This is the begining of a story I wrote a few years back about a girl who discovers that her best friend, a Marine, is in love with her. She's torn between her life, her feelings for him, and the fact that he's about to leave for a two year tour in Japan.
“Julia, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“What is it, Michael.”
“I love you, Julia.”
“I love you, Julia,” Michael repeated.
“But, how can you love me? I’m seeing someone else,” I replied.
“It doesn’t matter. I can see that you don’t love him, at least not the way you should. I feel it in my heart and I can tell that he doesn’t love you, at least not the way you deserve to be loved.”
My head started spinning, tears began rolling down my face, and my heart was about to explode in my chest. “I’m so confused. This is happening all too fast for me, and you’re leaving.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer,” Michael told me taking my hands in his. “I’ll be back in a couple months and we can sort it all out then. I do love you, though, Julia. I have for a long time. Tonight, it was just instinct to speak from the heart.” He gave me a hug, wiped my tears, and grabbed his bags. “I have to go.”
“Be safe going home,” I told him automatically.
“I will. Merry Christmas, Julia.”
“Merry Christmas, Michael.”
I watched him walk up the jet way to the airplane. He turned around before he boarded the plane and wave. I wave back to him and started crying again. When the plane had departed from the terminal, I left the airport and drove home in silence. How had I gotten here? My heart was torn between two men. One I had only known for a short time, while the other I had known for many years. My head was swimming in emotion and I didn’t know where to begin to sort it all out.
When I reached our house, I sat in the driveway for a few moments trying to collect myself. I dried my eyes as best as I could and went inside. “Are you all right, Julia?” Robert, my boyfriend, asked me with concern in his voice. I think he could tell I’d been crying, but certainly didn’t want to press the issue.
“I’m fine,” I lied trying to assure him, “but I’m a little tired. I hate driving in the airport.”
The next afternoon, Robert and I decided to go out for a bite to eat. I sat there picking at my food, and Robert asked, “You okay?”
“I’m fine. I just have a lot on my mind.”
“Me, too,” he started. “Julia, I’ve been thinking about things and I don’t think we should see each other any more.”
The sentence startled me, “Excuse me?” I responded looking up at him.
“I don’t think we should see each other any more.”
My mouth gaped open and all I could ask was, “Why?”
“I can just see that things will not work for us. It’s me, though, not you. I don’t think I can be faithful to you when I don’t see you for six months at a time.”
My first inclination was to smack him, but I refrained. He had some nerve. “Rob, you lasted six months from the last time you saw me, or did you?”
Rob looked down at his food, avoiding my stare. “I just can’t do it, Julia! It’s too hard!”
“Fine,” I replied pertly and went back to eating my food.
“Julia, it’s not that I don’t care about you because I do. I’m just a weak son of a bitch when it comes to long distance relationships.”
I sat there in silence. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was being dumped, in public, probably so I wouldn’t make a scene. I continued eating my food and avoiding Robert’s eyes.
“Can we still be friends?” he asked.
Friends! Man this guy had a hell of a lot of nerve. He breaks up with me and still wants to be friends. I couldn’t respond. I just lowered my head and shook it in disbelief.
“DON’T talk to me right now, Robert!” I yelled quietly. “I’m too stunned to respond to that statement.”
The next morning, I put Robert on a bus back to Seattle. A small part of me was relieve he was gone, but now I was more confused then I was before. I should have had a sense of clarity, but everything was such a whirlwind that I couldn’t tell which way was up anymore. When I got home from the bus depot, I called my friend, Jennifer. If anyone would understand this situation, it would be Jennifer. I felt a little weird calling her given that she had dated Robert before I did, but I didn’t know where else to turn. “Jenn? Hey, it’s Julia.”
“Jules, what’s up? You sound upset,” she asked.
“I need to talk.”
“Robert and I.”
“What? You’re kidding me! I don’t understand!”
“Get in line, because I don’t really get it either. Besides would I kid you about something like that?”
“Not about him, or that,” she replied, then asked, “Where is he?”
“I put him on the bus to Seattle this morning.”
“Ah the quick get away. That sounds like him. What happened?”
“Well, the excuse I got was that he ‘couldn’t be faithful to me for six months at a time’,” I told her.
“Gee, Jenn, tell me how you really feel.”
“I bet he’s got someone on the side.”
“Given his reaction when I mentioned it, it wouldn’t surprise me,” I told her, “but Jenn, there’s more.”
