One-Shot. Nothing hurts more when you're single than having a friend who likes you as much as you like him but doesn't want to risk your friendship. Even worse is when you've overcome your own initial reservations about liking him to give him a chance.
"So no more Filipinos?" Kevin repeated. He bent at the waist, aimed with the cue ball, and then hit it hard. Ping, pock went the 9 ball into the corner hole.
One corner of my lips curled up wryly before I said lightly, "Yeah, I'm done with them. You're only one of the few decent Filipinos I ever met before." My eyes flickered over him, taking in his very light skin. He was nothing like the dark brown skins of Filipinos I've met at my old schools. And yet he still was.
Kevin paused from setting up his next shot and glanced at me through his bangs. "'Only' decent?" he repeated playfully. He was surprised, but humorously offended. He took another shot. Nothing went in this time.
The corner curled again, but this time bitterly. "Yeah, 'only' because telling me you like me and then a few minutes later saying we should just stay friends is not big in my book," I quipped. Right after, I gave what I hoped was a quick, reassuring smile, trying to tell him I'm over it when I really felt I wasn't. Yet. It had only been a week since his sudden flip-flop. I couldn't take my words back. He slowly straightened and looked at me but didn't say anything. There wasn't much a guy could say to that.
When we finally called it quits and were in the process of cleaning up the pool equipment, I gathered the courage to ask him if his decision to tell me that he wanted to stay friends had been spontaneous – a sort of what-am-I-doing? moment. He didn't answer until we were on his floor. We stood outside his door in the hallway, leaning against the opposite walls.
Kevin looked down at his hands, turning his black beanie over and over in them. "It was kinda spontaneous," he mumbled.
I crossed my arms over my chest and waited until he was looking at me again. "Yeah, when I was taking that break last weekend, I realized that because your girlfriend broke up with you a month ago, I shouldn't have expected too much from you," I confessed. Was it me, or were there too many "yous" in that sentence? There was a pause. The door beside me opened and a very tall boy stepped into the hallway and silently passed between us on his way to the bathroom.
"I don't think," Kevin started slowly, "that you don't really know my side of all this."
Seizing on these words, a sudden moment of animation and pure emotion, almost akin to desperation, filled me. I pushed off the wall. "That's the thing. I want to know your side. I don't want to assume things. I want to know your reasons. Tell me your side, Kevin."
As his name left my lips, the hallway suddenly became packed as guys poured out from the bathroom, the elevator near Kevin's room, and from other dorm rooms. Kevin and I moved to the stairwell. It was separate from the dorm's floors and the ideal place for a private conversation. I sat on the next staircase. Kevin sat on his floor's landing with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. His beanie dangled from his fingertips. I didn't like looking down on him, literally or otherwise, but my awareness for his need for space between us in this conversation compelled me to stay where I was.
"I don't get it," I murmured. My voice echoed and reverberated off the whitewashed walls despite the constant drone of a fan somewhere above me. "You claim to be an optimistic guy and yet you tell me we can't be together because you don't want to ruin our friendship; that you don't want to take the risk even though you say you are a live-and-let-live guy."
"The thing is," Kevin said slowly. He measured each word carefully like a scientist measuring an amount of radioactive chemicals into a beaker. He looked up at me with serious eyes. "I may seem like an optimistic guy, but I really trust no one."
I tried not to roll my eyes. "I'm sure."
"No, I really don't," Kevin said quickly. "I don't even trust you."
"So how does this work? You act optimistic but you can't trust anyone?" I demanded.
Kevin shrugged. "I may know aspects about you, but I don't really know you." What you are capable of, were the words that hung unspoken, but I heard them anyway. I may tell him facts of my life – how many siblings I have, that of all the Disney movies I love Tarzan the most – but it's not like he'd know what sort of emotional pain I was capable of bringing on him. I'm fine that he doesn't trust me because of that reason, but I tried to tell him I would never intentionally cause him any pain other than physical.
Of course, his answer was that that's what people always tell him.
"Well for me, what you see is what you get," I told him. "I don't use facades to hide what I am. I just choose not to show a certain aspect of myself, but I don't fake what I am." Kevin only shook his head. I knew I wouldn't be able to make him understand, and I don't even think he understood me in the first place. I don't think I'd ever make him trust me at face value. The hurt and lost look on his face, coupled with him curled up in his corner with me looking down at him from the stairwell – I tried not to pity him. I wasn't in the least offended that he didn't trust me, and at least now I knew he didn't shoot me down just because he wanted to keep our friendship intact.
"I do still like you," Kevin said into our heavy silence. "I just don't think I can handle it all again."
I understand completely. He wasn't ready for another girlfriend. He was still hurt from her abruptly dumping of him over the phone last month. I hadn't been there, although I wish I had, even if I wouldn't have been able to do much from what our other friends who were there when it happened tried to do for him. From a friend's standpoint, it made me a bit guilty that I wasn't there for him, that I had to find out about him crying to sleep from his roommate and his closest girl friend.
Though I had depressed the hell out of Kevin for making him bring up his ex-girlfriend, at least I don't feel bitter anymore toward him. Now I can first and foremost be his friend and finally move on. He did say he still liked me, so I can hold out some sort of hope that in the future he'll see I'm a girl to be taken at face-value and that I would be worth taking a risk with. If not, at least I kept a friend.