Fool Me Twice?

Saturday morning at work, as I was getting settled in for the long day ahead, I checked my personal e-mail.

(It’s a day later, and I’m still wondering whether that was a mistake.)

In my inbox was the name of someone I was hoping not to hear from for a long time.

Over four-and-a-half-years ago, I had the (mis)fortune of meeting someone I’ve referred to on this blog as Shakespeare (because he’s a poet in real-life). Today from here on in, I’ll refer to him as “A”.

The meeting was completely random. I was leaving work; “A” was trying to find an optical for his glasses. He stopped me, and I tried to help him find his way.

And in the process, I suppose, he was trying to find something beyond my genuine attempts to be helpful.

Probably against my better judgment, I gave him my phone number when he asked. I was trying to be more open-minded towards people … ignoring the invisible red flag, furiously waving in the process.

What an awkward “relationship”, for lack of a better word. Requests for photos, multiple e-mails, instant messages, and always wanting to meet up when he was in town from Ottawa.

To me, it was never romantic. I was trying to keep it an arms-length friendship until I felt comfortable. To “A”, I suppose, he was trying to make it more than that.

He told me in his academic, flowery way that he wanted to pursue something. I didn’t get it at first. When he told me again, I said no, not really.

Our encounters were, thankfully, sparse. But I think I still had this nagging feeling whenever he wanted to meet. I even once invited a friend along to a hang-out, so I could get her read on things. Of all the times we did meet, I think only one didn’t feel so uncomfortable.

In my recollections, things came to a head when, one evening in June 2007, “A” wanted to meet for dinner after going to some literary event. Me, like the nice person (and likely sucker) I am, I agreed.

When the appointed meeting time rolled around, I called, and asked if he was running late. He was still at the event. Could we meet in about 45 minutes?

I ended up calling him again, and waited almost another hour (roughly 90 minutes in total) for him to show up.

A more sensible person would have bid him adieu after an hour. But no, I (the doormat) was a woman of my word. He wanted to meet. And I didn’t want to reschedule.

My mood was sour, and “A’s” was, I guess, somewhat jovial. When he said something that I found completely strange, I – peeved at having to wait, generally uncomfortable at this whole situation, and not really knowing how to properly handle it because I’m socially inept – blew up at him, and told him I didn’t have feelings for him, and never would. He called me conceited, and played it off like he wasn’t interested.

To this day, I don’t fully believe him.

Since then, I’d get occasional e-mails from him, but I kept my answers short.

The last time he was in town – and, coincidentally, in my place of business, maybe a year or two ago – he called me and asked if I could grab a coffee. I said I was busy.

This epic background explanation is what brings me to Saturday’s e-mail.

“We have not been in touch for a while,” it began. “Did you travel, or move up on the career ladder as you always wanted?”

He went on to ask about a friend of mine he’d once met, asked for my number, gave me his, and concluded the e-mail by writing, “My phD (sic) is about done. I think in march. Then i can take a holiday in Toronto, and we can hang out if you re free.”

And here’s where I’m divided over what to do next.

On one hand, it’s been over four-and-a-half-years. I’m older. So’s he (although he was older than me to begin with). And while it’s still hard for me to just come out and say things, I’d like to think I’d be able to handle things slightly better than I did the last time.

And perhaps, although people can become set in their ways, in some aspects, they can change. Maybe I can put what happened aside once and for all, and I can meet up with him once to see if we can finally relate to each other, as people, as is.

On the other hand, just because one forgives, doesn’t necessarily means one forgets. And I haven’t forgotten. I allowed an unsure, unclear interpersonal relationship to transpire. And it was AWKWARD. And I blame myself for that. Plus, this guy no longer has a Ph.D. in Ottawa to hold him back – or to allow me the 400-kilometre buffer to live my life here in Toronto.

What if I hang out with him, and it’s the same thing, all over again? Just the thought of that “what if” kind of infuriates me.

So, for now, that e-mail’s going to sit unanswered until I figure this out.