“More? What more could there possibly be?”
“That’s why I need to talk, but I don’t want to do it here or on the phone. Can you meet me at the pier café?”
“You must really have a lot to tell.”
“I’ll see you there.”
“Hey, what are friends for?”
“Lately, to bleed my heart out to.”
“I thought it was pouring your soul out to.”
“Who cares? I’ll see you in 30.”
“Bye,” Jenn ended and hung up the phone.
As I hung up the phone, I felt like the world was spinning again. The events of the last couple of days happened so fast that the sheer momentum was overwhelming. Then, when you add in the emotional ramifications, it’s almost too much to take. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, not knowing if someone was going to pull me back or if I was going to fall over into a deep canyon. I suppose some would wonder how a girl gets to where I’ve gotten myself. It’s not that complicated, and yet, it does have some elements of complexity and weirdness.
Michael and I go back to high school. We met when we were 15 years old, both sophomores. Somehow, we both had Mr. Desmond’s American Literature class together. He sat across the room from me, and frankly, I wasn’t of the mind to be interested in boys at that point in my life. I had just moved to San Francisco from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I tried to remain focused on school more than socializing. The most social activity I had was being in the Marching Band.
Michael and I were partnered to work on a project together. I look back now, and I can’t even remember which book we were reading at that point, but given Mr. Desmond’s taste in books, it was either Steinbeck, Twain, or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
One of the first things I noticed about Michael Giovanni was his eyes. He had the most beautiful clear blue eyes I’d ever seen. Without saying a word, somehow those eyes were able to convey so much emotion.
I later found out that Michael was quite the ladies’ man, very smart, but not very motivated to apply himself to his school work. The more I got to know him, the more I learned that he was a devoted friend and listened very intently to every word that a friend confided to him. He and I would spend a lot of time just talking.
Between our junior and senior years of high school we dated for a short period of time. It was a fluke mostly, and a long story as to how it came about. It had to do with my sister, her boyfriend, Ethan, and Michael’s car. Sufficed to say that by the time we started our senior year of high school we had “broken up” and he was on to his next girlfriend. We remained close friends after that and sometimes I wondered if we really ever had closure on our relationship. After the events of the last couple of days, we apparently did not.
Robert Kramer and I met through Jennifer. Rob and Jenn met while she was in Seattle visiting an aunt for the summer. They hit it off really well, and began seeing each other throughout the summer. Rob came to San Francisco for a few months the fall of our senior year. That fall, however, Jennifer’s mother drowned in the bay and consequently Jennifer and Robert’s relationship died with her. Jennifer just didn’t have the heart to remain in a relationship when she was in so much pain of her own. Rob and I had gotten to know each other pretty well while he was in San Francisco and he used me as a sounding board after the break-up.
Being friends with both of them, however, put me in an awkward position. I tried not to take sides in the split. Jennifer had planned on taking Robert to our school’s winter formal, but when they broke up, she decided not to go. The tickets were already purchased, so I asked Robert if he wanted to go with me. We had a lot of fun, but it was a little uncomfortable for both of us. He went back to Seattle not long after that to start college the following January.
We kept in contact during the course of the next year and somehow ended up in a “long-distance relationship”. Ironically enough, Jenn wasn’t even upset about it. As far as she was concerned, as long as it made both of us happy, that’s what mattered.
Robert came back to San Francisco to spend Christmas with my family and me. Tensions were running high at dinner, when my sister, Deanna, brought her boyfriend, Shawn, to dinner. My parents did not approve of Shawn and detested him with a passion. They did not feel he was the right man for their daughter, and she had moved in with him, which just added insult to injury.
On Christmas Eve day, I ran into Michael at the mall while I was working. After high school, Michael had joined the Marine Corps. I kept in contact with him during boot camp and training, but had no idea he was coming back to San Francisco for Christmas. I found out that his dad and stepmother had no idea either and had left town for Christmas, leaving Michael alone.
Well, anyone who has ever met my family knows that my mother should be sainted. When “Saint Emma” found out that Michael would be alone on Christmas, she insisted that he join us for dinner. When Michael showed up to the house and Robert saw him, the tension grew even thicker. I sat between the two of them at dinner and did my best to keep silent, so that the situation would not be aggravated. After dinner, Michael had to catch his plane back to Camp Pendleton, where he was stationed, so I took him to the airport. That pretty much brings us to where we are now.
