Okay, so maybe I should have seen this coming

What happened with Nob threw me off, to say the least. It still doesn’t feel real, even now, two weeks later. It feels especially like a daydream because he lives in a different city and I haven’t seen him since. We’ve been texting, and he wants to Skype sometime soon. Maybe then it’ll feel real.

I think the problem is that I’ve spent the last three years convincing myself that we were never going to work out. I was reading old entries from my old journal the other day, and the more I read, the more I realized that I was really just in denial. 

Here is an overview, for your reading pleasure. These were actual things I wrote about Ryan throughout high school.

First, there was a blog post in May of Grade 10 (Full post here):

Nob is incredible. He’s funny, and mature and interesting and smart and he’s willing to talk about Glee with me even at the risk of looking like a nerd for doing so.  He’s my first big crush since starting school in the city, and I can barely hold back the crazy teenage squealing that threatens to leave me lips every time someone mentions his name.  I am close to Facebook stalking him, I wait with shivering anticipation for every class I have with him, and it’s so difficult not to blush every time we’re face to face. Butterflies in my stomach is an understatement.

Not a lot happened after that. I think I was probably too shy. Probably he was too. And honestly, my mom had just died. For a lot of that next few months I was just trying to get through the day.

Then there was a journal entry almost a year later, on January 25, 2012:

It happened in one moment, like flicking on a light switch. How do I describe it? Everything I thought I knew was swept out from under me, making me question all of it. Now that I know, deeply and completely, that I like Nob, it makes me wonder, do birds really fly? Are mountains even real, or are they just images painted on the horizon?

Oh dear. I think I thought I was being poetic. It’s weird though, because I guess I had that epiphany, but then immediately changed my mind. There’s another entry a few days later which is essentially just me trying to write out how I’m going to say to Nob that I just want to be friends. That month we had gone on a couple dates, just coffee and skating and stuff. I kept flip flopping back and forth between really liking him and feeling like the whole situation was just too awkward and forced. In the end I guess I decided to just end it before it started. This is what I wrote on February 1, 2012:

Hey Ryan, can I talk to you for a sec? *take a deep breath* I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve realized that I just want us to be friends. I’m sorry for leading you on this long. *get ready to walk away* Oh, and Ryan? The next time you like a girl, be confident about it. Because you are a really great guy.

I think when I actually told him in real life it wasn’t quite that eloquent, but the general message was there. 

That same month I started dating Patt, which is weird looking back, because I barely knew him. I don’t exactly know why I was okay with dating Patt when I had been so nervous about dating Nob. There are a few entries about Patt throughout February and March, but none of them are particularly heartfelt or meaningful. I’m surprised it took me until April to break up with him.

Meanwhile, Nob started dating this completely ridiculous girl. Let’s call her Deb. Deb was…not very smart. At all. I suspect that’s why I never really saw Nob and Deb having a conversation. Mostly they just made out. Everywhere. All the time. Did I mention that Nob’s locker was next to mine?

The thing is, I kept trying to convince myself that I was mad about Nob dating Deb because they were annoying. Or else I tried to say that it was because I thought (as a friend of course) that he could do better. Except there are entries like this one, from April 11, 2012. Probably within a week after I broke up with Patt. (It’s a poem, don’t laugh)

This gold necklace

links crunched together

crumpled in my hand

A gesture that says

in no uncertain terms

“Mine, all mine.”

But your dusty blonde hair

those eyes that question me 

like I question myself

Arms that could encircle me

a hula hoop, but softer and stronger

I can’t crumple that in my hand

you don’t fit in my pocket

or behind a combination lock

So how could she know? 

Looking at you,

How could she know 

that even when your arms encircle her waist,

you are always

crumpled in my hand

in no uncertain terms

mine.

Kind of possessive and creepy, I’ll admit. But it’s also kind of cute. And it’s clear proof that as much as I liked to pretend we were just friends for the next two years, we really never were. Two weeks later, on April 21, there is another entry that more explicitly explains my feelings. From what I remember it was the day after Jan had a party and I had spent most of the night with Nob. His girlfriend wasn’t there, probably because he knew that none of us really liked her.

Nob frustrates me and annoys me and sometimes I just don’t get him. but what matters is that I want to get him. I want to push through his defences and really know him. I want to cause him to give me that look again, that one of honest surprise when I say something that completely disarms him. I want to make him smile, really smile, not because he’s forcing it, or putting on an act, but because for a moment, I made him happy.

