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Specifically for the New York Times Infobae.
IT WAS SWEET, FUNNY AND NOT FOR ME AT ALL. OR WHEN?
As Josh’s girlfriend approached him at the altar, a strange voice came out of my head and surprised me. “There goes your husband,” she told me. And for a second, after saying yes, I was sure that Josh should marry me.
That moment of clairvoyance, while surprising, was easy to forget. I’d gotten used to questioning Josh after spending at least half of my twenties refusing to commit to “our” relationship while struggling to move on. Aside from living across the country, our temperaments had always been too different for our relationship to work.
“What’s meant for you can’t happen to you,” my best friend once said to me. And here was Josh pledging his life to someone else, so I had to assume my initial instinct – that we were kind of irreconcilable – was correct.
Eleven years before that moment of marriage, I met Josh in the hallway of his London flat at the beginning of our study abroad program. “It’s also a toothbrush,” he said before introducing himself. I had brought up the anomaly of the dual washer/dryer, which prompted Josh to joke about the multiple functions of the UK light switch. He threw that joke away like he didn’t care that I understood him, which made him seem like a person with that rare combination of fun and confidence. I decided that we would be friends.
But soon enough, Josh’s anxious eye contact and playful imitation of my speech patterns made it clear that his feelings were morphing into something more. And mine too, although I hated to admit it. I felt pangs of jealousy as he messed with my roommate and I couldn’t hide my blush as he placed his hand close to mine.
Josh, however, was a Santa Barbara-raised wimp, obsessed with puppies and baseball, with a light-hearted view of the world that threatened my much darker perspective.
Also, our semester would be over in three months and I would be back in New York in an “open while I’m away” relationship with my rather serious boyfriend who shared my cynicism. I didn’t want to complicate my life for a guy who had a framed Disneyland map on his wall.
But my pragmatism was drowned out by the pints of cider, and by October Josh and I made out in every empty room we could find until I had to make rules to keep us from getting too close.
Rule 1: No overnight stays
Rule 2: Nothing below the belt
Rule 3: Don’t tell anyone
After much secret hand-holding and teenage kissing, the semester ended and we parted ways; I finished the school year in London while he went back to California. I didn’t think we would see each other again.
“Maybe we could meet in our dreams?” Josh wrote to me in a Facebook message a month later.
Soon we will be texting each other daily. In a cruel twist of fate, I had been reassigned to his old bedroom and would stare at his bed every night, frustrated that I craved someone so blatantly honest.
I remembered a former colleague cheerfully describing an emotional affair she had at work. She seemed excited about it, but she also knew that if she gave in to his wish, the flame would be extinguished. The forbidden was attractiveness.
I decided that was the case with Josh as well. The parameters I had set prevented me from confronting our incompatibilities and prevented me from closing the loop. I had to visit him without these emotional and physical limitations. I had to get close enough to disillusion myself so I could move on with my life.
A month after returning to New York, I visited Josh in California. My trip again failed to quell my unimaginable attraction, and we settled into a mad routine of fruitless semi-annual cross-country flights to see each other.
“It doesn’t seem right to me to move to Los Angeles to be with you,” I told him after a serious visit, still believing we didn’t have a road ahead of us. My constant questioning would never match Josh’s enthusiastic optimism. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when I was 25, that Josh would post a picture of his new girlfriend on Facebook, and I would officially know “we” were done.
He’s going to marry her, I thought, looking at her pixelated eyes and trying to make peace with her ability to worship someone else with the same illusion.
I also started dating someone else, and the Josh and I dynamic reduced to casual phone calls and double dates when we were out with our partners around town. Over the years, I’ve felt less and less like the wild girl who had spat UTI meds on the floor of her Toyota Camry and could barely conjure up her puppy dog eyes as she said, “I’ll think of you every time I see you.” .” the spot.”
“I’m glad he and I were smart enough not to try,” I remember saying to my then-boyfriend after a game night with Josh and his girlfriend. I was 29 years old then.
We might meet in our dreams, Josh had hinted at in college, but it would not be uncomfortably for him to find himself in mine until eleven years later, weeks before his vows.
“I have to go back upstairs,” her dream self said as she lay next to me in an unfamiliar basement. He exuded her equal confidence, but with a little more conscience. My dream self was more vulnerable than I would have allowed myself to be around him. Through some sort of mystical telepathy, I knew what he was trying to tell me. He told me he had to go upstairs to get back to his wife.
“No,” I begged her, unable to believe that she wouldn’t stay with me now that our love was so obvious. But my pleas were useless. She was waiting for him.
“I know,” he said, acknowledging our intimacy. “But I have to go now.”
And then I woke up.
A year after Josh’s wedding, my boyfriend and I split up. Three months later, Josh and his wife separated. These cases were unrelated, but my best friend noticed the coincidence immediately.
“Do you think that…?”.
“I didn’t say. I had just turned 32 and felt too old to relapse into endless hesitation.
But weeks later, when Josh mentioned he was attending a wedding abroad, I was surprised I’d invited him to stay with me in New York when he returned to California.
“I have an inflatable mattress,” I told him. He thought it was a viable option, but he knew what it could lead to.
When Josh arrived, he barely glanced at the inflatable mattress before he climbed into bed with me. The next morning we lay in each other’s arms and praised our ability to be a healthy comfort to one another.
“I can’t wait for you to meet someone great,” she told me after we had sex for the fourth time in 48 hours.
“I can’t either,” I replied.
Months later, as I boarded my second plane west in four weeks, I texted my sister, “I’m only going to LA one more time to have sex.” I had to put it in writing to make it a reality. I wanted to make sure Josh wouldn’t stop me from finding my future husband.
“After this journey, we will give each other space,” Josh wrote. He wanted to make sure I wouldn’t stop him from filing for divorce.
But when I got back to New York, instead of replying to my online dating messages, I looped through a Gatorade commercial that Josh had starred in and immersed myself in the comfort of his even-tempered demeanor.
Afraid of trusting my own certainty, I opened Facebook and clicked back on the dialogue I had with Josh half a decade ago, hoping to get to the definitive conclusion I had avoided for so many years.
I sent him this message: “I like how honest you are and how open you are and that I’ve loved you in ten different ways for twelve years.”
“I’m scared of losing you even though I never had you, but I worry that if we don’t take a minute we’ll screw it up,” she replied.
A year and a half later I moved to California. We got married three years later. In July we had our first child.
“We would always have ended up together,” Josh often tells me.
That says his cheerful charisma. I have doubts. What I believe: As much as I tried to convince myself for over a decade that there was no such thing as “we,” another mysterious force was at work. And that power won.