Tuesday, July 22, 2008

cappucinos and Kierkegaard, in which our heroine falls for a philosophizing fellow

Once again, Cara said this was good blogging material, so here goes . . .

This past April, on the heels of a breakup, a new guy, erm man, actually, moved into town and started working at the coffee shop that I frequent. At the sight of his baby blue eyes behind those black plastic-rimmed glasses, paired with a big bright smile, I knew that I had to find out more about this pearl-snap wearing hipster. Turns out this hipster-looking dude is also a huge nerd, trying to get into a doctorate program here to study philosophy. We talked a little Freud, existentialism, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and theology, and I was licking my intellectual-loving lips. Could it be? An intellectual who writes papers and smokes cigars who actually has a personality and sense of humor and fashion sense and loves Jesus and plays Guitar Hero, and he's working at my coffee shop? How could I not be swooning?

Fortunately for my poor confused heart at the time, I didn't see him again until June, but I still remembered the impression that he made on me. Over the past month, we've continued to have more conversations, mostly about philosophy, theology, religion, or psychology, but also about coffee, music, movies, fashion, the fourth of july, television, education, and sometimes about things from our personal life, our family, or friends. I learned that he was living on his sister's couch, frequently awoken by his two year old niece, and is waiting to find his own place until he gets officially accepted into this doctoral program. I learned that he has a younger brother who was previously a meth addict, whom he cared for over several years, starting when he was 23, which quickly matured him. In this same conversation, I learned that he was significantly older than I realized, when he mentioned that he just moved here from living in Abilene for 12 years, where he spent "almost a third," of his life. I learned that his parents were divorced when he told me that his dad and stepmom came to visit for the fourth of July.

Most of the time, these conversations occurred with him on the other side of the counter, but often he would come approach me at my table where I sat and studied, and twice he sat down with me before or after his shift and talked to me for almost an hour. Mostly he talked about his latest philosophical revelation and I questioned and listened and tried to relate it to my experiences. Not gonna lie, a lot of it went over my head, and a lot of the conversations were rather one sided, but he would get so happy and animated about these things, that I just got sucked right in. One time during one of these conversations, his sister came up and I met her.

We soon built a friendly rapport with one another, and frequently joked and made one another laugh. I wasn't getting strong signals of interest from him, but occasionally he would do things that could border on flirtation, like last week when he came over to my couch, complimented my shirt, made me origami out of a napkin, which made me laugh, then returned to his counter saying, "Well, if you have any questions about Heidegger, you know where to find me!" Friendly? Very. Flirty? Meh, possibly. A few of my friends observed our interactions together, and agreed that he was very friendly with me, possibly flirty, possibly interested in me, but maybe just being friendly.

I was crushing on him, but definitely had my reservations. The biggest problem I had was how much he talks about his own ideas versus how little he asks me about my life and my thoughts. Not only was this a sign that he wasn't interested in me, but also not a quality that I admire nor want in a relationship. Because of this, I had a hard time actually picturing myself in a relationship with him, but crushes can be pleasant distractions, and I was enjoying the attention, so I continued the interactions, with several prayers throughout.

This past Friday, I was planning on going to a concert on Saturday, but hadn't found anyone to go with me yet. I'd told several friends about it, so he was discussing a concert, so I told him about it and asked if he wanted to go. "Actually," he replied, "I sort of have a concert of my own Saturday evening." "Oh really?" "Yeah, my sister just got the Aerosmith version of Guitar Hero, so she's having some friends over, and it's my duty to unlock all of the songs for them." That was it, and I was frustrated. Does he not realize that I had just asked him out? The cute smart blond customer who he's been talking and laughing with for the past month just asked him to go to a concert, and it didn't even phase him? Believe it or not, but it takes a lot for me to ask a guy to do something with me. I always prefer the man to make the first move, but based on a recent conversation with a friend, I decided that it was ok to make the first move, if he picked up the ball and ran with it. If he didn't grab the ball, then I'd know that he either wasn't interested or wasn't worth bothering with. I decided that I better accept what I'd felt all along in my gut - he really just isn't interested in me as more than a customer to chat with. He doesn't like me, he just likes having someone to talk with. But throughout the weekend, he was there when I arrived, and we continued having nice, fun, interesting conversations, and his friendliness continued, and the crushing continued.