I can feel my morals getting blurry here. It’s so easy to imagine grabbing his hand, imagine his arms–so strong and beautiful–wrapped tightly around my waist. It’s so easy to forget that I waited too long and he has a girlfriend now. I know it’s wrong. I know it doesn’t make sense. Most importantly, I know that it is extremely likely that he doesn’t think about me that way at all anymore. I mean, the way he talks about her…and when he’s not talking about her he’s texting her, and when he’s not texting her he’s doing other things with her…

But the way he looked at me last night, how can I discount that? I still have the power to make him laugh, really laugh, catch him off guard, and corner his attentions. It only that were enough. If only it wasn’t too late.

So yeah. Friends thing wasn’t working out so well at that point. Then there’s a lot of entries about how I don’t really want/need a boyfriend, then some more about some random crushes in the summer. It gets interesting again around November. Nob had finally broken up with Deb a couple months before, and he and my best friend Dee had started hooking up. I pretended like it was no big deal when she talked about it. I think to her it was this really casual thing, but I’m not sure what Nob thought. As for me, I wanted them to break it off. My motivations seem pretty unclear.

I don’t like him that way. I had my chance with him and I turned him down. It’s not like I would ever date him. And her? She’s my friend and I should want her to be happy. If he makes her happy I should encourage them. Except I think I preferred her when she was jaded and lonely like me. If we were going to be miserable at least we could do it together. 

If they got together I don’t think I could handle it. Even if they avoided PDAs and they tried their best to include me. Actually, I’d rather they didn’t include me. If I’m going to be alone, I’d rather be able to go home and scream into a pillow instead of pretending to smile and have fun with them. 

That got pretty dark and bitter. I was going through this phase where I was obsessed with falling in love and I was mad at anyone who was in a relationship. Or I suppose you could interpret the bitterness as jealousy. I’m not sure at this point; you be the judge.

Sometime after that the entries get less boy focused. There’s that brief thing with Tim, and I make out with a few guys at parties, but that’s it. Notably, at one point I made out with Nob’s best friend Drew, but nothing ever happened with that. Then the entries start to be more about my trip to  Kenya and my plans for the future. Nob isn’t mentioned again. So maybe I did get over him and we finally became friends, or maybe I just figured out how to push away my feelings for him. Either way, when he started dating my friend Rea in the summer it wasn’t a big deal to me. He seemed really happy with her, and it was a way healthier relationship than the one he had with Deb. I’m not going to say that I never thought about us being together, but I recognized that I was going away to university and so was he. Frankly, I was ready to move on.

So that’s why even though there was all this history, I really never expected anything to happen with Nob. When I look back at this stuff it almost seems kind of inevitable, but it never felt like that for me. If anything, it was quite the opposite. Finally being with him felt kind of miraculous.

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There are no words for this

I’m never at a loss for words. It’s one of those things that I’ve always been sure of, the same way my eyes have always been blue and so has the sky. I’ve never had this “writer’s block” thing I hear about. In fact, I have always had the opposite problem; I have too much to write. I have so many words bubbling over in my head that I often can’t write fast enough to catch them all. Maybe this explains why I have such cramped, scrawly writing instead of the round bubble kind I see other girls use.

So yeah. Words are usually my friend. Except for right now.

I have never ever felt like this. I keep trying to describe it and I just can’t without using awful clichés like “It feels like a dream.” I kind of make myself want to vomit. Except that I’m also too happy to be upset with myself.

This is the short form of what happened. There were more events leading up to it, and I will probably fill them in at some point, but basically I spent last weekend at Nob’s university at a debate tournament. I actually have a lot of friends who go there; Lyd, Drew and Andy go there too, but I instead stayed with people I knew from debate. I hadn’t planned to visit any of my friends from home; I didn’t even tell them I was coming. Schedules for debate tournaments are usually packed, between the debating itself and the after parties, so I figured there was no point, especially since I had seen everyone over Christmas holidays. I would just have a fun weekend with my debate friends, I figured.

Except the thought of Nob was constantly at the back of my mind. This new tension had developed between us over the holidays and I couldn’t quite figure out why it had happened or what it meant. In Grade 12 we had always clearly defined ourselves as friends, and he was dating someone else for a large amount of it. I think that’s when we became so comfortable together; we became closer and closer over the course of the year. The best part of our friendship was the fact that we could speak so honestly and frankly with each other. We talked about our families and our futures and we always called each other on our bullshit. In August he asked me if he should try to make long distance work with his girlfriend when he went away for school, and I told him I thought it was a really bad idea. I swear I didn’t have any ulterior motives for that advice; I just had his best interests in mind. I knew that Nob is the type to pour everything into a relationship, and it would take away from his first year and he would end up being miserable.

