The Friend Zone
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Joshua was shy. He could barely speak to women and yet, he yearned for them, longed for them, and desperately needed them. He had plenty of women friends, there was no question of that, they LOVED Josh, and yet, he got the impression that they considered him their ‘gay’ friend, as straight as he was, and they seemed to sense that, yet, dismissed it. Josh was in a sort of hell.
Emily was his favorite, almost. She had a lovely smile and was soft spoken. She was a few sizes too big for many men, but for Josh, she was amazing. She loved some guy out on Long Island.
Sandy was special in that she was simply warm and soft in everything she did. Ok, so she was so skinny many believed she had an eating disorder or had been denied food by an angry parent for most of her life, she was still such a lovely girl.
Lorna may have been a cold insensitive bitch to most, but when she was with Josh, she warmed up and could admit her failings, her fears and her desires, none of which seemed to hit upon Josh.
Samantha, or Sam, was funny. She could be a stand-up comic if she wanted to be and Josh had encouraged her on many occasions. She also could be tender and fragile when with Josh. Shapely and pretty, she was a dream.
Linda wasn’t pretty. Linda was a bit heavy. Linda was oh so special in Josh’s eyes; vulnerable and yet self confident. Josh admired her for being who she was, which displayed an attitude of “I am who I am, Love me or Don’t, I really don’t care!” Josh wished HE had such confidence.
Daphne was beautiful; warm, sensitive and sweet and just such a lovely person. She was so pretty that Josh was almost unable to look at her for fear of losing himself in her eyes and staring blankly at her face. She was perfection.
Barbara was without a doubt, in Josh’s mind, the most magnificent women he had ever known. She was the prettiest, in his opinion. She had the best body, in his opinion. Her voice, in his opinion was without a doubt melodious and soothing. Her hair was better than anything in a shampoo commercial. Her skin was, indescribably smooth and so much like porcelain. Her lips were amazingly perfect. Not too pouty, not too thin, not too ANYTHING.
All these women, Josh loved in different ways and yet lusted after in the SAME way. They loved him back, and yet, not in any way shape or form that Josh longed for.
Josh had met Emily and Barbara when he was a kid doing his paper route. They would tell him all about the guys they liked and would go on and on about, “Oh I like Dave, but Jerry…” “Oh Steve is so wonderful, but Alex….” “Stanley is AWESOME, but Freddie is so big!” The last one killed him, but he kept his composure.
Josh hated these conversations but he would sit and listen and be sympathetic. It was the best he could do. Be a ‘friend’. The most frustrating thing a guy can be in life, sometimes. He got to kiss Barbara one New Year’s Eve, but it was fleeting and since the point of the party was to fix him up with another girl, he couldn’t really KISS Barbara the way he wanted to. But the other girl, Leslie, oh, she could kiss. It was his first REAL kiss and he was in Heaven. But years later when he looked back, as fantastic as Leslie had been in the kissing, and as nice as the few dates they went on were, she was no Barbara.
Josh was in the worst zone a guy could be in his life, THE FRIEND ZONE!
Josh had lost touch with a few of the women in his life but had maintained a ‘relationship’ with many of them.
“Oh how sweet of you to call. Thank you.” Was the standard answer.
Barbara and Emily he had vowed as a youth to keep in touch with, no matter what. Emily had moved to Alaska so, he would call her now and then, her husband would freak out when he did, so he had to keep things to a minimum.
Barbara on the other hand had stayed close to home, and frankly, he adored her whereas he was simply infatuated with Emily. He and Barbara lived only about 2 miles from each other and would, on occasion bump into each other. They’d talk for an hour or so and then part, only to lack contact for a few months. He never really felt she had either rejected or accepted him. It was confusing for him, even though he had married one of the most amazing and lovely women he could describe. Mary Jane was as wonderful as any of the women he had known and she LOVED him. That alone was reason to celebrate and leave behind all the confusion and frustration of his past, and yet….
He got off work one evening after an extremely long shift and went to the grocery store on the way home. It was 10 p.m. and he was dead tired. Working the evening shift for the regional power company wasn’t exactly the Life of Riley, but it was better than working days or, God FORBID, working overnights and it paid the bills nicely. He walked into the grocery story, pushing his carriage along with his brain set on neutral, focused only on what he needed to pick up and OK, looking for bargains and anything that tantalized him. He was, in essence, in grocery sultangazi escort mode. Nothing else in the world at this moment mattered. Food, tissues, cleaning supplies was all that his brain could focus on, until….
