Creeping is bad for you
“Don’t say it. Just don’t.” Ivan pleaded, his face pale, pained.
I couldn’t speak even if I wanted to. He pressed the palm of his hand over my mouth. People passing by were looking curiously in our direction. He pinned me against the wall in the hallway leading to restrooms in a movie theater.
I felt dizzy since the realization hit me like a ton of bricks a few minutes ago before he dragged me in here and slammed my mouth shut. I nodded at him and he reluctantly let go of me.
“Sorry T... Shit!” he said, pulling a hand through his hair.
“But, you are… we are... ” I was still under the influence of mild shock, sliding down the wall and sitting on the hall floor.
A wave of disappointment washing over me. I felt ridiculous for deciding to wear makeup today, embarrassed for wearing a cute dress. Heat pooled on my cheeks, reaching a boiling point. All the anticipation and excitement and that weird fluttering in my stomach got sucked into a gaping black hole of utter humiliation.
The feelings I tried not to be aware of were being overshadowed with jealousy, envy. I needed to nip them in a bud. Smash them before they hatch. I might need a few days, but I’ll be fine. I took a deep, calming breath, counting to ten. The damage wasn’t that big, as I wasn’t in love with him. Only a major bruise to my ego.
It was fine; I was fine. When the embarrassment passes, all shall be well. On the other hand, my now crushed crush and friend was super-duper screwed.
But damn that lucky bitch! I mean, I tried not to see it, even if deep down I knew it from the very start. There were signs. They didn’t backhand me hard enough, though.
“Don’t say it out loud. Let’s forget about it, ok?” he pleaded, sitting next to me.
Today the two of us went downtown. But the whole time we were together, while I was super chipper, Ivan was totes distracted.
He was fidgety, glancing at his phone, looking around like he was waiting for something. Whenever I asked him what was wrong, he said it was nothing. He answered all of my questions with one-word answers.
We got separated a few times while walking on the street. I thought it bore him to be with me. I was really down but, he must have sensed my disappointment or heard me sigh one too many times, so he got me my favorite ice cream to cheer me up.
After that, we decided we should go see a movie.
And that’s when it happened.
We were waiting in the line to buy tickets and I was babbling about whether we should buy popcorn or nacho chips when my eye caught a familiar lavender-colored hair a few spaces in front of us.
“Hey isn’t that MinMin?” I said, ready to call out to her, when Ivan tensed next to me and jerked me around to face him.
Shaking his head, “NO!” he whisper-yelled, eyes wide in fear, cheeks flushed.
“Why?” I whispered, confused, turning again, so I saw Mina and her date move to buy tickets.
Mina is on a date today, downtown. She mentioned her plans to me this morning when we got back home, but I was in my own little world and totally forgot about it. The pieces slowly arranged themselves.
Ivan and I visited all the places she said she would with her date. No wonder he fidgeted the entire time! We were STALKING them on their date and I was so focused on myself and Ivan; I didn’t realize it!
So I did see Mina in the park today! But he whisked me away to the other side, so we didn’t bump into them!
Then it hit me!
I’m so freaking dense!
All the small instances throughout the week. Him looking at her, his expression soft, a smile tugging on his lips when he thought no one was watching. I chucked that aside, totally avoiding the real meaning. Their banter, his demeanor when she’s around. Boy, did I not want to see! The dance I witnessed at their practice. It was all there!
He got genuinely pissed last night. It wasn’t my imagination and this morning, the phone he almost dropped? It was Mina’s! I remember thinking it looked familiar! He checked the meeting place and shit! OH MY GOD!
“Ivan… you... oomph!” he pressed his hand over my lips as he saw realization dawning on my face and dragged me away.
So here we were now, sitting on a floor in a hallway near restrooms.
“I can’t pretend like I don’t know Ivan… I’m so… stupid.” I whispered, playing with the hem of my dress, biting my lower lip.
“What do you mean?” I gave him a sad smile and at that moment, it was as if he finally took real notice of me. He gave me a look from head to toe. And when his gaze came back to my face, his eyes widened, lips parting to form an o.
“Shit T, I’m such a dick!” he said, pulling on his hair. “I’m so sorry if I gave you the wrong ide…”
“No!” I lifted my hand to stop him, but still not looking at him. “It’s my fault I got carried away. Actually, I have almost no experience in that department. And no immunity to good-looking guys. So it was just me having a teeny tiny crush on my good friend. Let’s not talk about it, I’m embarrassed already…” I blurted it out, my face on fire, eyes stinging as tears threatened to spill.
“Hey, T honey,” he muttered softly, gently lifting my chin, turning me to face him. “Don’t be embarrassed. Anyone would be lucky to have you like him. Sorry, I’m a big dumb idiot. Thank you, T.” He placed a kiss on the top of my head.
We sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity; me staring in my lap, Ivan hugging his knees to his chest.
