The Tale Of Two Friend Zonings: How It Feels On To Be On Both Ends Of The Situation

My name is Laura, and I am a friend zoner.

Now, don't get the wrong idea; I have only committed this crime once (that I know of) and I have certainly had it done to me at least once (that I can remember). The following is the defense of my actions and the understanding of the offender who committed the same crime at my expense.

Not too long ago, I fell into a beautiful friendship with a perfect boy. He was so witty; he could banter with me endlessly. He was so kind and protective; he may as well have been my brother.

He had the annoying kind of quiet brilliance that never made him pompous and always made you wish great things for him. His most irritating trait was that I could somehow find him incredibly handsome and irresistible, and yet never truly felt a spark in my heart when I touched him.

He gave the greatest hugs -- the kind where you stand up on your tiptoes to receive them and never want to let go –- yet I never wished for a kiss at the end of those hugs. He would let me fall asleep in his sweatshirt, holding my feet in his lap as we watched movies, but I never wished he would hold my heart instead.

I fell in love with how he treated me. His company was easy; he gave me a confidence in myself and somehow also made me want to set things on fire. I always hoped I did the same for him, and I always marveled at how a friendship could change your world.

Then one day the world stepped in and ruined things. Our friends began to claim he was in love with me, or worse, that we were in love with each other. Suddenly, I knew things would never be the same.

We took a walk to my secret spot to talk things through. I looked him in the eyes to talk about words that I could barely think, let alone say.

“You told me last night that you weren't over me.”

“Yeah, that's true,” he was frustratingly succinct when I was uncomfortable. I could never tell if it was by accident or intention.

“You know that I can't,” I said. In my head I pushed his hair back from the wind, but in reality I tugged on mine to stifle the urge.

“I know that,” he said. “I leave for Italy in two weeks.”

I asked if he would go back home first, as my heart broke knowing his answer. He nodded.

“I think we should distance ourselves for a while,” I somehow made my mouth say, as my head was repeating over and again how much I needed him in my life. He nodded again and looked away from me into the windy trees.

I let myself give in and grabbed his hand with both of mine.

“Rhett, you know how much I love you,” I said. I was relieved and yet felt a pull at my heart when he turned his eyes back to mine. “I don't want us to change.”

“We won't,” he smiled. I smiled too, knowing we were both lying. We started to talk about his time away and my summer at home. We walked back to my car and he gave me one last hug. This was another great hug, as any other from him, but it was much longer.

Maybe we both knew something bigger was leaving than just us for the summer. I made myself pull away from him. He pulled me back and I wasn't sorry. He held me until I finally pushed myself away from him. I reached up and pushed his hair back as I had wanted to before. I looked into his eyes and left.

One day, a few weeks into college, I was desperate for a taste of home. I grabbed a friend and we hopped onto the Metro to get to two more friends. She was meeting hers at his dorm, and my friend, Anthony, was meeting us when we got off the train.

We stood outside the station for a few minutes before I heard my name called out from the dusk.

“Anthony?” I yelled back. In a moment I could see him clearly and I ran in my heels, a risky move made worthy by the great hug I got when I got to him -- a pick-me-up, spin-me-around kind of hug.

He put his arm around me and the three of us made our way to his apartment, where my friend took off to find her friend. We were to meet up in a few hours to go to a club.

In the meantime, Anthony and I caught up and had a few drinks. I was a baby freshman who never drank, so I had one drink and he had a few, but a happy buzz encased us nonetheless.

We met back up with my friend and headed out in a group of seriously cute boys and fun girls while Anthony protectively held my hand. I assumed it was to keep an eye on me and my buzz as he knew what a lightweight I was.

An hour or so later, I found out I was wrong. Anthony and I had only danced with each other and his hands on my back and hips felt better than they should have for just a friend. It was different than I ever felt with Rhett.

I leaned back to look at him to make a face, something to cut the tension so maybe I could go dance with someone else and stop feeling intense chemistry with my friend. I never had a chance, though, because he kissed me.

The kiss -- it is embarrassing to me to say now -- was incredible. So incredible that it lasted a while before we pulled back, and he held my face in his hands as we laughed and smiled at this discovery. Then he kissed me again.

I thought it was the start of something, or at least something that meant more than a meaningless kiss between friends. But after I got back to my own campus, and I heard nothing from him more than the usual "Hey, what's up?"

I wasn't special to him; we were in college and that's the way things go sometimes. Not every magical moment is the beginning of a magical story.

Ah, there you have the tales of two friend zonings, done by me and to me. I thought I had done all I could to show Rhett how much he mattered to me, but maybe Anthony had the right idea to just ignore things.

I never know what to make of things when people demonize friend zoners versus friend zonees. There is nothing more beautiful or damning than an unrequited love. If the answer is that admitting to love is going to burn down your friendship and leave it as a pile of ashes, I say who can blame those who make the call to keep the house standing?

It just hurts when it wasn't your choice to make.

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