In the bread aisle, he saw Barbara. She was looking over bagels. Josh didn’t think she had changed one iota since they were in 7th grade. He stopped and for one moment thought of sliding quietly out of the aisle and pretending he never saw her, hoping she never saw him. But he lacked conviction and yearned to speak to her so, up the aisle he went.
“HEY YOU! What’s up?” asked as he approached her.
Barbara looked up and saw who it was and a grin came over her face that nearly knocked things off the shelves. She replied, “Oh HEY! Why are you shopping so late? Oh wait, you just got out of work, right?”
“You got that right. Once again you’ve proven yourself a brilliant woman!” He meant it on a number of levels. He never felt right leaning in for a hug but he desperately wanted to. He just stood and added, “Ok my reasons are clear, why are YOU hear so late?”
“I, too, was stuck at work. I should have been out by the normal time of five, but, shit happens, y’know?” She explained. Barbara added, “I’ve been so busy. My company is in the throws of being taken over by a bigger one and we’re trying so hard to get everything in order to save as many jobs as possible. It’s INSANE. Why can’t these big companies just leave us alone?”
“Greed. The scum of the earth always seem to make their way into top positions and simply have the need to crush anyone and everyone who poses a threat,” replied Josh. He believed it, but he sounded like a hippie. It sickened him because in his heart, he was a pure capitalist, just not a corporate capitalist.
“So, how’ve you been lately? I haven’t seen you in a few months?” Barbara asked. She really was interested. She was the best of all of his female friends. Some of them would ask, but only care a bit. Some would ask not really caring, but being nice enough to at least ask. Barbara was one of those who honestly cared.
“Well,” he began, “without going into long and boring details, Jackie broke up with me. She was bored, she said. I have to be truthful, I’m not broken up about it. She wasn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp and if it hadn’t been for the occasional roll in the hay, I’d have lost interest quite some time ago.”
“That sucks,” said Barbara with true sincerity. “You’re one of the sweetest guys. Her loss if you ask me.”
“Well, that’s how it goes,” is what he said, but what he thought was, “So, if I’m that great, why did you overlook me?”
“Stanley and I are going through a tough spot ourselves right now,” she responded.
“Oh, wow and after all you two went through to get together.” In his mind he instantaneously replayed the whole thing. For years she was torn between Stanley and Freddie but Freddie was actually always in love with Rhonda and when Barbara found this out, it was too late for Stanley since he was engaged to some chick from New York State. Barbara had dated and eventually married Lou but after a few years of marriage to Lou, Stanley and what’s her name split up and he and Barbara had a fling leading to her eventual break up with Lou. She confided much of this to Josh who would just nod, smile and be the ‘good friend’ until he got home and then get drunk and potentially cry.
“Yeah, I still love him, but time and living together has cleared some of the clouds of love away I guess.” She continued, adding, “Maybe we should just work on it.”
“Well, I hardly ever see you. How about lunch next week sometime, if you’re not too busy, and you can cry on my shoulder,” said Josh, always the good friend.
“I love it. I’ll give you a call. I’d have you call me, but Stan tends to get suspicious of our friendship and if YOU called ME, well,” she sighed, rolled her eyes and added, “I just would rather avoid the drama.”
“I fully understand. If I’m not available, of course just leave a message. We can meet during your lunch break, if you get one these days.”
“Don’t get me started,” she chuckled, though it was an exhausted chuckle.
A few days went by and Josh was starting to believe he wasn’t going to hear from Barbara. He’d check his phone, both his landline at home and his cell constantly to see if he’d missed a call. Nothing, nada, niente, bubkis. He checked his depression over the matter and just went about his daily routine. “Why stress?” he’d ask himself.
Then, on Tuesday, he was sitting in traffic and his cell phone went off. Normally he’d ignore it as he was behind the wheel, but the whole Barbara thing…
He looked and sure as hell, it was her. He answered, violating his cardinal rule about answering the phone while driving. NO WAY was he going to miss this call.
“Hello!” He triumphantly stated as he hit the ‘accept’ button.
“Hi, it’s Barbara.” She said, like he didn’t know. “So, we were going escort bayanlar to get lunch sometime this week, right?”
