#FlashbackFriday — “Knowing”

This piece has quite a history, aside from the awards it’s won. It’s an extremely lightly fictionalized version of the early stages of my first relationship. By “extremely lightly fictionalized” I mean I changed the number of people in my family by adding one to make it a nice, round number. Everything else is true.

It was originally posted as a Facebook note on October 18th 2011, 4 days before my 22nd birthday. (Yes, that’s how long I waited before I ever started dating. Ew, boys.) It also won Figment.com’s “Best Bittersweet Non-Love Story Award” which is a category they clearly invented just to give me an award. Because of Figment.com, it was also published again, without my knowledge or permission but that’s another story, in The Huffington Post on September 12th 2012. It also won me a $250 award/scholarship after I read it out loud at a Brooklyn College Open Mic in my junior year – video is here if you want to watch. Ha, I totally forgot about that skirt.

And I’m posting it this week because I’m going through a similar (although not identical) situation at the moment, and I want to remember.


It’s not a love story, because they won’t let it be one.

It’s not really a story, either. Stories are things that happen to other people, stories are what they tell their friends when they clamor for details, stories are cheap and surreal.

This is too nice to be a story. It doesn’t have highs and lows. It has middles and… upper middles? Maybe. There are no sharp edges, not anymore. Not like that first week, when their nerves made them giddy and queasy and anxious and they held hands just to keep from falling apart.

They’re best friends. It should be easy. No topic is off limits, nothing is TMI, everything is laid out for the other to see.

But the universe taunts them. They know too much. They know where they match and where they diverge, and where the differences become the kinds that a divorce attorney would call irreconcilable. And it’s their curse to know.

Everyone sees them, how they make each other smile, how they’ve fallen into each other’s gravity. Everyone has plans, projections for them, all brief roads unspooling toward a tux and a bridal gown.

But they know.

Sometimes he hopes. Sometimes she wonders. But mostly, they know.

He’s an only child, raised by a single dad. He dreams of a building a family of his own, bringing up his children and giving them what he’s never had.

She’s the oldest in a family of ten, suckered into being a mommy for the whole of her young life. She dreams of an empty house, of freedom and choices.

“You’ve been a babysitter; you’ve never been a mom,” he says.

“It’s not something I’ve ever wanted,” she says.

Part of him hopes she’ll compromise. Part of him is sure she won’t.

“But I don’t want to change you, either,” she adds before he can speak.

He wants to hug her for that.

* * *

Their relationship status on Facebook is “complicated,” and they joke that even when they get married, even when they break up, it will stay there, because no matter what happens, they will be eternally complicated.

It’s not really a joke.

He’s her best friend. An open book. Someone for her to know inside and out and care about anyway. Even when she judges him for his grammatical errors.

She’s his best friend. A confidant. A fountain of acceptance to cool him down when he’s consumed by burning shame. Even if he still can’t forgive himself for the things he’s done.

“I like you,” she says.

“I like you, too,” he says.

They tumble into gray areas sometimes, like when there’s no one around and they cuddle on the couch, tracing each other’s faces lightly with their fingertips. He tries to read every last nuance of her expression. She tries to quantify how much of his eyes are green and how much are blue.

“It would be so easy,” he murmurs without pulling away.

“I would let you,” she tells him.

But they won’t kiss. Because if this falls to pieces, they’re still hoping against hope to find their best friends in the aftermath. A kiss can’t be taken back, and they won’t break the rewind button. Not yet.

He feels like they’re in limbo. She feels like she’s standing in his way, blocking him from finding someone whose dreams match his own, blinding him with her charm and her care.

“Are we being selfish?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Probably.”

He thinks she can do better, that she’s a better person than he will ever be. But she’s here with him now, and he will not let himself mess this up.

“Sometimes I wonder,” she muses, “if I were terminally ill and on pace to die in five years, would we change?”

“I might propose,” he says.

“I might say yes.”

“And I’d be a widower and a single dad by age 30.”

“Not a single dad,” she corrects. “No kids.”

“One kid.”

She sighs.

Sometimes he hopes. Sometimes she wonders. But mostly, they know.


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