Last night I arrived to work on a paper, and he was there, as friendly as ever, "Hey, I have to tell you something that I realized today!" and he began discussing Fear and Trembling across the cash register. At the end of his thoughts, smile stretching ear to ear, he stated, "I'm so glad I could share that with you!" I just laughed and said, "Yeah, I can tell that you really love this and really enjoy these conversations, you're in the right field for you!" A little later in the evening, I told him more about the case presentation I was working on, and we hypothesized a little about one of my clients. Some Mormon missionaries came in, and he told me that they witnessed to him. "Oh, are you converted now?" I asked. "No, I decided I don't want to have more than one wife." "Me neither. Actually, I don't want to have a wife at all." He laughed, "Yeah, I was wondering." "Actually, I wouldn't mind having a wife, someone to do my cooking and cleaning for me would be nice." "Yeah, it seems that in my relationships, we've always joked that I was the wife because I wound up doing most of the cooking and cleaning." My classmate Keisha came in, and sat at a table next to me, "How are things with the cowboy?" (He sometimes wears a straw cowboy hat). "Oh, I don't know, we've still been chatting, but I asked him to go to this concert, but he had other plans." "Did he tell you what those plans were?" "Yeah." "Well, that's better than just saying, 'Oh, I have plans,' and being vague about it. I say you ask him to hang out one more time, and if he doesn't respond well, that's it, you drop him." Yes mam.

The shop closes at 11, and around 10:20 I walked out the door to go grab a book from my car. He was having a conversation with another guy, but he stopped to ask me, "Are you leaving?" "No, not yet, I've just got to grab something from my car." "Ok, good. You're not allowed to leave yet. I won't let you." I smiled, "I'm just going to get a big scary book called the DSM-IV-TR." "Oh yeah, I've read it." "You've read it?" Why would anyone but a mental health professional read the diagnostic and statistical of mental disorders? This confused me, but in no way did I anticipate his response, "Yeah, my wife was a psychology major."

My wife. Was a psychology major. I can think of dozens of things he could have said that would have shocked me less than that statement. "I was committed to a psychiatric ward once," "I'm a convicted felon," "I think I'm gay," "I sacrifice lambs," or "Let's have a threesome," would have shocked me less. "My wife." I wonder if I looked like a deer in headlights. He continued talking but I didn't hear a word he said because my thoughts were spinning. He has a wife. No wedding ring. Sleeps on his sister's couch. Never mentioned her. He has a wife. I finally snapped out of the whirlwind of cognitions to ask, "So, your wife was a psych major, what does she do now?" "Actually, haha, she works at Wal-Mart. That's what happens when you switch from psychology to English without finishing either."

I soon found myself outside, trying to process all of this. All of our conversations, and no mention of the wife until now? There would be plenty of appropriate times for him to have mentioned it. "Oh, you study counseling psychology. My wife studied psychology." "Yeah, it seems that in my relationships, we've always joked that I was the wife because I wound up doing most of the cooking and cleaning. Now my wife and I take turns cleaning." "Yes, I had a great Fourth of July! I stayed here, but my dad and stepmom came down to visit. My wife had the day off too." "So, I can't come to the concert, I actually have other plans. My wife and I are playing Guitar Hero with my sister and her friends." "Yeah, this band plays there every Thursday night. It's also ladies' night, which means that ladies get in free. My wife loves it when she can get in free." "No, the Mormons didn't convert me, I've got one wife and that's enough for me!" "I can't wait to have my own place, have my own privacy again so I can throw wild parties and have wild sex with my wife." Ok, that last one wasn't such appropriate coffee shop talk, but you get the picture.

I paced around the parking lot, feeling a disappointed, but mostly shocked, confused, and angry. Have I just been stupid, completely misreading him? Did I bring this upon myself? Was he leading me on? Why didn't the little bugger tell me he was married? Why doesn't he wear a ring? Why has he been so friendly toward me? I texted Keisha. She was shocked, I wanted to say something to him, but she assured me this was a bad idea. I finally went back inside, and sat next to Keisha, who told me, "That is wack! This dude is really suspect. Even when you walked out, he was checking you up and down!" "I don't know, this is crazy, but I used to work at a coffee shop, and all the time guys would mistake my friendliness for something else. Maybe that's what I've done. I've just misinterpretted him. He's just friendly to his customers, and I took it too far." "No, listen, he's friendly to me, ok? But he's really friendly with you. He doesn't come over here and have little chats with me." And sure enough, he soon came over, and wanted to look at my DSM. He thumbed through it, and told me a story about how his wife had diagnosed a character from a novel, though he couldn't remember the diagnosis. When he first walked up, I wished he would walk away, but there he started, smiling, telling his story, and I got into it and wanted to listen to him. It was nauseating. After he left, Keisha started off again, "See? He has a wife and he does not need to be coming over here."

This was so distracting, I left soon afterward. I said by to him and the other dude behind the counter. "Alright," he told, "You can leave now, I wasn't going to let you leave before 10:45." Part of me thought that was really cute, but a bigger part of me was screaming, "You perv!" So, this is weird. I definitely don't have a crush on him anymore, and I'm not even that sad or disappointed, more just confused, feel stupid, and feel really annoyed at him. I definitely need to change my interactions with him, and probably should stay away from this coffee shop for a little while. When I do return, I can talk to him at the counter, but that's it. No more wandering over to the counter to continue our conversations, and if he comes to my table, I can ask him about his wife or something. Boundaries need to be set up, if not for him, definitely for me.

