I lay sprawled on my stomach in my bed, cell phone clutched tightly in my already sweating hand. I glanced around the darkened room nervously, as I always did before calling Mona, regardless of the fact that I did not share a room with anyone and so didn't have much chance of waking anyone- other than Mona- up. No matter how many times I call her, I always have to brace myself, work up the nerve to do it. If she had any clue how nervous I got every time I make one of my seemingly casual late night phone calls...

Let me tell you, there is no word more damning for two people of the opposite sex than "friends." If you know a male and a female and they say they are "friends," the huge majority of the time this is a one-sided friendship. One of them, usually the guy, as I know from personal experience, does not and never wanted to have the other as a "friend." The friendship was not started for the sake of friendship, but as a starting place. The person with a crush wanted to the other person to begin a relationship slowly, see them as nice or sensitive or whatever the other person wants from a romantic partner- not a friend. Then sometimes the devious plot works and the friendship becomes a relationship. But sometimes the crushee doesn't get it- and then you both remain trapped in the curse of friends.

And that is exactly what happened with me and Mona. I got to know her in tenth grade, two years ago, in anatomy class. If you think it was comfortable to learn about the reproductive, urinary, and digestive systems with a lab partner you are very attracted to, you are obviously no longer in high school. I tried to be smooth and cool, but I ended up doing a lot of fumbling, mumbling, and flushing. Somehow or another Mona found this amusing rather than stupid and thought it had solely to do with the subject matter. She even teased me about being a typical guy- so macho until confronted with the squeamish facts of life. She is not wrong- I would rather remain in blissful ignorance of women's anatomy- but neither was my awkwardness wholely attributed to the class.

When Mona didn't think me a complete idiot, I got brave enough to try to take it up the "friendship." I talked to her more coherently, looked her in the eye, made excuses to talk "casually" in the halls and at lunch. It worked- Mona took the bait, seeming to like me. I was thrilled- clearly my genius plan had worked. We'd grow to be better "friends," and eventually Mona would realize she wanted to be more.

All indications told me this should work. By the start of eleventh grade, we sat together at lunch- even if it was in a mixed group of sexes- spoke outside of class and on the phone. We went to the mall and movies together, in groups, alone, bowling- but the problem was it was as "friends." My plan had completely backfired. Instead of moving up and having Mona as my girlfriend, I was stuck seeing and talking to her every day and yet knowing she was off limits.

It was torturous- worse than if I'd forgotten her and never tried to see her. If I ever tried to make a move on her now- I don't know what would happen, but I couldn't. It's been two years, we've both graduated, and we're about to go to college- by some awful twist of fate, the SAME college, no less. I'll still see her around, probably run into her every day, with my luck.

You'd think in two years I'd give up, that my feelings for Mona would fade, or go away, that I'd lose interest and date other girls. But no, I'd have to be the most persistent, pathetic guy ever, wouldn't I. I've dated girls since Mona- but never more than a few dates, obligatory kisses good night. I've been practically girl-celibate for two years- age 16-18, which for a guy is a really long time, especially since that is the most girl crazy time of your life. Everyone probably thought I was a complete player to date and dump so consistently. It couldn't have been further from the truth. I was no player- only one girl had really attracted my interest in two years. Unfortunately, she was my "friend"...

For two years I've talked to Mona about everything- everything, but how I really feel about her. she tells me more about her problems and thoughts than her female friends, I think- she likes a guy perspective, she says. What kills me though is watching her date other guys, the way she looks at and touches them- worse, the way they look at and touch her. I hate to see her dating, to watch them and wonder incredulously what she sees in them. They aren't good enough for her, respectful and appreciative of her- none of them are. Of course, neither am I, but the difference is if I were hers, I'd bust my ass trying to be.

It sounds awful, but I'm relieved every time one of Mona's relationships ends and she calls me up, sometimes upset or even crying. I thought every time her being so upset and my listening and reassuring her would give me a chance, an opening,that maybe a light bulb would go off and she'd think, "Oh! my "friend" Thomas is a wonderful sensitive guy, better than all the idiots out there who treat me like crap. I SHOULD DATE HIM!"

