I hadn't heard from him in five months.
Despite the benefit of the doubt that I had given him over the time that I had known him - "he was busy", "he's working tonight", "he's out with friends", "he has better things to do than talk to me" - I realized that I hadn't actually noticed until someone reminded me of him. I didn't notice that my message went unanswered. And to put it bluntly, I didn't even notice that he was gone.
Our last correspondence was simple. We had both just started brand new jobs, and I had wished him good luck on the first day. We talked about our new jobs, our new co-workers, and our new tasks sporadically, both of us encouraging each other. It was simple, unassuming, and friendly.
He wanted to catch up, and in the flurry of activity I guess I had been tardy in my response. But when I did get back to him, it was seemingly too late. My last words to him were, "When are you free?"
He would never be free. I would never follow-up. And so ended what could have been.
Our meeting was actually by happenstance.
Some people call it fate, others call it coincidence. But for myself, I was never really sure as to how to feel about our friendship.
Through an overzealous act, I suddenly found myself entering into a familiar space, looking for an unfamiliar face. We had been set up - he was asked to take some time to give me some academic advice, while I was encouraged to take note from someone who had gone through the path that I wanted to pursue at the time.
But make no mistake: I had no idea who this guy was. I met him once, briefly, and he was probably just as shocked to find himself in a coffee shop, waiting to talk to some girl that he barely knew. And to be quite honest, I wasn't really sure as to what I wanted to know or ask.
I had prepared a series of questions, but my anxiety was constantly feeding me worst case scenarios. I wouldn't be interesting to him, our conversation would last maybe 15 minutes, and he would consider this a waste of his time.
When I saw him sitting at a table in a dark corner, I felt strangely comforted. Our eyes connected and I suddenly felt at ease, though my hands would dictate otherwise as I fumbled through my wallet, looking for change to pay for my coffee.
"I should have waited and paid," he said with a kind voice. But I shook my head. Like I said, I barely knew him.
My anxieties were unfounded, and suddenly we found ourselves talking for hours. Coffee turned into dinner - which he ended up paying for - and I felt confused. Here I was talking with a stranger about some of the deepest and darkest complexities of our lives. We bonded over obscure music interests and family stories, wishes and fears, successes and failures.
In the rain, he would tell me that he had a nice time.
In my car, I would feel a rush of happiness.
But on my drive home, I would beat it out of my head that this was not a date. That he and I could not date. That we weren't compatible.
For a year and a half, my life was turned upside down. And it was my own fault.
In the period that I had known him, we never dated. But I had spent the better part of that time entirely in love with him. Or more accurately, in love with the idea of being with him.
There was confusion, miscommunication, reconciliation and revelation. We went out many times, spent time messaging back and forth, and also spent time in complete radio silence.
When I told him how I felt one December night, I was surprised at our conversation. We were both a little giddy, maybe from the beer, or maybe from each other. But the fact remained that at one period of our nearly two-year friendship, we had mutual feelings towards each other. All at once, the nights spent worrying, lamenting, even crying, were suddenly all worth it.
But like many good things, this would eventually pass. Eventually we would both find ourselves having a conversation about how maybe we shouldn't go through with our feelings. I would end up finding someone new and moving on from that, and later on, so would he.
When I encountered a picture of him today, I was suddenly reminded of him.
It made me realize that we can be so caught up in the ideas of people.
Don't get me wrong - I don't regret meeting him, and I don't regret sharing my feelings with him. But when I saw his smiling face and arms wrapped around someone else, I realized that I didn't need him. And even though there was a time where I thought I wouldn't be able to live without him, here I was, still living.
There was a period of time where I thought that he was the one, the answer to my prayers, and the only person that would make me happy. I thought that we fit so well together, and I was so thankful for his support and how he appreciated me for who I was. I was so caught up in him.
I'm certain that all of us will encounter people in our lives that make us feel a certain way.
We will find those people and we become so sure of this mission: that at all costs, we will make it work. That we will get ourselves to bend - even break - just to become something for someone else. As I see it, I tried to be someone who I wasn't for him.
In the little things, he showed me kindness. But maybe it was my naive self that took it out of proportion, and turned him into something he was not.
For a brief moment, I was jealous of this girl. That moment was brief and I was suddenly met with a great sense of peace. And in the moment that followed, he was out of my mind once more.
It's interesting how people go through your lives as part of your great story. Some people play minor roles, some have three-episode arcs, some have staying power and become season regulars. But I think that as long as you go through life passionately, taking time to think and listen and just being nice to people, it'll be alright.
I'll remember all the things that he lamented to me one night over dinner: all his dreams and wishes and fears that they will never come true. It was in this moment that I found myself tangled up in his great story. So now, if he's achieving what he wants to, as a true friend, how can I stand in his way?
I don't know if I'll ever talk to him, or see him, again. But if he's out there and reading this, know that I'm proud of who you have become, and I hope that all is well with you.