Wednesday, December 21, 2005
apples to apples, dust to dust
Late night inebriated ramblings.
Being awake at odd hours always seems to induce food cravings for me, though maybe it's the bottle next to me that is convincing me that I'm hungry. I dug around in the fridge and I found some Fuji apples. Ah, apples... the quintessential Washington product.
When cutting apples, I sometimes think about this girl I knew.
"I never seen someone cut apples like that," is what she said when we first met during the beginning of the school year. She was a friend and classmate of one of my roommates, Jason, during my sophomore year at the UW. She and a couple of other people had come over to our apartment to study. Being the good Chinese host I was, I felt obliged to offer them a snack and I cut them some apples.
"Hmm, I thought everybody cut their apples like this...." I replied.
"Heeeeeyll no." was her reply as she grabbed a piece and smirked at me. I ended up talking to her on and off while they continued studying. And that was the beginning of my friendship with EastCoastGirl (ECG).
She was a sophomore just like me and my roommates, but was from out of state - her family lived in Washington, DC but was originally from Shanghai. She was one of those girls who was cute, but hid her cuteness behind a take-no-prisoners, in-your-face persona. Not the sort of thing you'd expect from a petite Chinese girl with short hair. ECG always would say exactly how she felt about a subject, and add a lot of profanity to color it up. It would actually crack me up how much the girl could cuss like a sailor. I guess it was a combination of that East Coast attitude and Shanghai breeding.
Things developed pretty harmlessly at first. She got my e-mail addy from Jason and we started exchanging random e-mails - in between classes, after work and such. It was during these e-mail exchanges that we found out that we did have something unique in common - ECG's mom had died when she was young, just like my father had died when I was still a kid. Our e-mails started getting so long that we just started hanging out a lot together to talk, but sometimes we wouldn't say much at all - just walk around the Ave, eat teriyaki or pho, or go see an indie movie (Lockstock, Blair Witch, etc.) I think for myself, it was comforting to be around somebody who understood some of the subtleties of my life - the loneliness around the holidays because you think of missing family; not having a "parental role model" around while you're growing up and being stuck with a parent of the opposite gender who doesn't understand you; how you notice how badly other people treat their parents and take them for granted. Stuff like that.
I remember the oddest detail about once we were talking about smells we associated with our deceased parents. I think I answered my father's cologne or gunmetal oil, but ECG said the smell of burning paper money... her family would do things the old Chinese way when they went to visit her mom's grave. Odd that I remember that.
As we started to hang out more and more together, it'd often be just the two of us. By now phonecalls were pretty frequent also and when she went home for Christmas break, she'd still call me to talk to me. I didn't think much of it at first, but when I started becoming conscious of the that fact I was beginning to find her attractive (in a more than friend way, haha), my immediate instinct was to suppress it. After all, here's this great friend I have, maybe the only person I've ever met who I've been able to talk about my father and my life with freely... why would I want to f*ck it up by making it into something it might not be?
Things went on as usual for the next couple months, though I had resolved to try and figure things out, trying to pick up signs of whether or not the interest was mutual. My detective skills were already muddled by the closeness of our relationship though, so in my insanity, I thought that Valentine's Day would be a good gauge of her interest. When Valentine's Day came around that year, I asked her I could take her out to eat dinner and she said yes. Of course, it never occurred to me that she would say yes just because both she and I were single and not seeing anybody. I didn't plan anything overly dramatic, just a nice meal and some conversation. By then, I had made the mistake of writing my thoughts down in a letter. I waffled on it back and forth for a week until I made a fatal error in a moment of weakness: I gave it to her. It didn't take long for her to call me and when I heard her voice, I already knew it was a mistake. I could sense the awkwardness as she asked to meet me in front of the HUB early in the morning before our classes.
GG, dumbass n00b. I was only then that I finally understood the truth: as a friend wrote, I had already doomed myself to "the Friend Zone".
The next morning we met outside the HUB and sat down on a bench underneath a huge tree. We both stared out into space for about 10 minutes, not making eye contact. She broke the silence first, her voice cracking as she explained that she knew that I liked her, that I was a great guy, blah blah... but she didn't feel the same way. I felt compelled to respond that I understood completely, that she shouldn't feel bad at all, and that of course, I wanted us to remain friends. We spent the next 15 minutes or so sitting next to each other wordlessly until we both had to leave for class.
Of course, I knew things wouldn't be the same. I felt that dull, hollowed feeling that comes with being depressed. I would sleep a lot... and by a lot, I mean whenever I wasn't eating, at work, or at school, I just went straight to bed and slept. I wanted to buy 521493 cans of pineapple and eat them all. My phonecalls and e-mails with ECG became a lot less frequent; because of my guilt at ruining the friendship with the admission of my one-sided attraction, I'd make excuses for not seeing her or being busy. ECG, probably out of pity, would persist in keeping up the contact. This lasted for quite awhile.
My roommates, noticing my obvious depression, naturally deduced what had happened when they didn't see ECG around as much. Both my roommates, Josh and Jason (being the good friends they were) naturally tried to cheer me up - Josh and I increased our mischief in various pranks around the apartment building; Jason would frequently hold parties at our place where I'd try (and almost always succeed) at getting completely wasted to the point that I could fall asleep without thinking about her.
The last time I would see ECG would be before my trip to Brazil, almost over a year later. A friend had told her I was leaving and she came by to visit me at my job at the library, bringing me a bottle of my favorite juice (OJ). She wished me luck, told me to not die, and smiled... that was the last I ever saw of her.
Around that same time, lightning struck the tree behind the bench we sat on that cold morning we talked. The tree broke apart and burned to the ground. I suppose God had himself a good laugh at my foolishness. I don't think I'll ever hate ECG for what happened. If anything I regret messing up our friendship... I've never met anyone else like her who I've been able to speak/write about things so honestly. If anything, I guess I have to be grateful for what she taught me.
There's no real moral to what happened with my relationship with ECG except that I did learn myself a couple of hard lessons, the first one being that you should never confuse a person's sympathy with love. The second lesson was less clear, but I've pretty much interpreted it as this: people can listen to each other problems, but in the end, some problems can only be solved by the person that has them. And I've alot to solve.
This drink's for you, EastCoastGirl. I hope you're still saying "Heeeeeylll no" and cussing up a storm, somewhere out there, and doing well for yourself.
Wow, this entry went long. Good thing the bottle's almost empty...
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