Unfortunately no such light bulbs have ever occurred, and the most I've gotten from Mona is a teary thank you for being so nice. She did tell me she loved me once- AFTER she informed me I was the best FRIEND she'd ever had. Kind of a let down... not exactly what I've waited two years to hear.

Somewhere along the line, I grew desperate and pathetic enough to devise another little plot, a way of making my and Mona's relationship seem more than it is. When I really want to be with her, really can't stand the games and pretending, I wait until late at night, like one or two in the morning, and call her on her cell phone. She's usually asleep or close to it, and groggy enough that sometimes she falls asleep while still on the phone. That's what I hope for... because then, listening to her breathing, I can lay down with the phone and go to sleep. I can almost imagine she's sleeping beside me...

It's the closest I'll ever get to sleeping with Mona. Pathetic- but as long as I dont ever get guessed out, I know I'll keep doing it.

Taking a slow breath, I dialled her number, anxious as it rang. On the fifth ring I heard a very groggy voice pick up, saying, "Hello..."

My heart quickened automatically, and I couldn't stop myself from smiling. I could just picture her sitting up, dark hair tousled, eyes squinty. Still beautiful even just awakening...

"Mona? Hey, it's me," I said in my perfected careless tone, as if it were nothing at all to hear her voice.

She sighed heavily, making the line crackle. "Thomas... how come you always call me at two a.m.?"

"It's only 1:41," I said helpfully. "I still have nineteen minutes before it's too late to call."

"Oh, shut up,ThomASS," she muttered- her idea of an affectionate nickname. Perversely, I loved it even more than my actual name when coming from Mona's lips. "I was asleep. Why do you love to call me when I'm sleeping?"

"Because I'm up and therefore someone else should be too. 'No one wants to be lonely...'" I sang in a terrible Ricky Martin impression. Mona groaned.

"Oh god, you MUST be gay. Who the hell listens to Ricky Martin, especially guys?"

"Anna," I reminded her. Anna is my little sister, and she's only eight- just discovering all the pop tart music I thought had safely been phased out by 2000. Apparently I was wrong and it has merely migrated to the elementary schools to corrupt the minds of our youth.

"If I've gotta listen to "Bye bye bye" all day, I'm taking you down with me, Mona."

Mona laughed, sounding slightly more awake. "I used to love that song."

"Oh god," I moaned, "whatever you do, don't tell Anna. She'll demand you join her in a duet."

Mona laughed again, and my heart squeezed at the sound. "Just wait a few years and she'll be into Eminem and Seether before you know it."

"Hopefully," I muttered. "Better that she listens to death, swearing, and suicide than one of those pretty boys' love songs."

"Oh, come on, Thomas," Mona said in her you're-being-harsh kind of voice. "I know you, if she heard Eminem crap you'd go ballistic."

"Yeah," I admitted- it was true. Annoying as Anna could be, I could be very protective of her and her innocence. She didn't need to hear songs calling her a bitch and whatever else.

"So, what's going on?" I said, changing the subject. "With you, I mean."

"Uh, I was sleeping. Remember? I'm in my room. In bed. As you should be, clueless. Do you need a description of what I'm wearing too?"

"Actually-" I joked, but I was already forming images in my mind- wishes of what she was wearing moe than the probable truth.

"Oh, shut up, Thomas!"

We talked for a little while longer, and I could hear Mona's voice getting lower and sleepier, her replies slower in coming. Eventually I heard her heavy breathing and knew she had drifted to sleep, as I had hoped.

"Mona?" I said softly, but she didn't reply.

Holding the phone tightly in my hand, I stretched out on my bed, curling to the side. Listening to her soft breathing close to my ear, I pictured her face, eyes closed, then envisioned her beside me.

We all have our little fantasies... sometimes though, I wonder why I try so hard to preserve mine, when I will not try to make it reality.