Does anyone recall Jersey Boy after all this unicorn insanity? Probably not. If you need a refresher you can go back and read my post from back in December here. The gist of it is that Jersey Boy and I are old college friends in a group of super tight old college friends. He and I have been friends, we have been more than friends and we have been just friends but also with some benefits. (I think we are all on the same page). I like him as a person. I enjoy his company. I care about him. I find him attractive. And we have chemistry. I think I can say with all likelihood that he feels the same about me. And its always been uncomplicated and fun and respectful. Our biggest obstacle was always geography and timing and then also the general consensus that we were better off friends than anything more. But I digress...
Now, why am I talking about Jersey Boy in a post about the now infamous Mr. Unicorn? That's because I spent the four days of MLK weekend skiing up north with Jersey Boy and some of our other friends. Did I tell Mr. Unicorn that I was skiing with a former lover? Err, no I did not. We hadn't been dating long enough for this to seem necessary. And to be honest, I didn't feel guilty about this omission at all. At this point in time, it wasn't any of Mr. U's business. On the other hand, there was quite a bit that could have been told...
Back in December, Jersey Boy had recently broken up with his long time girlfriend. And I, hadn't had a successful date or relationship in a very long time. It had been. a very. very. long time. If you know what I mean? (I think we're on the same page again). Jersey Boy had been inviting me up to NYC to see and stay with him with no doubt in either of our minds, what that invitation really meant. The two of us (and not our other friends) planned this ski trip so that we could be together. And then when Mr. U happened, well, things changed. Of course I was still going to ski with my friends. And was still looking forward to seeing Jersey. But since Mr. U and I had had the "we're exclusive" conversation (although we apparently weren't boyfriend and girlfriend yet either) the guidelines of how Jersey and I would interact had become a bit blurry.
At first, I wasn't tempted to ignite old flames. In fact, I spent most of the train ride up thinking of Mr. U and the dates we'd been on and the things he'd said to me during our time together. The song "the Dog Days are Over" murmured from my headphones as I spaced out looking through the window at the snow covered country side and woods entranced in a contented daze. I was happy. I couldn't wait to see my friends. I couldn't wait to ski. I couldn't believe Mr. U was back at home waiting for me.
And the whole weekend was one giant success. You know the kind of time where everyone gets along perfectly and everything goes right. You know the kind of friends that know you? Like really really really you and everything is an inside joke or a reference to a memory. We laughed so hard what seemed like every second of every day. We laughed so hard we cried. We laughed so hard we started to cough. And then as we all were coughing and laughing we laughed so much harder we coughed and then cried again. By the end of the weekend, I had laughed out every infinitesimal amount of stress in every molecule of my being. I felt like a million bucks. No, make that two million bucks. That's how good I felt.
And despite the fact that Mr. U and I had embarked on a whirlwind romance just weeks before, leading up to the the days before my trip, including the fact that I had been overwhelmingly infatuated with this person during most of that time, I didn't think of him much at all. I didn't miss him. I didn't wish I was somewhere else. I was happy with my friends. This began to make me worried. While ultimately I came to the conclusion that this was more a sign that Mr. U and I were developing a healthy relationship (versus an unhealthy codependent, obsessive scenario), at the same time, I began to worry and wonder if my feelings for him were as deep as I had previously thought.
And while distance might make the heart grow fonder for some, for me, its more likely that if you are out of sight you are out of mind. Fair or not. Nice or not. That's the way I've always been.