In December there were no deep life talks though. We talked about safe things, our friends and politics and parties. I could feel us avoiding anything that might force into honesty. We sat in his house on opposite sides of the couch, always leaving a few feet between each other. I was scared to look him in the eye and instead found myself staring at my hands in my lap as we talked. When I left we hugged, which was normal enough, but we both held on a second too long. That was it though, a second. Then there were some jokes and see you laters, even though later meant months and we both knew it. As I drove away I was shaking a little.

Which brings me to Saturday night. It was 3am and I was sitting in an all night restaurant sharing a poutine with my friend as we discussed the party we had just left. I was trying to listen to her, but I just kept thinking about where Nob was, wondering if he might walk past the restaurant window at any moment. Occasionally a tall guy in an engineering jacket would walk by and for a second I would think it was him and my hands would start to shake again. Finally I decided that I was being stupid. Of course I should see my friend. I was in his city; it just made sense.

I texted him and told him I was in town and that we should hang out Sunday. He agreed. We tried to pretend it was no big deal, just friends hanging out.

And it was, at first. We went out for burgers. I told him some funny anecdotes about debate and he told me about crazy things his floor mates had done the night before. There were signals that this lunch was different than others though. For one, he was supposed to meet up with friends to go looking at houses to rent for next year and he cancelled on them. I told him that I understood if he had to go, but he said it was fine so I didn’t push it. I tried not to over think why he might do that.

Then we went back to his dorm room. When I say it like that it sounds like he had a plan to hook up with me all along, but I don’t think he did. It didn’t feel weird at the time, anyway. In residence your dorm room is your bedroom, yes, but it’s also your living room and your kitchen. It seemed like a natural place to go.

We talked some more. We looked up stuff on the internet, political things and memes and whatever. Then I spotted a Lego set on top of his dresser. It was the same set we had built together over the holidays when he had a bunch of people over. We’re playing with this, I told him. At first he scoffed at the idea, but I know Nob and I knew he wanted to play. Sure enough, he picked up the space ship and I launched catapults at it and we both made explosion sounds and narrated a dramatic battle which ended with total destruction and a single survivor.

I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I remember wondering how I had gotten so lucky as to meet a boy who would sit in his bedroom and play Lego with me.

We kissed. I’m not sure who started it to be honest and I like that. He had this brazen look in his eyes and he looked so certain that when our lips touched, I was certain. I was certain that I wanted to be with this boy, and that changed everything.

I don’t really need to explain what happened next, but I will say it was amazing. I found myself wondering why I had ever even bothered kissing other guys before this. All of those other kisses, all of those other guys, they didn’t even compare to this. You can’t even plot it on the same spectrum.

All of that built up tension evaporated instantly. I don’t know how long we just laid nose to nose, breathing in the moment.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” I finally said.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” he replied. “I had pretty much given up hope.”

“Classic us,” I said, laughing. “We finally figure our shit out once we live in different cities.”

I eventually had to go; I had a bus to catch back to school. We didn’t exchange any promises or make any attempt to make sense of what had happened. There was this unspoken feeling that it wasn’t over though. Before I left he kissed my smile one more time with that brazen look on his face. On the elevator and down the street and packing my things and in the taxi and at the Greyhound station I smiled and smiled. My lips were still tingling to remind me that it really happened.

I feel like all the clichés, even now. I’m walking on air and the whole world looks beautiful and different. I always thought those clichés could never apply to me, and yet here I am. I must have been smiling as I daydreamed while I waited for my omelet at the cafeteria this morning, because the omelet guy just grinned at me like he knew exactly what I was thinking about. I found myself wondering if I look as different as I feel.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling.

Uh oh Kay is talking about boys again

It occurs to me that I’m an adult now and maybe I ought to start saying “men” instead of boys, but I don’t really feel like a grown up yet, so I’m sticking with boys for now okay?

I like Nob. I have always liked Nob, from the day I met him and he gave me this crazy grin and said something sarcastic that I don’t remember. I liked him in grade 10 english when he joked around a lot, but it turned out he really cared about the subject and he is a really good writer actually. Then in sports med I liked how he sat in front of me and we would have these intense political debates when we were supposed to be taping ankles. And I even liked being in math with him three years in a row, even though his favourite thing to do was tease me and stick paper clips in my hair when I wasn’t looking.