I can be appropriately friendly with married men, but only when I know the boundaries in my head and in my heart. The owner of this coffee shop is married, but I knew this from the beginning, and I know his wife too, so we talk, we laugh, he invited me to go see the Dark Knight with them, but none of this is weird because I knew all along that he was married. He is attractive, but I've never once felt attracted to him because knowing that he was married created boundaries for me. I think about and act differently toward men that I assume to be single than toward men that I know to be married. But when a married man presents himself as single, or at least doesn't present himself as married, I treated him like a single man, which involved being attracted to him and flirting with him. Ugh, the whole thing just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

So there we go, another little glimpse inside my romantic universe that some of my friends like to live vicariously through (why? it's so weird in this section of the cosmos!). Apparently I'm no better at judging the relationship status of men than I am at judging their ages. Worst crush ever? Yes. Worse than crushing on an ex-boyfriend, or crushing on an ex-boyfriend's best friend or roommate, or crushing on the boy that then tells me he wants to date my best friend, or crushing on the pot-smoking atheist in my high school stats class, or crushing on the skater guy who dropped out of a college and has family issues, who also probably smoked weed. Crushing on the married 30-something year old tops them all. And because it's probably my worst crush ever, and because Cara told me that this would be good blog material, and that it would help me feel better about things, I've just written a ridiculously long post about it. I feel like my blog could become some sort of Sex and the City-esque column. Minus the sex, unfortunately. I hope you found this entertaining, because in the midst of the weirdness of it all, I find myself very entertained at the absurdity. I hope you don't think I'm a silly pathetic girl, because I kind of am, but I sure don't want to be. I hope you feel annoyed at this dude and want to grab his adorable plastic-framed glasses, and smash them between his copies of Time and Being and What Would Jesus Deconstruct, and then pour espresso all over the mess, and then run over it with his ugly truck with the "Don't Mess with Texas" bumper sticker on the back window, because I sorta do, but I'd rather someone else do it for me.


if walled in climb up said...

I'll smash his glasses for you. Just tell me when and where! ; )

Seriously, don't even feel guilty or bad about this for a minute. He deceitfully led you on. I think some people just like the feel of someone having a crush on them--it makes them feel like they "still have it." You guys talked way too many times for him to wait that long to tell you he had a wife. I agree and strongly suggest not going back to that coffee shop for at least 6 months (maybe you'll tell the owner it's nothing personal so you can stay friends with them?). His behavior is completely unacceptable and it's not good for your heart to be jerked around, as you mentioned in your post. Ug, I'm so sorry you had to go through that!

crackers and cheese said...

Thank you Britt, and I really appreciate your support :)

Fortunately, avoiding him will be pretty easy since I know what he drives (which sounds stalkerish, but really one time we just kinda walked out to the parking lot together and I saw what he drove). If I see that truck with the Don't Mess With Texas bumper sticker on the back, I can just turn around, and drive half a mile down the road to the other independently owned coffee shop in town with free wi-fi. How convenient that they're located on the same street! The owners of this shop (a young married couple) are really great - they really know the coffee business and have been making great improvements, so I will continue to support them.

Laura said...

I'm with Britt - I'll smash things. Any things.

That's insane. But not going to lie - I was highly amused reading it all.

Excellent piece of creative nonfiction :) Although I am sorry it was so loser-man inspired.

if walled in climb up said...

So, I think this all came about because I was thinking about this awful story or yours. I dreamed a horrific nightmare. I dreamed that Shawn told me that he was married with 3 children, and had been that way the whole 2 years we had been dating. I remember screaming at him, "I don't ever want to see you again, Dickwad!" I hope that if something like that ever happens, I'll find a better expletive to use than 'dickwad,' but I don't believe there are words to express that most horrible feeling. I remember thinking that Shawn is one of the people I most trust in the entire world (true), and how could I ever trust anyone again if my instincts and love of two years had so blatantly deceived me? Dreams like that sure aren't pleasant, but short of actually living it they truly give you insight into what other people feel. I'm still revved up for driving to TX and smashing the dick's glasses.

Anton said...

That dirty SOB. That revelation really threw me for a loop. What a dirt ball. You don't sit around flirting with young girls as a married man, not wear a wedding ring (I'm guessing) and not tell them that you're married.

And, on top of that, a dude who is only interested in a one-sided conversation is not the dude for you. And this is coming from a guy who's done that to girls more than once.


crackers and cheese said...

Agreed, the one-sided conversations were already giving me strong doubts, but I was enjoying the attention, and then BAM! he's married. I really think God was gracious to reveal that to me when he did, though having found out much sooner would have been far better!