He told her that he loved her, and she stared at him. Words escaped her, as her brow furrowed slightly and her eyes squinted in confusion.
She considered him a friend. Granted, he was a dear friend, a friend with whom she had been intimate. But, she had never viewed him as more than a friend.
He had been there for her through surgeries, chemotherapy, hemorrhaging, the range of emotions while on steroids, temporary amnesia, and menopause. He made her feel cared for and safe.
And, then, when she began radiation, he pulled away from her. He claimed that he was focused on work, but it crossed her mind that maybe it was more than that. She hadn't intentionally taken him for granted, but the fact that she had chosen other guys over him might have taken its toll.
As his heart began to close, her heart started to open.
Four months after he told her that he loved her, she said those words to him. He responded in a slightly-raised voice:
No, you don’t!
She assured him that she did, but he insisted that she just thought that she did. She apologized for the mistakes she had made. She acknowledged that everything about the past year had been intense, and that she hadn't acted with a lot of clarity and respect where he was concerned. She explained to him how she knew that she had fallen in love with him. But, that wasn’t enough to convince him.
He compared their relationship to her “relationship” with his best friend.
“But you and I are nothing like he and I were,” she implored him.
Before they fell asleep, as they held each other close, she shared:
I had wanted to fall for him, but I didn’t. And, I didn’t want to fall for you, but I did.
He kissed her. When her closest relative had to go through major surgery, he was there for her. And, when her doctor told her that there was a 50% chance that her cancer had returned, he was there for her again.
There were moments when she wondered if this — they — could work. But, at the end of the day, he wants to move overseas, and she wants to stay in DC. She would like to start a family, and although she assumes that he doesn’t, she’s never asked him.
A few mutual friends commented that they envision the two of them together. She sighed and responded:
I love him. And, I would love to be with him until he moves overseas or I adopt. But, I'm ready for something stable and exclusive, and he wants to focus on his career and have the freedom to sleep with other people. And, I honestly don’t know that I see us being partners or anything in the long-term. Maybe down the road? Or, maybe, this was our journey together. [She pauses.] Years from now, when he’s back in DC and I see him on the street, I’ll approach him with a big smile and a long hug and say, 'Thank you for making the toughest year of my life much, much easier.' And, when we part, I’ll think to myself that he will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sometimes love is that simple…and that complicated.