Recently I have tried to re-evaluate my exceedingly expansive romantic feelings for my co-worker. I am what many call an over-thinker, my ability to perpetuate and pick up on what I feel are signals and signs, my mind constantly churning out why things are unfolding the way they are. Why do I still like him? Why do I find myself hanging off of his every word, always surveiling where he is around me, always eavesdropping on his conversations, or trying so hard just to get answers? I guess it’s because I really want him to shut me down. I really want him to look me in the eye and say how awesome his holidays were with his girlfriend by his side. I want to tell me he went to Texas, instead of me just eavesdropping about it and his trip. I want him to shut me down now, so later, when things most likely don’t work out, I won’t hurt. We all hurt after being shut down, but if it’s before you become emotionally invested in, you are so much better off.
I hate that he isn’t as candid with me in group settings, as he is with others he’s known for a long time, or the way he is when we’re one-on-one. I hate that there’s an inevitable barrier which is not only a girlfriend but also professionalism. I always feel like we come so far, in little increments and intimate encounters, when I feel like we’re the only two people in the room, only to take ten steps back. I’ve been reading a book on body language recently. It fascinates me what we say to each other without ever speaking words. The book talks about body positioning, foot positioning and all the other components of body language. Foot positioning and body positioning was what I really scrutinized today. His feet were always pointed towards me and his body was placed in an open way, positioned towards me. While this may be comforting, I wish so much I didn’t need subtle signals to see what I feel deep down. I wish I didn’t have to hid how strongly I felt about him. How much it scares me to meet his glance when I feel his eyes on me. I am not a fool. Nor am I the type of girl that assumes guys like me because I’m like totally hot and like unattainable. No. But, as he once told me, I trust my instincts.
Whether it’s just a small crush, he feels like he needs to protect me because I am young, or he does have feelings for me, he has an attachment to me. There is some sort of bond that no one else sees or will probably ever understand. Nor do I want them to. I selfishly enjoy all the one-on-one time I get with him when I work in the office. I get to pick his brain and see how intelligent he is. I get to see him speak with passion about the things he loves. And that always keeps me coming back for more. It’s not how attractive he is, because even though he is extremely handsome, if it was about looks my interest would’ve peaked a while ago. It’s the fact that I have never felt like people have given me the chance or appreciated what I can offer like he does. Never have I been able to say so much about my abilities and gotten respect in such a short time, from anyone, like with him.
It would be so much easier to believe that he is just helpful and goes above and beyond for any co-worker, subordinate, or anyone else in the organization. He is a kind person, no doubt, but I have seen him with other people. He treats the ones he knows and is comfortable like friends, the ones he sees only as professional acquaintances as just that, and his bosses as superiors. I don’t fall into any of those categories. If I was a friend he would’ve casually mentioned his plans to go away for the holidays during our car ride. If I was a friend, he would joke around, and make eye contact in a non-sexual way. If I was a work acquaintance, he wouldn’t chase me to buy me lunch and specifically and whole-heartedly make the gesture away from everyone else in the office. He wouldn’t crack a half smile at me and laugh at my terrible jokes, six months after meeting me. He would never wink at a friend. He is extremely professional and takes his job and the organization very seriously.
I look back at when I first met him and I think how out of nowhere this whole thing is. I literally came to the organization in August, after inking a one year contract, thinking I would be there for just that. I didn’t plan to become invested in the kids I work with, the mission of the organization, the future for me within the company. I never planned on meeting him either. I also thought, given my track record and ADHD diagnosis, I would get tired of him eventually. Or I figured, he would turn out to be a douche bag. And the last scenario I decided on, that one day he would bring up how amazing his girlfriend was, and talk about her with such fervent love and brightness, that I would know I never had a chance.
The catch 22 is that none of that ever happened. I guess I am partially to blame. Not only am I private person at work, but I also feel like I always have something to prove. I’m the youngest person at the company. Not by much, but still the youngest. It’s cliche to come in at 22 and talk about how hard it is to adjust to the real world, how I struggle to survive, my dating life, or how I blacked out hard that weekend. That’s too easy to do.