Josh had a sinking feeling that this was a brush off of some kind. However, being the consummate pessimist that he was and resigned to the fact that lunch would never happen, he said, “Ah, yeah. Can’t do it, eh?”
“No, no, not at all. I was wondering if we could do it tomorrow. The thing is, I’m going to be in Taunton on business and it’s, well, not close for either of us, but if we could do it there….”
Josh didn’t care if they met in Ontario, he’d be there, but he didn’t want to sound TOO enthusiastic. He let her statement sit in the air for a couple of seconds, gave a little throat clear, a small ‘hmmm’ and then said, in his most subdued tone, “Ah, yeah, I guess I could do that. I have to move a few things around but, screw it, you’re too good a friend. I could never let you down. You name the place and time, I’ll make it. Shit, I’ll ever pay for lunch and if we end up talking too long, I’ll spring for a hotel.”
He nearly shit himself at that last remark. Would she take it wrong, or RIGHT or….
Barbara laughed and said, “We’ll see how long we talk, OK?”
Josh managed to chuckle through the panic and agreed.
Once they got off the phone, now he really DID have to move a few things around. He pulled into a rest area and made few phone calls, one to his company saying he was sick as a dog and very much doubted he’d feel any better tomorrow. He would be sick for Wednesday. Hell, he’d be on his death bed.
Now to make an excuse to Mary Jane for not being around. She worked during the day so not being around at that time was easy, he’d just keep his mouth shut. But what if it got late? Oh who was he kidding, he and Barbara would be done with lunch early and he’d be home by 2:30 the latest. Taunton wasn’t THAT far from home. He still felt it important to pre-think his strategy and come up with SOMETHING that sounded plausible, just in case.
Just in case. Just in case a miracle happened. Just in case his fantasy came true. Just in case the earth stopped rotating for an hour or so and all life came to a standstill. Yup, he was really going insane.
He got home that evening and all was normal. A nice dinner with his beloved wife (and she really WAS his beloved wife) some TV and then, bed. He didn’t sleep well anticipating the next day. Mary Jane on the other hand was out like a light, gonzo and snoring like a Tiger Tank ripping through the Ardennes. (Josh was a history buff, he always used some kind of historical analogy). He listened to her snore and felt at peace. He really did love his wife, but HOLY HELL, he was overly infatuated, obsessed and consumed with Barbara.
The morning came and he and Mary Jane had a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon and English muffins. The coffee tasted especially good today for some reason. They kissed and as was the norm, Josh left first. His commute was much longer; 10 miles into the city. Mary Jane had to travel 3 miles into the neighboring town.
Josh wondered what he’d do with all this free time he now had. He drove to the nearest beach and just sat looking at the ocean. It was calm today, unlike Josh. He was antsy. He got out of his car and went down onto the beach and walked it. He had to have covered a mile or so up which meant a mile or so back. He was lost in his thoughts about Barbara and how lunch would go. What did she want to say to him? Was his life about to change? Was he OVER thinking this whole thing? He took off his shoes, rolled up his pants and stood in the water for several minutes, just enjoying the small waves brushing against his shins. He could see the occasional horseshoe crab a few feet away scurry through the water. He was mentally isolated, lost between thoughts of his current life, which he cherished and his desire for Barbara which had enveloped his very soul since junior high school, if not before. Part of him wanted to break down and weep for himself, but he had no control over this and just stood there staring into the water at his feet.
Finally, he got himself together, to some degree, and headed back for his car. He dried his feet as best he could (the lack of a towel made it tough) and brushed off the sand that had collected once he left the water. It was getting near the time he was to meet her so he slipped on his socks and shoes and headed towards Taunton. An easy 45 minute ride from where he was and he had an hour so, he could even get lost and still make it, HE HOPED!
Once outside the restaurant they had agreed upon, Josh took a huge deep breath, checked his pulse for reasons even he didn’t understand, got out and headed for the door. He entered only to find he was still about 10 minutes early. He took a booth, ordered a strong drink and waited, watching the door more intently than the guy behind the net watches for goals in hockey. He could feel his eyes straining and the occasional blink was almost painful.
Then, bağcılar escort she entered. Josh let out a fart and immediately was torn between being grateful for getting it out before she sat and wanting to die fearing it was only the first of several. Again, he took a very deep breath, smiled and waved. Barbara saw him immediately and made her was hastily to the booth.
