Part 7

I have had crushes on girls ever since I was a kid. 
When I was four I told my sister's friend Samantha we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Or I asked her. I don't remember But the odds are high I just informed her. Regardless, she broke up with me, and I had to find a new girlfriend. I asked my sister's best friend (my best friend's sister). She said no. Damn, single again.

I had a crush on one of the girls in who was also in the church play with me. For one of the songs we hugged as part of the choir choreography. I didn't realize I liked her at the time, but I was pleased regardless. 

The next one I remember definitively was in middle school. She was short and cute, round faced with very straight hair and shining eyes and a faint southern accent that would break out with her sassy moments (my favorite moments). Nothing ever happened, I was Not Allowed to Date in middle school or highschool (not that that would've been a barrier to a bunch of homeschoolers or probably even too strictly enforced if it'd come down to it). She started going to private school pretty soon afterwards. Most of what I'd liked about her vanished there. But maybe it was just growing up, maybe it was also just me growing up.

Later, in college, there were more girls. You, obviously, until our ill-fated (but thank GOD it happened because otherwise this wouldn't have) bi-date, which was very fun but “God Said No” (hell, maybe he actually did, maybe I was just nervous. I was upset with the arrangement, but the rest? I don't remember).

There was a girl my roommate went on a couple dates with until she dumped him, which was infuriating because he'd been adorable (he was a dork who wore undershirts under his t-shirts until I made fun of him (you're welcome dude), so I get why she wasn't Into It, but dammit he made her a fake picnic inside, it was so cute). 

There was the very weird (but very unsurprising) crush I had on a very butch girl in my program (I love pretty butch girls, why am I like this). But she was too scary to love (SO angry, this woman. Probably deservedly angry, but ~I~ hadn't done anything and was not going to deal with that) so I didn't. 

There was a girl in my film program (the crush is gone, but I still love her, she's such a good cinematographer) an art student I briefly crushed on before I got to know her better (any kind of artistic talent and I'm all yours man) And finally, the girl I dated.

She was short, cute as hell, and sassy (I have a Type, oh my god do I have a Type). She was half Mexican (BOOYAH, my Nana will be pleased) with huge blue eyes (gorgeous) and great legs from years of softball (also into athletic girls, even though I still don't like sports.)
I thought we were friends before I asked her out (she did not hold the same opinion) and she thought I liked her roommate (who my same fake-picnic roommate would later enter into a relationship with) and was very surprised when I asked her "Do you want to go on a date?" (My go to line, it has a 100% success rate).

We dated for a year and a half.
It was not a good thing. It took me two months after becoming official to hold her hand, and almost a year to kiss her (on the steps outside school after I seriously considered dumping her because among other issues, she "didn't have time to see me before I left for a month with no phone, I have brunch and then hanging out with Matt before he goes on his trip, we won't see him for a month". Bitch, Matt and I are going on the same damn trip).

It was a weird relationship. I'm open to a fault, and she was layers of masks and thick walls. I scrolled back through our texts once before I deleted them. It was a smorgasbord of me asking "what's wrong?" "Why won't you talk to me?" "Is something the matter?" "Are you ok?". I was constantly smashing through walls and knocking on locked doors and carefully dissecting false assurances that "everything was fine" even though her face had gone still as plastic and her eyes glittered dully. 

In hindsight it seems obvious, when someone won't answer when you knock, you should leave, not just keep banging on the door. But she was clearly unhealthy, and by the time it really came clear to my joyfully stupidly oblivious self that that was true, we'd already been dating for 7 months. I had to stick with her, right? We'd said we loved each other, good boyfriends suck through thick and thin, right? Couples work through these things together, right? I was in so far over my head, and way too arrogant to admit I couldn't do this, way too invested to admit it wasn't my place. So I invaded, and got to work.
And we got somewhere. She let me in through a lot of doors, took off a lot of masks. And it was like heroine.
That's my drug, if sex isn't (it also is). Getting Let In, seeing the inner workings of a person's heart, their mind, their soul. It's electrifying and fascinating and it makes me feel loved, and safe and On the Inside of the circle, a feeling I've craved ever since I was a kid, crying on my windowsill because I literally had no friends. 
That's why I love books. People transparent and pressed like flowers between the pages, carefully and artfully arranged in neat and tangy slices.

So I crushed and climbed over walls and relentlessly cut through, trying to get to her core. I'm not sure I ever got there. I thought I did, but I really don't know. There were a lot of different versions of her that took their turn for each occasion. Maybe this one was just the face she saved for me. Maybe there wasn't actually a "real" her anymore/yet. Maybe she was desperately playing a rotation of parts while the real her waited cocooned and protected somewhere inside. I don’t know. I never did.

She dumped me a week after our good friends (my roommate and her roommate) got engaged (I hid in the bushes and filmed the proposal). She said she "loved me, but wasn't IN love with me". I said that was bullshit. I tried to change her mind. It didn't work. I cried while I walked home. I called Jessica and she picked me up. We burned matches and she said I was too good for her. My family was relieved (they'd tried to like her, she was terrified of them, even my Mom, no one understood why. When you live your life in masks it's terrifying being in a room of people who feel like they have xray vision). My dad said he could picture how excited, how thrilled and joyous and ecstatic and deeply invested I would be if I had a kid. He couldn't imagine her being able to truly join me in that level of enthusiasm and euphoria. For anything. 
That clinched it for me. 
I went to the movies with Hannah (The Big Short, she's studying accounting and would literally gasp in horror and awe when they mentioned financial terms, it was the funniest and best movie theater experience I've ever had).
And I was more or less over it the next day. 
I was hung up on it for about a week. I wrote her a letter, to say my side (and because I knew she hated letters like that) I told her I was angry, because she broke up with me with a line from network tv show, and because it's easier to be angry than to be sad. But then I said everything I'd said about her while we were dating, that she was beautiful, funny, smart, compassionate, was still true. And I said goodbye.
It was a phenomenal letter. And I meant it. At least the first half. I wish I'd kept a copy. A big part of me strongly suspects she never read it. 
We were both in the wedding party for that same friend who got engaged. We never looked at each other or spoke. I only recently got to the point where I'd talk to her if I saw her. It took getting fucked to do that. Who knew.

