Know how everyone always says that people change? I’ve never believed it. I think people are who they are and that, sometimes, time teaches them to be less of a dick. Sure, I believe a tragedy or a big enough circumstance can affect someone’s outlook on life and thus their behavior but…fundamentally? I think our pattern is set and we get a little wiggle room every now and again.
Another of my beliefs? That people in your life never go away. If you’ve cared about them in any capacity, they’re bound to continue popping up in your life, for better or worse.
That being said, last Tuesday was an interesting night. Here’s the briefest back story I can give: When i was younger, I had an incredible crush on Dennis. Nothing ever came of it because we ran with different crowds once we hit high school and he turned into a player. We stayed friends and every time we got together it was beautifully awful. We worked too well together, we knew each other too well from how close we were as friends. He ended up cheating on three girlfriends with me; the only time I’ve ever cheated was with him. But we were never in a real relationship and we never took our intense attraction to each other further than heavy make out sessions. When things got rough in his life, he’d run to me. At first as a friend needing a shoulder and then, without fail, we’d hookup and he’d be gone again. I tore myself up about this back then. I thought I loved him, I told him I did. I thought I wanted to be his girlfriend and I sincerely believed that I was gonna end up with him. Looking beyond the crazy girlfriends that automatically assumed he was cheating on them with me (which never happened after the third time. He never told me he was in a relationship when those three times happened) and threatened me and treated him poorly or tried to mold him into something he couldnt be…I thought I’d be there. And when it never happened, I tried to let go.
Dennis joined the Army a little over a year ago and this past week he was home for the first time in 10 months. I knew we’d see each other, as friends. I’m with someone and, while it’s not an official relationship, there’s a level of trust with my guy that I wouldn’t want to betray. So I was up late one night after class working on an essay and Dennis called. He wanted to come by. We were in my bed (because my apartment didn’t have places to sit other than the kitchen table and I was already set up to work in bed). He let me work. He helped me, to some extent, and let me bounce ideas off of him. We reminisced about stuff since it had been awhile since we’d seen each other and I finished my essay around 1:45 a.m.
From then until 3:30, we were lying in my bed talking. He didn’t try anything, which initially surprised me, but then again, I was giving some pretty strong “I’m not interested in making this anything” vibes off. So he talked. And talked. And suddenly the tables had turned. He said that his time away from home, away from the losers he had hung around with here, had opened his eyes to different things. The failings of his relationship with a girl from home while he was away had taught him more about what he wanted in someone to be with. Most importantly though, he sat up and in the most sincere and candid way told me that he was sorry for how he treated me throughout our friendship. He told me he appreciated how I was always one of the only people that had always been there for him and never judged him too harshly and that he could always talk to me - before it turned into a hookup and he ruined everything again and had to go away.
I was stunned. I laughed it off as his trying a new angle. But no, he persisted. He finally let me into his head about why we never were together. He explained, and perhaps stupidly, I believe him, that he could never bring himself to ask me out because if I said yes - and he knew I would - then he knew he was horrible for me and would hurt me. He couldn’t be faithful in a relationship when he was younger and never wanted to put me through that. And he pointed out that he never tried to push our hookups into sex even though he was sleeping with plenty of girls. And it’s true - he NEVER tried to nudge me into sleeping with me. I find myself believing that he was looking out for me to some extent in his treatment of me and he just didn’t know how to do it without being an ass. Come to think of it, if he weren’t an ass I’d probably not have listened to him. It stuns me that he was self-aware enough back then to think to protect me like that when I was too dumb to protect myself, my heart. He told me that he could see us finally dating in the future - if he could keep himself on the track he’s begun and find himself worthy of being cared for by me.
But I said the tables had turned. I sent him home at 3:30 (which wasn’t mean. I told him he wouldn’t be spending the night and he only lives across the street). At 3:45, I got this message:
“You don’t have to say anything back, Im not looking for a conversation, but the reason all that came up is because I don’t regret not dating you, I regret never changing and giving us that chance. We are really good together and I still see that…yeah it’s been so long obviously I’m not going to try anything, but that’s what I meant by ‘sometimes the Army sucks.’ Because sometimes, at least in my case, it shows you things that were right in front of your face that now are really hard to have. But I’ll let you sleep. Goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow”
Well then. I can’t say my heart didn’t react. I cared for him very much back then and now here he is, grown up and acting like a man. Taking responsibility for his actions, serving our country, and being open and candid with me -he’s grown up. The 11-17 year old me rejoiced. Current me shook her head with a bemused smile. I won’t hold my breath and I’m happy, anyway. But I’m proud of him and I have faith that he’ll find himself a good woman and continue to be a good guy. I’ll always be here for him - that will never change; somethings just don’t. He left today to return to base in Georgia. That’s all there is to it, I guess.