What would you do if you saw yourself in another person's body? Not in a Freaky Friday sort of way, but in a spiritual "this must be kismet because nothing else makes sense" kind of way? This other person may very well be your soul mate, or perhaps, they were sent to teach you, fix you and save you from yourself. You put them on a pedestal because they naturally understand all of your complicated bits, which is the very reason they scare the bejesus out of you.
How do you handle this kind of relationship? Do you jump balls deep into it, clumsily sabotage it or try to preserve things by denying the love? I did a combination of all these things when kismet came knocking on my door and took the form of a man named Kevin. He planted himself into my life when I was 20 years old. When we met, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of four years, I was preparing to live alone for the first time, and while I had a beautiful baby nephew, my familial unit felt broken.
Getting me to expose my vulnerabilities had always been near impossible. Yet, I became comfortable with Kevin almost instantly. Naturally, I felt more strongly about the fear these emotions caused than the fun of falling in love. Kevin looked like bad karma to me and I was convinced he'd break my heart. Plus, I knew I had given him the tools to destroy me after having told him all my secrets over some of the longest most honest phone conversations I'd had in my life. I was paranoid on one hand and with the other, I blindly trusted him. Our bond was eerily familiar. As I connect the dots today, I realize Kevin reminded me of the brother I had missed.
My brother and I were always incredibly close. Things with Kevin began to grow out of control around the time my brother was given an eight year prison sentence. During this time, feeling isolated and afraid was as regular as breathing to me. There were so many things changing, my own reflection was a strange image.
Kevin's biggest flaw was that he reminded me of myself. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but I thought that accepting him would force me to experience a truth I wasn't mature enough to own yet. Kevin was the version of myself that I could dismiss whenever I felt like it because I wasn't forced to spend every moment with him. He was the one I'd become mad at when I let myself down, I made fun of him when I felt insecure, and I confided in him when I was honest enough to admit that I didn't have all the answers. Kevin kept me safe, even when I abused him.
Our First Date
Two months went by before I allowed him to take me on our first date. We went to dinner on a Friday night. It was the first date I had been on without ordering a "cute" meal; I ate a rack of ribs. We laughed until my mascara ran and hung out until the restaurant began to close. The date didn't end until about 7:00 the next morning. There was no funny business, not even a kiss. We just had that much to talk about. I can't begin to tell you what the conversations were. I just remember feeling like a girl, innocent and giddy as I goofily happy danced when I finally got back home. I posted a Facebook status that said "I feel like I'm floating" and I listened to "Cupid" by 112 on repeat until I fell asleep with butterflies in my tummy. I felt valued.
Six Months After the First Date
While Kevin pushed for a relationship, I panicked, lied and did everything I could to make him stop liking me. I knew he wished he could let go, but he couldn't because it was deeper than that. We were two control freaks in a fight. He wanted to be more than friends and I thought I was being noble and poetic protecting his heart from mine. Tattooed to my brain was a thought that I wasn't deserving of his loyalty, respect and attention. We were miserable.
After fighting about the state of our relationship for a couple of weeks, Kevin went an entire week without speaking to me, it was the first time we went more than a day without contact. As soon as I tricked myself into thinking I'd be fine without him, he came back. Shit was unbearably awkward for a while, but we became us again. We became a different kind of us, an us Kevin had settled for. Out of respect, I never talked to him about other guys I'd see, yet we called each other "best friend".
We Fell in Love, with Other People
Two years later, I had a boyfriend my "best friend" knew nothing about. One night Kevin called and I was in full blown girlfriend mode, dancing to Beyoncé and ironing my boyfriend's shirt for a date night while he was in the shower. When Kevin asked what I was doing, I told him Derick and I were getting ready to go out. I casually explained that I had been seeing Derick for a month and had fallen for him. I heard the disappointment in Kevin's voice when he processed the things I said. I felt like shit, a shitty coward. Kevin was important to me and he deserved more than to be caught off guard that way.
When Kevin started dating Tonya a few months later, we started to feel like real friends. We were genuinely happy for one another's relationships and gave advice when the other was going through a rough patch. I also became friends with Tonya.
I Hit Rock Bottom
Derick and I stayed together for a year. We broke up for several reasons, one being his insecurities about my friendship with Kevin. The break up was sudden and I decided the reasoning Derick gave me was bullshit. I thought I'd marry him and my heart was broken. This wasn't my first broken heart, but it's the one that made me numb. I stopped talking to my friends, I drank more than I ate and worked out too much. Derick broke up with me just before Thanksgiving. I already hated the holiday season because it's where I missed my brother the most. If you've lost track I was 23 and I had known Kevin for three years, which is equal to the amount of time my brother had been away. My frustration was divided evenly between abusing my own body and tearing Tonya down.
Kevin would call and ask my opinion on gifts he wanted to give her, the sweet stories about their dates angered me, and when they fought, I smiled. What pissed me off the most was that the man I used to be freakishly connected to couldn't see that I was hurting. He had stopped being my safe place and all I did was blame Tonya. I never took responsibility for having pushed him away. So, he was with this girl that he broke up with biweekly and I had somehow become their relationship counselor.
When they'd fight, Tonya was always the first to call me. She'd start every conversation with "Yo, Tina, your best friend is an asshole." and he'd call me as soon as she finished telling her side of the story. It's almost like they timed the shit, it was so bizarre. They shouldn't have been a couple. They both had good intentions, but they brought out the ugly in one another. Still, I respected their love. The devotion Kevin showed in their darkest hours inspired me. I realized it was something I had always wanted and watching their disastrous relationship play out forced me to finally admit that Kevin was the perfect boyfriend and I was jealous.
Everything Became Clear
I couldn't help it, in my head, I compared myself to Tonya. I listened to the shit Kevin complained about and I knew that if I was with him, he'd never bitch about those things. But then again, he'd have other things to complain about with me because I lacked some of her best qualities.
Beneath all of her crazy, Tonya had a beautiful soul, she just had a ton of maturing to do. I rooted for her because Kevin loved her. Once I sorted out all of my misplaced feelings and ended my own struggle, I knew I never wanted Kevin. I loved him, yes, always, but never romantically. Kevin is the first man I said "I love you" to in a spiritual, nonsexual way.
When Kevin and Tonya finally broke up, I was torn. This time, it was me who wanted to protect him, and I couldn't. He had to mourn Tonya and I couldn't fix that. I was the listening ear he needed when he needed it and his voice of reason when he'd get ready to do something stupid. I was finally his best friend without an awkward undertone. We were freely casually dating, laughing about each other's random hookups and I pretty much became that girl who's just one of the boys.
Kevin fell in love again after being single for two months; they've been together a little less than a year now. This girl is different, she makes Kevin need me less. We went from talking way too often to me not being able to remember the last time we spoke. This sounds sad, right? It isn't. Kevin and I are finally solid friends without any confusion.
When we talk, I catch him up on all of my shenanigans, and he sometimes teases about the guy who's gonna make me fall in love again; I laugh. He vents about work, I listen. I vent about my family, he listens. Sometimes there's a pause and it's comforting. I talk about my career goals and he is proud. His relationship stories are kinda boring, but I'm glad he has them to share. I tell him the girl he is with right now is the girl and when he laughs and tells me to shut up after I've said it, I know he knows too.
My brother ended up doing five years instead of eight and came home in time for my 25th birthday. When I need a male opinion, I call him; when he needs a sane opinion, he foolishly calls me. Like my brother, Kevin is three years older than I am. Sometimes I think kismet sent him to my door knowing I'd need someone to teach me, fix me and save me from myself because it's the only thing about these last five years that makes any sense...