“Oh, my God, have you been waiting long?” she asked as she slid into the bench seat opposite him.
“No, I got here about ten minutes ago. I was thirsty so I got a drink. Killed the time nicely,” he responded as he beemed at her. Oh that face, that lovely face. He examined her; her soft blond hair, still naturally blond after all these years, that soft skin, those immaculate teeth. Josh was on the verge of a spontaneous ejaculation when he caught himself, cleared his throat and looked at the TV screen on the wall which was showing sports highlights. He spoke, hesitantly, “So, you want something to drink?”
“Oh yeah, absolutely. I need a nice cold beer; anything but, well, you know the one beer I cannot drink.”
He ordered two good beers and they gazed at each other. Josh’s stomach was in knots which made it very difficult for the butterflies to move about. Barbara seemed so calm, you would think she had just taken a long nap.
“So, how are you?” she asked, very matter of factly.
“I’m OK. I’m sick today. Very sick. I could die,” he said but as soon as he saw the alarm in her face, he added, “Oh, as far as WORK is concerned. I’m as healthy as a sickly horse which has loads of life ahead of him in the next 2 weeks.” He laughed but Barbara just gave him that look that a dog gives you when it’s not sure just what the hell you mean. He took her hands and added, “I called in sick, but I’m FINE!”
Then he realized he had taken her hands and slowly took his back not wanting her to feel the perspiration.
The waitress brought the beer and they placed their orders. Barbara ordered a sirloin steak with fries. Josh came close to ordering a salad for appearance sake and then in his mind said, “Screw that, I want FOOD!” He ordered steak tips, WITH a salad (nice touch) and another round of beers.
The small talk was excruciating for Josh, but it was expected and necessary.
Once the food came, Josh was the one to break the ice by saying, “You wanted to talk to me. Talk.”
Barbara, chewing and loving this magnificent steak that she had heard about from a number of people was almost out of the solar system via flavor, but part of her actually heard Josh and with a few seconds to digest what he said, with the thought of digesting the steak in the back of her mind, she said, “Yeah, I did. How are you and Mary Jane? Are you happy? Is she?”
Josh found himself wanting to lie and say, “NO NO NO, WE HATE EACH OTHER. LOVE ME! WE’LL RUN AWAY TOGETHER AND BE HAPPY FOREVER!”
Josh, however could not lie. He said with a touch of apparent reluctance, “We’re happy. It’s not perfect. It seemed to be at first but the past few years have been slightly strained, however, she’s still one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known…ONE of…”
Barbara took another heavenly bite of steak, rolled her eyes and nearly climaxed. Then she refocused and said, “I thought Stan was THE ONE. For decades I figured he was the most incredible man alive. Then we got married and I was so blissful, I was like a helium balloon floating high above the world. After a few years I realized he’s far from perfect. Hell, he’s borderline obnoxious. He almost sucks and he’s a fucking chainsmoker. I’m not going to say I’m in hell, but purgatory’s lower section. I realized I’m…” she took another bite of the steak and sighed. As she did, she sort of waved Josh off as she chewed. Barbara actually felt herself getting a little moist between her legs. This was bizarre in an amazing way. Then she continued, “I realized I’m not as happy as I anticipated, hoped for or could imagine. I love the dickbag, but, oh shit, he’s such a disappointment.”
Josh wanted to stand up and declare his love, vowing to take her away from such a scoundrel, but he was in a booth and standing would require sliding out first which of course would lessen the impact. Plus his feelings for his own wife were still standing in the way. For so many years he had been treated by the women he adored as ‘the gay friend’ even though he was as straight as an arrow and for once he had an opening and he was at a loss for taking it. “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” screamed his mind, but outwardly he furrowed his brow and simply said, “I understand”
They talked for about an hour as both enjoyed their meals, Barbara definitely more than Josh and then, when the check came, Barbara said…
“So, this was wonderful. Thank you for being you. You’re a very special friend and always have been. I’ve always been able to turn to you and you’ve always come through.”
She sat and stared at him for a few awkward moments as Josh, feeling even more awkward, dug out his wallet and pulled out the cash. Better to not use the card and thankfully, he had withdrawn enough cash from his ‘other’ account, he could easily cover the bill and a decent tip. He tried not to notice her eyes fixated on him. It wasn’t easy.
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