The problem is that we already tried the dating thing once. In grade 11 we went on a couple dates, coffee and skating a such, and it was fun, but he just seemed so nervous and awkward. I didn’t want dating to be awkward, so I went out with Patt instead, and then he dated some other girl from english class who I’m pretty sure wasn’t smart enough to get his jokes. I think he was mad at me for a while for rejecting him, but the truth is that we have too much fun together to stay away from each other. We tease each other about that stuff now.

The problem is that in grade 11 I had my reasons for not dating him. I just don’t know if they still apply. I was scared that he was too sensitive and awkward and inexperienced for me and that I would just find it frustrating and it would ruin our friendship. He’s different now though. I think. He’s more confident I guess.

It’s like, I feel this incredible pull towards him, but I don’t exactly know what that means. I just like being near him. I like talking to him and just absorbing the energy between us. I can practically hear it crackling when we get close.

It’s not like, love though. I mean, I think if it was love I would just know, you know? I wouldn’t be sitting in bed with my laptop right now questioning it on my blog…right?

Right?

I will almost certainly see him this fall. His university is within spitting distance of mine and Lyd goes there too, so I will definitely be visiting. And we’re going to a screening of Serenity with Drew next week, and laser tagging tomorrow.

It’s enough just to hang out with him. I don’t need anything else. Probably. Ugh I just don’t know.

Here’s a post I wrote about Nob back in grade 10. It’s funny to read what I thought about him back then. It’s different, but the same.

Things only my best friend knows

Neither Lis nor I have ever been the types to spill our secrets very easily, but over seven years of friendship we’ve broken down each other’s walls. She knows all my secrets now:

1) My hair hasn’t gotten blonder this summer because the sun bleached it. I can thank a little spray bottle from my friends at John Frieda for that.

2) Last week I told my boss I couldn’t make my shift because I had a soccer game, but actually Lis and I went to the Calgary Stampede and danced and drank Jack Daniels and rode rides.

3) At grad at the Comp a couple weeks ago Cor told me he still loves me. We were sitting on Lis’s deck checking out the northern lights at 3am and Lis had gone inside to shower and he reached for my hand and blurted it out. He wasn’t drunk or anything. Three years after I rejected him twice. What do you even say to that? Cor is one of Lis’s best friends and he’s a great guy, but I don’t see him that way.

4) I still can’t stand the smell of lilies because my mom died a week before Easter two years ago and everyone we knew sent us some. Our house was full of them.

On growing up

I like to joke about how at 18 I don’t feel qualified to be an adult. However, the truth is that it’s been a long time since I’ve really felt like a kid. Probably at least since before I started high school.

I mean, I know that I’m lucky. I’ve never been poor or starving, and I spent most of my childhood with two parents who loved me. And at least I got to have a childhood. Most of the kids I met in Kenya learned to cook and do laundry and take care of their younger siblings at maybe four or five years old.

That’s why I’ve never let myself complain about my mom’s death, or use it as an excuse. It could be so much worse. I’m constantly reminding myself of that.

My mom always ran a tight ship. She was the one who enforced rules and made my brother and I clean up after ourselves and be on time for dinner and take responsibility for household chores. That feels so distant now. It’s been years since then.

Now that it’s just me and my dad, it’s different. Some days it’s easy. I like being independent and I like that at my house I don’t have a curfew and I can come and go as I please. I like that I eat when I want and go to bed when I want and when I need something I buy it myself and my dad just pays me back. I’m good at doing things on my own.

But every now and then, maybe every month or two, it hits me that there’s no going back. Gone are the days when I had someone to remind me to wipe off the counter or get ready for soccer practice. My dad loves me to pieces, but he’s never been good at that stuff. Now there are crumbs left on the counter and I remember to go to practice on my own.

In the past few years I’ve learned what it means to be an adult: it means freedom and independence, but it’s also tiring and lonely. Some days I wake up and think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days before I drove my mom to chemo appointments and pushed her wheelchair and made her soup and cleaned the floor when she puked it back up. Back when she baked muffins for my school lunch and nagged me to practice piano. If only I could go back there.

These are dangerous thoughts to have; they’re the kind that could break me if I’m not careful.