“Can I ask since when?” I broke the silence.
Ivan sighed, “Since four years ago. That’s when I was 100% sure. Probably from the very first time I met her.” Oh, that’s the same time Mina was gushing about the mystery boy. Could he be the guy? But it made little sense why she stopped talking about him. What happened?
“Have you confessed to her?”
Ivan cringed, “No... Not outright… We kissed though…”
I was nodding, distracted, when his words registered. I snapped my head in his direction so fast I got dizzy. “Wait, WHAT?! You did?!” That was news to me. Mina said nothing about a kiss. We talked about everything… At least I thought we did.
Something ugly twisted in my belly. Why didn’t she tell me?
Ivan buried his face in his knees, took a deep breath, then turned to face me, “Yeah... Four years ago we went to this party at a friend’s house. Someone snuck some alcohol in. And, well, all of us idiots dove for it, got tipsy... the two of us danced, and well, it happened. I remember it all. What she wore, how her hair had looked, the way she looked at me...” his voice had a wistful note to it, and his expression... eyes soft, lost in the memory playing in vivid detail behind them, a gentle smile on his lips.
Ah... he is smitten. Completely besotted.
His smile suddenly turned to a rueful one. “But, after it happened, kids made noise, spouting all kinds of nonsense, making fun of us. Bastards. Some asshole said ‘Look, the fatty is kissing Belinski. I told you they are dating. Pay up!’ can you imagine the assholes?!” Ivan said, outraged.
Kids are assholes.
I knew firsthand how Mina struggled with malicious comments in primary school, jokes about her body, even though she hid her hurt behind the bluster.
I had an inkling of what was to come after Ivan told me had happened. Mina had a similar situation before. The time kids stuck her with Mina The Hutt nickname.
Ivan shook his head. “I was ready to pummel the idiot, but Mina laughed it off. Said that there was no way in hell we are anything more than friends and pulled me away from there….” Yup, that’s what I thought. Their words triggered her, and she got embarrassed, so she shut it down.
“I… I felt completely rejected... She said we should forget all about it, pretend like it never happened because we are best friends...” his voice broke, and with the sound of it, so did my heart.
“I was angry too, and frankly humiliated. We were so awkward for a long while afterward, but we never spoke of it again. And it stayed like that. With time, it became harder to broach the subject again. We both moved on… dating other people... But nothing changed for me…. Fuck, I’m pathetic!” Ivan ran his hands through his hair, heaving a frustrated sigh.
“No, you are not. You are in love. There’s nothing wrong with that.” I squeezed his shoulder affectionately, reassuring him. There was no doubt in my mind that they had feelings for one another. But Mina’s insecurities and previous ugly experiences got in their way.
My grandma always used to say to me that expressing one’s feelings and communicating them to the other person properly adds years to your lifespan. Stress was a silent killer. No need to add more crap to your already full plate.
“I think she said all that because she got embarrassed.” I put forth.
Ivan huffed a humorless laugh. “I know. She didn’t mean any of that. I knew she liked me. But me being an idiot that I am, I held on to that tiny doubt I had, that maybe I imagined it all, and I never told her how I truly feel,” he sighed, placing his forehead on his bent knees. A beat of silence later he asked, “Would it be a total peen move to tell her now?” One look at his scrunched-up face told me he already had the answer.
“Yep. Major peen move.” Ivan nodded.
“Aaagh! Shit!” he spat out. Now both of his hands were in his hair, messing it up completely. “Sorry for bitching about it to you, being the world’s biggest whipped pussy after my failed career as a creepy stalker. Thanks for not turning me in T.” Ivan smiled at me, and again that smile put a dent in my heart.
“Nah, don’t worry, you make one fine whipped pussy,” I stated, and there was a pause where I thought I fudged up, but he burst out laughing, so I relaxed.
“This is the first time I heard you use a dirty word!”
“Yeah. It sounds way more obscene when you say it.”
We both laughed before falling into silence again.
“I’m sorry about this mess… Are we gonna be okay, T?” he asked, voice shaky, timid. Anticipation and guilt swirling in his blue eyes.
“Of course we are you, big doofus!” I slapped him on the back, smiling. His face immediately lit up, and he gave me a bear hug.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Allons-y my friend!” I rose from the floor, patting my dress of dust, and extended my hand for him to get up.
“By the way, what was your plan? You do this often?” I teased as we left the theater.
“NO!… I don’t fucking know what I’m doing… I might have done it once or twice before...” he laughed halfheartedly.
“Ah. We got to do something about those tendencies of yours.”
“Like what? Meditate under the waterfall or chain myself in the cellar?”
“Wow, boy, it’s only the extremes with you, huh?”
He smiled, “Well, I guess my regulator’s broken.”
“Let’s go home, you beautiful, lovesick weirdo.” I hugged him around the waist as we stepped on the street.