Combined with this confusing retraction of feelings for Mr. Unicorn, I was feeling the instant reinstatement of my connection with Jersey Boy. He knew me. Like an old friend. Like really really knew me. And we had the old banter and the old repertoire and all those good memories. On the drive up to the mountains we snuggled in the back seat of the car. Partially out of necessity, because the skis and other equipment took up most of the space. It had been a long day for me. I'd gone to work on Friday morning, then walked to the metro to take the metro to Union Station, then got a train and was now in for a long car ride. I put my arm around Jersey and lay my head on his shoulder and fell asleep. The rest of the weekend there were small moments like that one. Where we joked about a time we were together. Where we flirted with the idea of something happening again. We skied down a mountain side by side and we cooked breakfast in the morning together. We talked about his ex-girlfriend and we talked about Mr. U and we also talked about everything else in between. When the gang went out to some townie bars for the night, we danced with one another along with the rest of the group. After the bars, we came home and found ourselves the only ones still awake. We sat by the fire for hours on opposite couches divulging the deepest worries and reservations on our minds. It was so good to be with my friend. It would have been so easy to take his hand and lead him upstairs and find comfort that we'd found before in one another's arms. And I must admit, he looked so. damn. good. Better than I'd ever seen him. He just seems to get handsomer with time.
But I didn't. And he didn't. And we didn't. The thing about falling for someone and being committed to someone - is that it doesn't make you a perfect, human specimen over night. You might still be tempted by the attractiveness or vibrancy or convenience of another. And therefore, I don't blame myself for feeling something for Jersey Boy. But I do commend myself for making the right choice. In another year, with another guy, I might have sabotaged a good potential relationship, by making the wrong choice. For fear of happiness. For fear of happiness and then loss. But not this time. This time, I was strong enough to choose the happiness. And to take the risks that come with it.
Though the mountains have very scarce cell phone reception and even less Internet, I did finally touch base with Mr. U. "So am I going to see you Monday?" he texted hopefully on Sunday afternoon right around the time I started to take off my ski layers at the end of a long day hitting the slopes. Despite our radio silence, and the emotional and physical distance I felt between us, the answer still came instantaneously and without thought. And what Mr. U still doesn't know is that instead of taking the $10 five hour bus ride that would've gotten me home far too late to see him, I bought a $131 train ticket for a 3 and 1/2 hour train ride (just an hour and a half shorter) at the last minute to ensure I got back in time to be with him before the work week began again. "Yes, I'm going to see you," I said when I called him to make our plans. "I'll spend the night too," I added. "Can't wait," he said.
I sort of hate myself for saying what I've said above. On the one hand it makes me feel like I don't deserve my unicorn. That I'd doubt what we might have or risk it or reject it. That I could ungratefully shun this gift that has appeared impossibly from the universe. For me. On the other hand, it makes me feel like I chose my unicorn. That I considered the alternatives. Really considered the alternatives that were readily available to me. What I wanted. How I felt. What was right for me. I didn't like Mr. Unicorn because he treated me like royalty or paid for all our dates. I liked him because he was a good person. Because he was always annoyingly and adorably freezing cold. Because he made me feel like I was home. Because he brought out the best version of myself and made me want that version to be even better. This was the real deal. And I was scared. To cross the point of no return.
I got off the train at Union station and found my way on the metro towards Mr. U's apartment. He met me at the nearest stop and helped me with my luggage. The night was miserably cold and slushy, the sleet pouring down icily on my face. Mr. U held an umbrella over both of us (though in reality it covered much more of me and very little of him). He pointed out every puddle in my path. He wasn't the dream I had envisioned on the train. He was more. So much more. Because he was real.
When we got to his apartment, he had wine and takeout Chinese waiting for us. After a long trip, he couldn't have guessed better, what I needed. We caught up with one another about our activities over the weekend, ate our food, drank our wine and snuggled on the couch.
Later, we climbed into bed and the rest just happened. I had made my decision. And there was no turning back. He had the power to hurt me now. To hurt me to my very core. The way I hadn't let myself be hurt in years. But when you find someone as great as that. Someone you could see yourself falling in love with - you take the risk. You place your bet. And you hope it pays off.
Holding each other close that night, I looked at Mr. U for a long time looking back at me. I could still see the sheen of the unicorn, somewhere beyond his stare and encircling the space around him. But more than a mythical creature, I saw him for what he was. Just a man. Not a perfect person or impossible icon but merely a good man. A good man who saw me for who I was. And was risking his heart and his bets, on a regular girl. And that girl was me.