At first, I thought the stars had aligned.
Tim* and I began talking one day in the office. Up until that point, I hadn't really noticed him. He was quiet and didn't interact with many of our other coworkers. But he possessed a great sense of humor, and once we started chatting, we didn't stop. He asked for my number and immediately texted me that we should hang out more.
Two weeks later, we went out for drinks. It was a great night. We played Jenga with the extra-large Jenga pieces. I had just enough to drink without feeling drunk, so my liquid courage was up. I felt like it was the right moment. We had consistently been texting and talking for two weeks, even though we hadn't been on an actual date. But what was the point of waiting for an actual date? I thought I was reading the signs correctly — he was super-into me, and it wouldn't matter if I waited until the old-school advised Third Date or if I shed my clothes in an wanton manner and threw myself at him that night. My mom had always advised to play hard to get, to not have sex too fast because then the guy would think I was easy — but come on, mom, this is a new era of feminism and sexuality! I could have sex with a guy quickly, and he could still respect me, and vice versa.
So yes, we slept together. And I thought the four-hour conversation post-sex into the pre-dawn hours meant that the relationship was going Somewhere.
After that first night, we continued sleeping together a few times a week. I was always the first one to text him. He responded quickly and always assured me that he was happy I reached out. On the weekends, he only ever came over after 10 p.m. and only if he didn't have any other plans. At work, he barely acknowledged me, but I told myself that was because he was quiet and busy. I had excuse after excuse ready for his behavior. I never directly brought up dating or our relationship status in those first three months.
Lest you believe I completely made his feelings up, here is the evidence I used to convince myself he cared: he told me I was his best friend, confided in me secrets that he hadn't told "anyone," said he was wildly attracted to me. The sex was pretty good. He repeatedly said he liked what we had. Each time he did come over, we spent hours talking about life and politics and philosophy.
I felt that if you only took a snapshot of those late night moments, you'd think we were meant to be together.
And stupid me, I thought he was falling in love with me like I was him.
Looking back, I realize the red flags: that we never went out on dates, he didn't spend the night when we had sex, he always came to my place and never invited me to his, and I was usually the person to reach out to him. And yet, I somehow deluded myself into thinking he reciprocated strong feelings for me. When I finally gathered enough courage to ask him if he felt anything for me, he would lead me by a leash just enough, would give me the reassurances I yearned to hear.
"Do you even like me?" I asked one night, after he rejected my idea for him to spend the night.
"Of course!" he said immediately, kissing me on the lips sweetly. "You know I can't stay overnight because of my contact lenses."
That makes sense, I thought at the time, a blissful and blinding sheen wrapping itself tightly around my bullshit meter. I wouldn't want him to get dry eyes. (To this day, I want to ask him the obvious question: why didn't you just bring your contact case with you? For any of the dozens of times you came over to my apartment?)
Finally, after a few months of this strictly booty-call behavior, I realized that not only was he not in love with me but that he didn't see what we were doing as dating. His confusion over my confusion when I overheard him tell another coworker to ask me out definitely signaled his lack feelings. He explained that he thought we were completely casual, more a friends-with-benefits type of arrangement. I had just told a few of our other friends we were dating.
I felt crushed. And like he led me on, even though there were very clear and visible signs that he wasn't as into me as I hoped.
So I wanted to end things officially, on my terms, and send that Perfect Last Text.
You know what I'm talking about. That text message that will simultaneously convey your feelings without making you too vulnerable and will make him feel guilty and see the error of his ways. I wanted to project a cool disdain, like I could take him or leave him. And yes, maybe I secretly wanted him to rush over and declare his romantic feelings for me. Or in the alternative, to feel as low and miserable as I was — really, either outcome would satisfy me.
This is where we left off:
The first draft — it was an incredible text, well thought out, a bit cutting, and disdainful for the way he treated me.
"We agreed to sleep together exclusively. We talked all the time. And I thought you respected me and that this was going somewhere. I see now that I was wrong. This isn't because of a miscommunication — you led me on. I don't want to sleep together anymore or talk to you again."
The second draft was simple but effective.
"Fuck you. We are done."
The third through twelfth drafts were variations of the first two.
I finally decided to just do it, to send something that denounced our arrangement and let him know that he had hurt me. This is what I ended up sending:
It wasn't actually perfect, but the text was good enough. I put my phone down, satisfied. Done. Ten minutes later, I heard the ping of my phone indicating I received a text. He had responded.
Right. I forgot that he had that ability. We exchanged more texts. This went on for days.
In trying to find the perfect words, my sole focus was still entirely on him. I obsessed even more about how to leave things. And, worst of all, every time I sent him that Perfect Last Text, he would respond! Ugh! All I wanted was to have the last word, and not only was he not letting me, but it also kept the fire burning for him.
Thankfully, I hit a busy period with work and grad school, so a few days went by without me saying anything to him. I found the less I thought about what to text him, the less I wanted to text him. I still had to see him at work, but I slowly began to stop worrying about running into him and what I would say. I stopped responding to him over text.
More time passed, and I thought about him less often, sometimes without even a pang of hurt. I switched jobs, had another fling, and realized one morning, to my amazement, that I was over him.
There are two lessons I learned from this: first, do not date or sleep with coworkers! Seeing them all the time really sucks. Second, there isn't always closure. And there doesn't need to be. To me, the best thing that happened was going to bed one night and realizing that I hadn't thought of or felt anything for Tim the entire day.
As cliché as it is, time does heal most wounds. But that didn't happen until I freed myself from trying to have the perfect last words.