Last week Christopher was re-united with my college drinking buddies for the first time since 2006. Conor's band was playing at a local brewery in the city and Christopher and I had already started a Friday happy-hour tour of local breweries. It was a chance to cross another one off the list.
When Christopher walked out of his building. I sucked in my breath. He was wearing his white button-down, the one I told him weeks ago I thought made him look sexy as hell, but haven't seen in 3 years. I quickly told myself that this was just coincidence. But in the car he told me he wore it for me. I was surprised because Christopher doesn't give himself away. He keeps his feelings tight, still holding onto his facade. And I still have difficulty deciphering that facade between what he is trying to project and what he is trying to protect.
Christopher with his impeccable memory remembers that Conor is my ex—even though I purposely left that detail out this time around—and on the drive there he whined, "But you had sex with him!"
"It was like 8 years ago! It doesn't count if it was like 8 years ago!" I tried to calm him down. Seriously, there are no residual feelings of any kind from me to Conor. It was so long ago, and I was in such a different place in my life then, that I have a hard time even remembering it. It's like reading it in a book and knowing it happened, but not having any personal feeling or association with it. History.
"Yes, it does!" he argued back.
"We were only together like 5 months at most!" I said, trying a different tactic.
Christopher did some mental calculating from something else I must have said. "That means you had sex with him like 20 times," he huffed.
I'm a little surprised Christopher is coming from this angle. If he knew how much I liked him, it wouldn't be an issue, but then again, if he knew how much I liked him, he might run away scared. Besides, because Christopher never reveals how he feels, I assume it's not much more than casual because that's what he's been projecting.
And on perfect timing, my phone rings and it's Conor. He has one spot left on the band's list and would I like it? I ask if he has room for my "plus one" and Christopher rolls his eyes at the mention of being a plus one. He doesn't know that this is just how we talk to each other. Conor doesn't have room for my now-annoyed plus one and he begins trying to spell my name purposely unsuccessfully. I laugh. Because the only things Conor has going for him these days is his sense of humor and his music.
Christopher asks for a play-by-play of the conversation. He's still apprehensive.
"What if I told you Conor has the smallest penis I've ever seen in my life. Would that make you feel better?" I'm desperate for this issue to go away and for all of us to have a good time.
Christopher visibly brightens. "How small?"
"Like 3-1/2 inches."
"Seriously. My girlfriend there will be able to verify."
And the matter was (finally) dropped.
A perk of being with the band is free entrance to the brewery and all-you-can-drink beer for the two hours the brewery is open. Paying guests are strictly limited to six drinks. This greatly enhanced both of our attitudes; Christopher announced I would be refilling his pint glass too.
We joined the group and to avoid any furthery jealousy, I always included unflattering details about my college buddies to Christopher.
"This is Guy," I would introduce. And as soon as Guy turned away, I'd whisper, "Guy tried to grow dreadlocks one year in school. His hair smelled so bad that we begged him to shower." This seemed to work keeping Christopher calm and okay with the realization that in this circle of friends, I was the only girl.
And maybe this was my bad, but when I introduced Christopher, I merely said, "This is Christopher," and did not explain that he was my boyfriend. I assumed my friends would draw the conclusion.
I had a rationale for doing this. The first was that upon my inquires, Christopher's long-time friends that don't like me don't know that I've returned to his life. So that's one reason I did that. The other was that I've never actually heard him say the word "girlfriend" in reference to me. I think both are valid reasons for me to not run around town and announce it if I'm going to be the only one doing so.
But when I headed to refill my or Christopher's pint glass, my friends obviously got curious enough to ask. And to be honest, I'm not sure what Christopher said. I only heard the tail end of how we met.
Everything was going smoothly until the brewery started ushering us out after the two hours. I was having issues standing still without having to overcorrect for balance; I was drunk. My guy friends decide to head to another bar, one that also served food to soak up some of the alcohol. I asked Christopher if he wanted to go along. I actually didn't care to because I wanted to go home and eat free Chinese and drink free beer.
To my surprise, Christopher wanted to go along. But as we're walking out of the brewery, Christopher whined, "But your friends think I'm your friend."
Without the haze of perversely named beer, I understand what he means by saying this. However, that night I was swimming in alcohol and could only put togther the pieces. And the pieces I knew were Christopher's friends don't know about me, I don't know what he told my guy friends about the nature of our relationship, and he's never said "girlfriend" but did just say "friend."
I whipped around and faced him and spoke assertively, "You need to decide—right now—if you're my friend or my boyfriend."
"What?" he reeled, justifiably alarmed.
I repeated myself.
"What do you--"
I cut him off. "No, you are not going to throw this back on me. You need to make this decision by yourself and you need to make it now."
I realized I just gave Christopher an out and I mentally scolded myself. But I've always been a little uneasy with how it seems to me leading all the time and him following. In my state, I was brave enough to know what exactly the truth is when I'm not leading.
"The first one."
"Whaaaaaat?" I half shrieked.
"What was the first one again?" he asked.
"I mean, the second one!" he corrected. Jesus, he still couldn't just say it.
"Boyfriend," he quietly obliged.
"Now say 'girlfriend.'" By this time I had lightened up a little. However, I think the boy was still a little bit scared. And to be honest, I was a little surprised that this was the answer Christopher had chosen by himself.
"Now use it in a sentence: 'You are my girlfriend.'" The power was beginning to feel good.
"You are my friend... who's a girl," he laughed.
The tension I created was gone and I broke into a fit of giggles as I punched him in the arm.
"You're my girlfriend!" he laughed as he rubbed his arm.
At the second bar we had a good time, and I think Christopher appreciated hanging out with the guys talking guy stuff. The friends of his that I keep mentioning have actually moved out of the state and only let Christopher know by e-mail. When he told me this, it sounded like the friendship kind of drifted apart when his 'best friend' and my old co-worker who introduced us married.
I don't want to hurt Christopher by writing this, but I get the feeling he doesn't have many guy friends that he sees regularly anymore. I think it's why his father calls him every night to check on him. I knew he's always been a bit of a loner, but it breaks my heart that the friends I knew he once had have moved on. So I think he was happy to spend time in front of people who were other than me.
To prove this, Christopher started doing impressions (he has some good ones) to make the boys laugh. He gave them his nickname even though I don't use it. And then we all made plans next week so Christopher could meet The German, another friend who was flying in town. Some of the boys have also moved into the city; we just haven't met up or realized we have all mostly relocated to the same area. So I ended up pleased, especially with the opportunity that he can make some friends and the fact that I finally got my wish and ended up snuggling with him on the couch.
I'm not sure why I freaked out on him the way I did. I'm choosing to blame the alcohol. But the old insecurities have been creeping back up into me and I've noticed. I'm just glad that Christopher's nature is to remain calm even when I'm acting... well... crazy.