It was 3 a.m. on Saturday, and somehow I found myself driving to see him. The roads are empty at 3 a.m., and those on the road are mostly going home, not heading from their warm beds out into the darkness. Not heading out to see someone for only a few short hours before they have to head back to work. But here I was, driving, overnight bag packed. No makeup. Wondering why I wasn’t in my pajamas, warm in my bed.
This random excursion was to go see Chef. Friday night, my friend Dana and I had dinner and a pitcher of beer at Chef’s restaurant. I wanted to see him; I missed him. His schedule is so crazy that while I feel like we see each other enough, I never quite know when I’m going to see him. And that bothers the Type A planner in me. So I brought Dana to his restaurant, both to meet him and also to just have dinner. Chef calls this “bonus time,” time that we didn’t know we would have together, but that we get because we somehow find a way to make it work.
Chef annoyed me at dinner, admittedly. I know he has a tough schedule, the man works almost every single weekend. A few weeks ago, however, we talked about how I was sad that he wouldn’t be able to go to my family’s lake place. During the summer, my family goes there every weekend. It’s pretty important to me that the guy I’m with long-term will be able to partake in that. During our conversation, I told Chef about Halloween weekend at the lake, which is the last weekend the campground is open until next spring. It’s not actually Halloween, but the weekend before. He then stated to me, so emphatically that it made my heart hurt (in a good way), that he would be there that weekend. He would make it work. He knew it was important to me. Major points to Chef.
During dinner Friday night, I tried to convince Dana to join “us” at the lake that weekend. I probably shouldn’t have said “us” because Chef suddenly forgot that our previous conversation had ever occurred. “I’m not going to the lake that weekend, no way. I can’t get off work,” he said. He looked at me as though I had lost my mind. I simply couldn’t believe that a conversation that had struck me so much, meant so much to me, he had completely forgotten. Let’s just say I was, um, pissed. Not just pissed though, it made me feel like this was all a mistake. I didn’t sign up for a relationship with this man to be let down already.
I went home, fell asleep on my couch and when I got a text message from him at three in morning, somehow forgot I was pissed. Because he said he wanted to see me. Not sex – he wanted to spend a few hours with me in his arms, before he had to go to work again at 9. He admitted it was a crazy idea, but that was the fun in it. I thought it was fun too – and agreed. I don’t know what got into me.
The entire 3 a.m. drive to Richmond (about 25 minutes away), I was excited to see him. Almost inspired by how spontaneous I was being. About how much he wanted to be with me, and the excitement I had for him. It was almost overwhelming. I couldn’t remember ever feeling this way about anyone. When I picked him up from his restaurant, he was incredibly drunk. Not good. Now, it felt like a booty call. I’m not going to lie. And that doesn’t feel good. I told him I didn’t know he was drunk – I thought he was sober. He sort of laughed, “Of course I’m drunk. It’s 3 a.m. and I convinced you to come out and spend the night with me. You thought I was sober?” Well, yes. I mean, I was sober. I thought it was just a fun, random idea. I guess I was wrong.
We went back to his house, and I immediately took some Benadryl so that this night would not end with me in the emergency room with an allergic reaction to his cat. We lay in bed and talked. And by talked, I mean kissed. I told you he was an amazing kisser.
And that’s when he told me he was in love with me. Incredibly, unbelievably in love with me. Not that he was just in love with me – he loved me. He could marry me tomorrow. Not that I should expect that we get married tomorrow, but he was so in love with me that he could. This all coming from a very drunk man. Obviously, drunk enough that he forgot that “marriage” is like a dirty word to me these days.
I didn’t know what to say. You all know that I was falling in love with him too. I felt this hesitation on his part after he said it; he really wanted me to say it back. The silence between us was palpable when I didn’t say anything. I told him he was really drunk, and maybe he should tell me this all once he was sober. He repeated it, and said he would say it in the morning as well.
And then I said it back. “I love you too.” I can’t, to this day, tell you why I said it back. Maybe it was peer pressure; maybe I felt it in some part of me. Maybe I wanted to feel it. But I said it back, and he looked so happy. And it immediately felt wrong. Like a lie. Or a half-lie, because I wasn’t there yet. I immediately regretted the words, but they were out. He continued to say them to me the rest of the night, he seemed so happy that it was out there. That we loved each other. Only I was slowly panicking. I just hoped he’d forget the whole conversation in the morning.
Cue a terrible allergy attack, and I took two more Benadryl. Eventually I fell asleep, and when I woke the next morning, I felt incredibly hung over from the allergy medication. I felt like death was on my doorstep. I felt awful. And sad. But I wasn’t sure why.
I was hoping the love conversation was behind us, but he turned to me first thing and said that he loved me. That he’d told me he’d say it sober, and now he was saying it. He loves me and wants me to be his girlfriend. He’s so in love with me.
ME: Silence. My head is pounding. I want to kill his cat. I want to kill myself for having made this ill-fated trip. I want to crawl into a hole and erase the last five hours. I want to be home in my bed.
CHEF: What do you think? I love you.
ME: I have to pee.
Yes, that’s literally what I said. “I have to pee.” I got up and went to the bathroom. I am so awkward. I seriously did not have the skills, the words and the maturity to handle this situation. I had told him I loved him and I wasn’t sure if I meant it. I had heard him tell me he loved me – and it made me sad. It made me sad because I wasn’t ready. It made me sad because he was drunk when he said it (and I’m such a romantic that I wish it were more special). And it made me sad because, frankly, I wasn’t ready for a man other than my ex fiancée to tell me he loved me. Only this was news to me, I had no idea how un-ready I was.
I behaved quite awkwardly the rest of the morning and we talked some when I drove him to work. I was honest and told him that I was feeling sad and that I felt awful for feeling sad because he loved me, it was just a lot. The Benadryl overdose probably wasn’t helping. The three hours of sleep wasn’t either. I just wanted to go home. I tried to wait it out the next couple of days – maybe I did love him, I just needed to get used to it. I tried it out, test drove it a bit. But it still wasn’t right.
Before Chef came over to my house on Monday night, I totally pulled a girl move and told him we needed to talk. I told him it wasn’t serious, but I guess that was a lie too, because it was serious to me. That night, I told him I’m in no way ready for the L word. I feel it, in some ways, on some days, but I’m not there. And I desperately don’t want to let him down.
I cried a little during this conversation, because frankly this whole thing makes me sad. I want to be ready. I thought I was. But suddenly, once those words were out there, I felt sick. Scared. It was all too much. I missed my old life again, my pre-break up self. I missed my ex again. I missed KNOWING with everything in me that I loved someone. I was angry at myself for saying it to someone when I wasn’t sure. I didn’t mean to lie. When I said it, I thought I meant it, but once those words were out, it was too late. And they were wrong.
I told Chef that I’m not seeing anyone else, and I really do want to continue to see him. I just need us to slow down. A lot. He seemed to understand, but seemed a little sad himself.
I haven’t seen him since Monday. Tomorrow, I’m going to a wedding with him. I’m not even sure if I’m ready for that – I’ve been avoiding weddings like the plague. This is my first wedding since I cancelled mine. I can’t wait to see Chef, and I care about him very much. But now things feel uncertain. And I have no idea what I want. I want him in my life – but I can’t seem to shake this sadness.
I want to feel the way I felt on that trip, at 3 a.m., to go see him. When things were exciting, new, not confusing. When we were just two people who really wanted to see each other. I was not a love Indian giver, and I was falling in love – in my own time, at my own pace. No pressure. Here’s hoping that spending some time together this weekend will get me, get us, back there.