair to him. My emotions, my dedication to something in my head, my heart. Nothing was fair to him, and yet here I was. Asking and receiving and indulging for the first time in my life.
And then: it happened. And then, he was there. Right in front of me, smiling and laughing for the first time right by my side. Engaging and prompting and respecting. And suddenly, he was gone, and I was in tears and nothing made sense anymore. That’s the dangerous thing about technology: you never know. You never know reality in spite of it all. Never know if you’re there and something comes up, if the tears are allowed to flow. It’s the first time and you don’t want to be overwhelming, but then they fall, and you don’t know what you’ve done or what just took place. Suddenly, it’s all a mess, and you’re sitting alone in a parking lot, your once rosy face sopping wet, and he is none the wiser.
“Well! How’d it go?” She was so enthusiastic. After all, she’d called it from the start and was perhaps just as invested as I had been. She was sitting across from me with wide eyes and an intrigue that could outpassion anyone. She pulled her caramel latte up to her lips as I took a deep breath. Relaying everything that had just taken place and trying to find a way to put it into words that were someone topical and simultaneously tangible. But all I could find to say was this:
“We were never going to make it.”