Of all the people to talk to about my dating situation, the one I looked forward to the least was Rafe.
Rafe is back at the shop after an extended time away. Somehow he heard about my hanging around with Kevin, and somehow he got the idea it was any of his business.
"So Chickpea, I heard you got ghosted by Silvertop."
I told him he heard wrong, that Kevin and I were hanging out regularly as friends... with no benefits.
"And he's not trying to get laid? That's weird."
Now, part of me agrees but I would never let him know that. So I tell Rafe it's sad that he doesn't think men and women can be friends without sex, which I also happen to believe (moreso now that I'm a woman maybe than when I was a man.)
"I don't think it's impossible," Rafe shrugged, "I mean, I like to think you and I are friends. But then again, we've already had sex."
"Don't remind me," I grumbled.
"I never heard any complaints," he smirked. I felt a little queasy at that, not the least because it's true and he knows it. It especially stings that I've basically been with nobody since him. But I know he's just trying to push my butrons. Puts me in a no-win situation - either I lose my cool and seem like an uptight woman, or I play along and encourage it.
Understanding men doesn't always help you deal with them.
My girls are more understanding of the situation, to various degrees. Maddie thinks it's cool, but she has specifically said she "ships" me and Kevin, so she holds out hope. Charli is skeptical - I wouldn't say she's a manhater but she is definitely one to question everything that comes out of a man's mouth, so despite his apparent honesty, she sees the possibility of ulterior motives, or just, I don't know, some kind of desire to mess with my head.
Ariel, oddly enough, is the one I've talked about it the most with. She's the one who has most tried to get the sense of my feelings - am I really okay being just friends with Kevin? Teaching him to cook, going on outings to markets and stuff, playing out part of a relationship without ever truly fulfilling it? Am I setting myself up for pain? Am I settling for staying in orbit around a man who, by his own admission, can't love me back, as a way of avoiding trying to find something real?
Am I hoping for something, that I can "break through the shell" as a commentor put it?
I don't know.
I do know that, despite what he's told me about himself, I feel a connection. We've had long talks, had some really cute moments. I made a conscoous decision not to push him away after what he told me. I wanted to show we could get along and I could be in his life without expecting anything. But it hasn't een wothout challenges.
You know, I think I'm still a little guarded around guys, which probably didn't help my case on the dating scene. I want reasons not to like them and I don't want to try to make them like me. But with Kevin the feeling is very natural. We "vibe." It just stings that being around him kind of gets me worked up and then, well... there's no payoff.
We took a weekend trip upstate. He had a business meeting and I invited myself along because I wanted to get out of town and see the area. That obviously seems frought, especially since we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast - and you know my history with cute little Inns. But it was nice. We stayed in separate rooms of course.
I imagined we were in Maine. We wake up as different people and suddenly all his baggage melts away and we begin a new life together. That's a rotten fantasy. The man has kids. A life. And I have my own commitment, a commitment to myself to stay as Valerie for good. But I'm not doing much as her except fretting over boys and it's making me crazy.
And besides, I should know well enough that your baggage doesn't just disappear when you get a new body. As far as I'm concerned it only gets bigger.