It took me such a long time to get anywhere physically with her. And in the end we really didn't get that far. I'm still not 100% sure why. 
I spent my whole life being told on all sides (from Buzzfeed to our Lord and Teacher James Dobson) that touching/kissing/standing too close to a woman is the Utmost Ungentlemanly Sin. I was terrified to even pressure her by asking: asking if I could hold her hand, asking if I could kiss her, asking if I could touch her shoulder or put my arms around her waist. 
And then there was the fact that I felt more like I should than I wanted to. Physical touch wasn't important to me (I told myself) and I wanted to hold her hand and maybe kiss her, but, that was about it. Making out or grabbing a boob? It mostly sounded weird, and any urge I had was dwarfed by the conviction that I SHOULD have the urge (and smothered by the conviction that I Must Not Act). 
Maybe it was evangelical hangups. Maybe I wasn't attracted to her. Maybe I'm not attracted to women. I'm still figuring it out.

But she wasn't the only crush I had in undergrad. Or while we were dating.

Since I was 13 I've been certain that I wasn't romantically attracted to men. I wanted to date/marry/have crushes on women. Men were sexy, way sexier than women, but maybe that was just because I hadn't let myself be attracted to women (Buzzfeed and Dobson said Do Not Look, Do Not Objectify). I hadn't explored it.
And anyway, I'd been kind of attracted to guys before. It evaporated once I got to know them. Once we were friends they weren't sexy anymore (or so I told myself, there were exceptions I ignored). 
So sexually attracted to men. Romantically (and sexually?) attracted to women.

And then I met him.

We had a class together. I didn't like him at first. He seemed weird (accurate), and creepy (nope) and he irritated my Dad (my Dad actually likes him a lot AND is irritated by him). We didn't really talk until a trip the class ended up going on. He was my bunkmate the first night.
I don't remember the process of getting to know him. I just know if happened almost instantaneously. We were friends within a day, and inside of a week he was my go to travel buddy. It turns out the people I’d been hanging out with sucked ass at traveling. They had no stamina, and when you want to See Everything, they feel like an anchor dragging you down.
He was different. He was loose, open, game for anything and almost always full of energy. He was like an adolescent puppy, or a colt, excited and deeply playful but with a take charge attitude that meant I could take a back seat and didn't always have to drive. 
And Fuck man, he was cute. Is cute.
He's tall, maybe 6' (not too tall) with broad shoulders and a thin waist and thick black hair like a soft spill of ink. And large, liquid brown eyes that made me think of country songs I don't listen to. He'd look dead in your eyes when he talked to you, you got 100% off his focus and all of his energy and then bam, he'd flit away to the next thing he got distracted by. 
(Oh yeah and also he looked damn fine without a shirt on, just a light dusting of hair and smooth, defined muscles "I worked out a lot in highschool" Dammit man).
He'd point out every other car we'd walk past, rattle off a make and model and a list of stats that sailed over my head but I liked to listen to. Every now and again I'd point to one and make something up "That's a Diablo S57 Lion, it's made in Denmark and the air conditioner is hand cranked". He grit his teeth and shake his head, but he'd laugh.
He gave me a nickname. Some traditional substitute for Alexander, but "only for cool guys". He'd use it, and my heart would jilt weirdly and I'd feel taller and lankier and cooler. It’s the only time I’ve ever had a nickname.  
One of the girls on the trip tried to get us to kiss (just to tease him, and because I was the only guy there) and I played it cool and we both awkwardly laughed it off while my insides panicked.

At some point, he did kiss me. He put his hand over my mouth first, just kissed the back of his hand, it was a joke, and I laughed, but I'll take it.

I don't remember when I realized it was a full on crush. I think it was after he was gone, after the trip was over. That summer, before school started again. I was talking to my mom, while she cooked or I baked, and we got on the subject of me and being bi. It was a great conversation. She asked me if I ever had a crush on a man, and I said "yeah". 
I hadn't actually known myself until I answered the question. She approved of my choice. We moved on. 

He’s straight. That was never an issue, I was never going to do anything about this anyway. I just liked hanging out with him.
We worked on a project together senior year. It was a flop, but, I got to spend more time with him.

We shared a hotel room (nothing happened, of course). He gave me a ride back from a job fair and I egged him on to go 80 miles per hour on a country road and suppressed the intense, idiotic fantasy of giving him road head. He got dressed in my living room and I tried not to look. I groped his ass through the back pocket of his pants as a joke. It felt great. 

The last time I saw him was at a party. I spent most of the time hanging out with him and his girlfriend. He'd been dating her since highschool, and it should have hurt, but she was lovely and delightful, and I loved them as a couple (Fuck I love couples). He needs to get engaged to her stat, and I honestly really hope it works out with them. They seem really good for each other. I'd be bummed if they broke up. 

He was the only crush on a guy I had. Until David.