And while there are a few other things that are more important that I could also come in and complain to him about, I don’t. Whether he’s a superior, another co-worker, a friend, or a love interest, I’m not like that. There are other more central issues at play. I never complain to him. And don’t get me wrong, I self-advocate when I need to, I speak when there’s something wrong in the field. I’m very real with him, I’m honest, and I take ownership of anything I am accountable for. But, I know I floor him. I know he has trouble figuring out how to navigate through his feelings. It’s the little things like his voice cracks in occasional conversations when our eye contact has been held for too long. Or when he leans over my chair at my desk too far and I feel his breath on my neck. I know I am not wrong, even as I sit here writing this.
And I know I give him little to show that I like him. He scares me. I don’t know what to do without looking like some desperate 22 year old, an inappropriate desperate 22 year old, or a dumb 22 year old. I try to do little creative things to show that maybe I have feelings about him. Like leaving him notes. Or giving him small details about my private life I don’t give others. Or telling him candidly about what’s bothering me at work. But, as I sit here, with a new year ahead of me, a fresh start of sorts I have to wonder.
I create these amazing scenarios in my head. Our first kiss, our first date, just being with him outside of work. I take how happy and safe he can make me feel, even without any romantic relationship, and think of it all. Could it work? Would he get sick of me or back out when he gets to see all my baggage? Would I lose my job? Would he lose his? What if he’s head over heels for his girlfriend and he only makes me feel this way because he misses her? But if that’s true, why is that picture of the two of them buried in his desk? When will I get my answers?
The great thing about seeing someone five days a week is learning about them. When you are interested in someone romantically and you get to experience their aura so often, it will make or break your feelings. You’ll get to see them at their worst; hungover, angry, stressed, overworked. And in those moments, it’s easy to write someone off. It’s so convenient for them to act like a complete asshole or just not what you could ever want. It’s really hard to recognize a person’s flaws and quirks that rub others the wrong way and understand them. It’s a unique ability I believe we only have when we find someone who we fully grasp. It’s baffling and frightening to me that I feel like I know him so well, yet he’s never told me about his personal life or what he likes to do outside of work. And obviously being the social media whore that I am, I am able to get a sense through that. But how people portray themselves on Facebook is a far cry from understanding someone’s emotional needs. I’m going to write the next paragraph about how I see him as a person, with the gaps in information I have. Obviously, parts will be exaggerated because of my insatiable imagination.
He is deceiving. When you first meet him, you think he is an extremely confident and self-assured individual. You will believe that he has everything in order and that he is very happy with who he is. You’ll admire his athleticism and his ability to communicate with people so easily and effectively. You’ll assume that because he was a jock and he is handsome that he must be a huge player or date a supermodel. You’ll assume his life is stable, that he receives love and gives it freely and unconditionally. Then, you’ll learn that he ran the marathon. And without even hearing him speak about that day, you’ll know he’s in pain. That as mentally tough as he is, he still struggles. That some days aren’t so good and that he does have a short fuse. There are so many pressures on him. He constantly feels the need to impress others. To prove himself, even though he has time and time again. You’ll start to see that he has trouble compartmentalizing work, since it’s one of the biggest constants he’s had in his life for a while. He sometimes will stay up until unreasonable hours doing work and fixing things, without expecting anything in return. He hates being an adult. He longs for easy street, when he could see the people he wanted to and have fun and not look at his mortgage payment. He is extremely protective of the things he loves, but he also loves talking about them with pride, to show people how much they mean to him and how much he values them. He’s secure with himself, but he is not cocky. He doesn’t think he can overpower people with his physical appearance. He’s a great listener. He tries very hard to show strength outwardly through masculine gestures and emotionless monologues, but he is sensitive. He wouldn’t have stayed with the organization this long if it didn’t take up a huge piece of his heart. He wouldn’t take so much time out of his life to give back to a greater population in need if it didn’t tug at his heart strings. He wouldn’t make sacrifices in his personal and professional life, if he didn’t genuinely care. And then there’s how I envision he is romantically (the next part is extremely far-fetched and probably not valid, but writing is therapy so I need this!)