I met Jennifer at the pier café and she listened to me drown my sorrows over my Italian soda and her cappuccino. “So what’s up?” Jenn asked.
“Well, I’m out of my element. You know men and me. We’re better friends than lovers, philosophically speaking, of course.”
“Of course. So what happened with Robert?”
“He dumped me, to be perfectly blunt.”
“What did he say?”
“I got the ‘it’s not you; it’s me’ speech. As I said on the phone, he claimed he couldn’t be faithful to me when we were separated for six months at a time.”
“He’s a chicken-shit!”
“Thanks for telling me something I already know.”
“Well, don’t you agree that is a piss-poor excuse, Jules? I’d still bet he’s got a girl on the side in Seattle.”
“As I said before, it wouldn’t surprise me.”
“So what else is on your mind?” You sounded almost distraught on the phone.”
“Michael was home.”
“That’s the one.”
“I thought he was in San Diego!”
“He came home for Christmas.”
“So, what the hell happened?”
“Well, Patrick and Myrna had no idea he was coming home and ended up in Redding at Myrna’s parents for Christmas.”
“I gather that Mike had no inclination to go.”
“You know how he is with Myrna and her family. It’s a hate-hate relationship.”
“Let me guess, your mom invited him to dinner.”
“Well, shit! No wonder Rob broke up with you. He probably figured you were already cheating on him with Mike.”
“You know better than that, Jennifer.”
“Rob obviously doesn’t know you as well as the rest of us do. He probably took one look at Mike and figured it was over. Anyone looking at Mike can see he loves you.”
My mouth gaped open at Jenn’s comment.
“Oh my God, Julia, please don’t tell me you didn’t know!”
“I had no idea until Michael told me Christmas night, when I took him to the airport.”
“He told you!”
“Yeah, I’m still trying to process it all. I can’t believe you knew, Jenn! How long have you known?”
“Julia, most of our class, or at least our friends, knew our senior year. You were the only woman we knew who could engage Mike in an intellectual manner. You just didn’t physically. Hell, we even had a bet going to see when the two of you would hook back up again. We all could see it when the two of you were together. The only ones who seemed blind to it were the two of you.”
“Who won what?”
“No one. We were all banking on the two of you getting back together before graduation, but you and your damned virginity.”
“Gee, thanks Jenn. It wasn’t a matter of couldn’t, it was wouldn’t,” I told Jenn. “You know how I feel about sex. I want my first time to be with the man I’m going to marry.”
“That shit is precisely why you have no social life, Jules.”
“It’s a choice, Jenn. If a man cannot respect that, then he’s not worth my effort. I want my virginity to go on my terms and no one else’s.”
“I admire your conviction, Jules, I really do, but a teenage boy only has one thing on his mind and that’s sex.”
“And I had college on my mind in high school.”
“So, what did Mike say?” Jenn asked trying to get the subject back on track.
“Not much. He just blurted out that he loved me. I was so stunned that I couldn’t say anything.”
“And what? There is no ‘and’! By the time I regained my composure, he was already in the air and I was crying.”
“Oh Julia,” Jenn groaned, “what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know Jenn. I’m still struggling to absorb everything. Michael’s revelation and Robert’s break up, I think, shorted out my emotions, so to speak. I have some time, though, to put things in perspective.”
“Michael said that he’s going to get some leave in a few months, before he’s deployed overseas. We’ll talk more then.”
“Honestly, Jules, how to you feel about Michael Giovanni.”
“I’m not going to lie, Jenn. I care about him an awful lot, probably more that I ever knew or cared to admit. I always have cared about him, but that commitment is an awfully big one, given he’s being deployed overseas for two years.”
“I know sweetie, but you have to decide what you want to do. Believe me, Julia, I don’t envy you one bit.”
“I’ll think about it, and we’ll see what happens.”
“Well there is at least one advantage if you choose to get back together with Mike.”
“At least you won’t have to worry about your virginity. If he’s your boyfriend, you’ll have a valid reason not to have sex.”
“I have a valid reason now!” I protested.
“Not to impugn your morality, Julia, but monogamy in this day and age is certainly a better reason than purity.”
“Ooh, another ‘logical’ though.”
“By the way, we’re partying on New Year’s Eve. Wanna come?”
“Sure, I’ll come and hang out with you and Viv. It may do me some good to blow off some steam.”