He was Romanian, and I was smitten.
A junior. Joint majoring in Linguistics and Psychology, Valentin was anything but ordinary. Quiet and shy, it had taken me an entire semester to get to this point.
Just when I thought this friendship was going nowhere fast, he surprised me.
The second semester was turning into a good one. My psychology midterm had gone well, and things were also going well in my other classes. While I wasn’t going to the beach like everyone else, it was still nice to finally get a break. School can get pretty overwhelming, and I needed a chance to breathe.
It had been awhile since we last hung out, and he wanted to see me before Spring Break, so I eagerly prepared an outfit that morning.
Things with Val had been moving at a snail’s pace. Val and I had only been on a couple of dates (or what I thought were dates). Most recently, our dinner at Panera had me feeling that maybe he’d finally made up his mind about me. Perhaps the time had come when he would admit his true feelings.
Donning a pair of black keds, my favorite striped shirt, and my comfiest jeans, I put on my best smile and headed out the door to go to my Comparative Literature class. It was a gorgeous day outside. Being at Emory University had taught me a lot. After a frustrating first semester and a drastic career change, I’d finally found my niche.
I was off to Comparative Literature with a 12:00 lunch date. Excited would be an understatement for how I felt.
I walked in late and took my seat next to Bev and Anjali. I pulled out my tattered version of Brave New World, ready to finally say something in class. The pledges were dressed to the nines since it was Thursday.
“You guys look nice,” I said with a smile.
“Thanks,” Conor replied.
I love Thursdays, I thought to myself. The class couldn’t end soon enough.
Val and I had agreed to meet at Cox Hall to grab a bite to eat. Honestly, I wasn’t even hungry. I was tired. All I wanted to do was go back to my room and go to sleep. However, despite how I felt, I walked to Cox Hall after class. I couldn’t shake the weird feeling I had.
Why didn’t I want to be here right now?
I walked into the crowded cafeteria looking for Val, but he wasn’t there. Instead, I found my friend Janessa with her Chemistry book.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” She said.
“Waiting to meet Val. He’s not here. Seriously, I think I’m just gonna leave. I’m really tired.”
As soon as I spoke it, he walked in.
“And never mind,” I said, holding back a grin.
“I don’t want to interrupt, so I’m gonna sneak away. Good luck!”
I was hoping I wasn’t going to need it.
He walked over with a smile, and I felt reassured that everything was going to be fine.
“I’m gonna grab some food. Did you want anything?” He asked.
“No. I’m not really hungry,” I replied, and I wasn’t. I was too nervous.
“Okay. We should sit outside. It’s nice out.” He replied
“Sounds good to me.”
He grabbed his food, returned to me, and we grabbed a table outside. This was going a lot better than I thought. I had nothing to worry about.
Fifteen minutes later, and we’d done nothing but make small talk. Not usual for us; it felt awkward and forced. I looked around, hoping that something would spark the conversation. Little did I know that a spark was about to ignite only a few moments later.
After a long and awkward pause, Val leaned back in his chair, folded his arms, and dropped a bomb on me.
“Do you like me?” He asks with sheer curiosity.
I was stunned; eyes bugged out and all, wondering where in the world this question came from. I somehow found a way to reply. Thinking that he finally wants to tell me he feels the same, I said: “Yes!”
But with the look on his face, I could tell that this conversation was about to take a turn for the worse.
“Wait…do you like me?”
It felt like hours had passed. Why was he taking so long to answer?
“Well, I like you as a friend.”
And as his words escaped his mouth, my mind was blown.
He kept talking, but I didn’t hear a word he said.
“I just wanted to clear the air. If I’m interested in you, I’ll tell you.” He said.
Ouch. That hurt.
I should have gone with my first instinct; I should’ve never shown up. He continued to drone on and on about how much he doesn’t like me and I dreamt of ways to escape this humiliating conversation.
“So, are you interested in any other guys?” He asked.
What? Where did that question come from? Because, you know, this is totally not awkward.
I felt so exposed. This was the most awkward conversation I’d ever had in my life.
I continued to sit and answer his invasive questions despite my urge to get up and leave.
I couldn’t even look at him.
I felt so wounded and embarrassed.
I couldn’t even fathom why he thought to bring this up now.
It didn’t make sense to me, and it still doesn’t now.
I could feel my heart ripping apart as he continued to make things a lot worse than they already were. It wasn’t even the fact that he didn’t like me; I could careless. It wouldn’t be the first time. But the fact that he had the audacity to humiliate me shocked me. He was being so…mean.
“So, what are you doing for Spring Break?” He asked.
His questions continued. I couldn’t even really remember what I was doing if I was doing anything at all. The only image that flipped through my mind was grabbing the table and flipping it in anger and frustration. Unfortunately, tables are bolted to the ground at Cox Hall, so flipping the table wasn’t an option at the time.
The conversation continued to lull, friends of mine walked by.
Maybe they could help me get out of this awkward situation because I had officially reached level 99 of the friend zone.
One of the girls walked over and slyly narrowed her eyes toward Val.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to interrupt your date,” She said just loud enough for Val to hear.
“Trust me; it’s not a date,” I replied.
They were never dates. It was all a figment of my imagination.
My friends walked off to class as I sat back down to face Val again. It was clear that this was going nowhere, and there was no chance our friendship would ever be the same. I kept reaching for my phone, hoping my friend Eva would call and rescue me. Thankfully, Val saved both of us by excusing himself to get to class early.
“I’ll see you later. Have a great Spring Break!”
He walked away and there went the person I used to know.
As I walked away from that table, everything he said resounded in my head. The last thing I wanted to do was go to work. I aimlessly walked around Asbury Circle, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Valentin had completely demolished my feelings in just under an hour.
So much for clearing the air.