We all get hurt. Someone let’s us down, does a number on us, and we are broken. But, the way we come back from heartbreak is by finding someone who can heal us. Someone hurt him. Someone really took a toll on his confidence and ability to see the world full of love. Though he treats people with respect, he treats the woman he is with like a queen, regardless if he loves her or not. Because, that’s what you’re supposed to do as a man, right? Even if she’s not the one, he would rather have someone to call at the end of the day and take out on the town, then be a perpetual bachelor. That being said, he’s never giving up certain things. He will never move. He will never leave the organization unless it was for something that prevented him from staying. He just wants to be able to save someone. He wants to be able to fully give himself to someone else. But, in the meantime, he will continue to go on adventures and to wine and dine a girl who doesn’t quite get him. There are moments when he really thinks he likes her and something always keeps him coming back for more. But, he knows she doesn’t make him happy. He knows some of the things she does and says piss him off. He knows she will never bring out the best of him and he knows she could never be his wife. He doesn’t know what to do though. It seems like now everyone’s engaged, married, or committed to being a lifelong hermit. He’s a romantic and he doesn’t want to be alone, but he doesn’t want to settle. He’s approaching thirty and sometimes when he looks at her, he has no idea why he is with her and how much time he is willing to waste on her. Then there’s that girl at work. At first he was attracted to her because she was young and excited to learn and she reminded him of what it was like to be full of hope. But, more and more, he wonders about her. She doesn’t act like all the other women at the company. She doesn’t really gossip about everyone, she never complains, and she would wear sneakers over any other shoe any day of the week. It took her a bit to come out of her shell, but she has made a big impact. He stares at her a little too long and wonders if she would ever look at him as more than just her manager. He wonders if how he feels is irrational since he probably just misses his girlfriend who lives 2 hours away. He observes this one though, how kind and driven she is, how she honestly cares about the kids they serve. It baffles him how independent she is and if he makes attempts to help her she sort of doesn’t trust him. She never lets him see all of her cards, which confuses him and intrigues him. He finds her giving him what he thinks are little hints that maybe she’s interested. But, he shouldn’t think of her like that, after all she’s new, she’s young, and he’s supposed to be her manager. So he tries to snap himself out of it and weekends are good for that, because he focuses all of his energy on his girlfriend. But, even when things are good on the weekends, he wonders. On Mondays especially, he tries to interact with her in work mode only. He will delegate tasks to her, give her feedback, and be a good boyfriend by calling his girlfriend midday. But she has outgrown all of the tasks he gives her and either completes them very efficiently or adds another layer onto the task and creates elements that he never thinks of. He never knows what to say when she does this. She doesn’t show her emotions either and one day he asks her if she wears her emotions on her sleeve, knowing the answer. On days when he’s tired of answering to others and maintaining a facade he is struggling to balance, he relaxes and talks to her like someone he is interested rather than a colleague. He strategically calls her hun, or will joke around with her when he should be doing other things, or that day that he knew he should’ve stayed at the office to finish all of his work, but knew she didn’t have her car, so he drove her to where she had to be. He could feel it the minute they walked outside, he could relax. He didn’t have the pressure of constantly snapping back into work mode with her and not show interest. And even if it was only for 10 minutes, he loved listening to her and asking her questions and being able to talk in his natural voice and not feel judged or make her uncomfortable. He tried to give her subtle hints with his change in tone that he was trying to impress her. But he can never tell if she’s impressed by him. He doesn’t want to risk it for something that might not work. He doesn’t want to look like an idiot or feel humilitated. He wishes that everything would just work out or that he didn’t want to look at her and be around her all the time. He wishes she would give him a reason to stop liking her or show him that she’s not interested. But, in the meantime, he enjoys the shared moments they have one-on-one that keep him going on days that are long and rough. He’s gonna keep doing little things like wink at her and rub her back when he shouldn’t. He hopes that he can someday soon make some sense of all of it and find stability and the ability to be content.
Obviously, that was a gross exaggeration. I have no idea if he thinks like that or what his relationship with his girlfriend or other relationships have been like. I have a crazy imagination and I have been in quite the dry spell recently. But, until I have a solid reason not to have hope, I will continue to watch him watch me, to catch his gaze, to make efforts to be around him. Things happen out of nowhere, people come into our lives from nowhere so unexpectedly. And there’s something to be said when time continues to pass and you still feel so many things for one person. People come into our lives for a reason after all.
Never give up. Never settle. It’s never over until the fat lady sings.