Church: all the cool kids are doing it

I feel like I can talk to my school friends about anything and it’s awesome. However, there are two exceptions. The first is my mom’s death, because people who have never known someone who died get freaked out about the whole idea of like, dying and stuff. Plus, I think that the fact that I’m so cavalier about the whole thing even though it was only two years ago freaks people out even more.

The other thing that my friends get weird about is when I talk about church. I always forget that as a regular church-goer I’m a minority in my generation. For me, it’s always been a part of my life, so it rarely occurs to me that there are people who have never even walked into a church. I think a lot of people are scared of the whole idea.

I blame the religious crazies for all the church stigma. I don’t just mean terrorists and rapey priests either. I mean those regular people who feel the need to go up to random strangers and be all like, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?” Everyone knows those people. That form of relies craziness bugs me so much because it doesn’t attract people to the church, it scares them away from it. I’m all in favour of evangelism, but you don’t get people to accept God into their lives by being all confrontational.

I want people to know that church isn’t like that. Or at the very least, my church isn’t. It’s not about being judged or knowing all the answers or memorizing the bible. A church congregation is supposed to be like a family; you’re supposed to make friends and build relationships and share your faith and ask questions and struggle together and triumph together.

Anytime it comes up, I love to tell people about my church. It’s a small place with maybe 300 members, which is cool because everyone knows each other. The service is an hour long, but we are usually there for two or three every Sunday because before and after we talk with everyone about their lives and our lives and whatever else comes up. Everyone genuinely cares about each other, no matter their age or background or income or culture or even language. There’s this one Japanese woman who speaks barely any English, but she’s been in the choir for years now and apparently she’s really enjoying it and everyone in the choir loves her.

I have all kinds of different friends at church. There’s a lovely lady in her fifties who is a bit of a shopoholic and is always giving me her hand-me-downs because we have the same shoe size. There’s a 13-year-old girl who I go out for lunch with sometimes and assure her that life gets better after junior high. Then there’s a hilarious couple in their twenties who sit in the pew in front of me, and a whole parade of old ladies who loved my mother and want to hear all about my life, and the assistant pastor who is always down for deep philosophical chats. On of my favourite people in the world is my friend’s grandmother, who always mutters sarcastic comments and plays with my hair in the pew behind me.

I know I don’t mention it a lot, but my relationship with God is really important to me and I know that He has a plan for me. He’s always been there for me, especially through the tough stuff like my mom’s death. I see Him working through the people in my church all the time. When my mom was sick, they were constantly bringing casseroles and checking in on us and offering to drive me places or cut our grass or serve us dinner. For most of grade ten my dad was too busy taking my mom to treatments to drive me into the city for school, so a different member of my church would drive me every day. Even now, so many people remember the anniversary of her death and check in on my dad and I to see how we’re doing all the time.

So maybe you feel like God is there, and maybe you just can’t see him in your life. No matter where you’re at, I hope you’ll give church a chance. It’s not just about showing up and reading a bible. Church is a safe place to land, it’s a support system when times are tough, and it can become family if you find the right place. For me, God is love, and I see that love every week in the faces that smile at me on Sunday morning.

I am the love guru

My friends keep asking me for love advice. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It certainly isn’t due to my massive romantic success.

In fact, after Jo texted me for advice today, I’m starting to think that my friends are using my love life as an example of what not to do. A kind of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, if you will. Actually, more like a How to Make a Guy Fall For You and Then Confuse Him Until He Gives Up On You. It’s pure gold, apparently. Do the opposite of what Kay does, and you’re sure to find love.

A sample from my conversation with Jo, for your enjoyment:

Jo: Why didn’t you date Nob after you found out that he liked you back?

Kay: Uhhh…well you see…I did like him. But then it was kind of awkward and weird, so then I wasn’t sure if I liked him, so then I just freaked out and told him I just wanted to be friends.

Jo: Umm okay. So do you think it would have gone differently if he had just told you straight up how he felt?

Kay: No. Well, maybe. Nob is too awkward for that. I’m too awkward for that. It was just so complicated, and it just freaked me out. If you like someone and he likes you, shouldn’t it be easy and like, natural or something? Shouldn’t it? SHOULDN’T IT?

Jo: …

Kay: So, did you still want some advice?

Jo: Uh, no, I think I’m good, but thanks.

I have no idea what Jo expected to get out of that conversation, but hopefully he at least learned that if you like someone, you shouldn’t freak out and say things that make no sense, which is pretty much my trademark move. He really likes my friend Jan and she really likes him. I know this because she came to me for advice, too.

I wish them all of the romantic success that I’ve never had.