I called my friend Miguel. He was the guy I had crushed on in the past who allowed for me to discuss it with him when I was feeling bummed. I told him what Eddie had said and asked him what on earth he thought I should make of it.
I told him that I wished that Eddie would have just "ripped off the band-aid" and not left me room to dream. I wanted him to say "I'm sorry, I just don't like you like that and I never will. Now, let's be friends." That would have stung, but it would have been definitive.
Miguel heard me out and then simply stated, "I think there needs to be a change instigated by you if you are ever to learn anything."
I was a little horrified that he might have been right. I felt stuck between so many evils. Should I call him out again to get a straightforward "No."? Or should I just spare my dignity but allow myself to remain in the torment that having an inkling of hope brings?
Occasionally, I would have to share a sidewalk with Eddie on my way to class because our new dorm situation was such that he now lived right across the street from me. When I was in Australia, he had tried to talk me into moving into the same dorm as him when I got back. I (despite feeling totally flattered) couldn't imagine a circumstance in which that would have worked out well, so I had declined.
As I prepared to head up the hill to my dorm, one afternoon, I looked up and saw Eddie driving past me in his SUV. I was so excited to see him that I slipped on the pine-needles under my feet and literally face-planted right in the dirt. When I sat up, my books and papers were piled up around me. I rubbed my eye and chuckled at how silly it all was.
Sometimes, if the timing was just perfect, there would be nothing for it but for Eddie and I to walk to class together. It was either that or pretend we didn't notice each other, which would have been blatantly obvious due to the whole problem of being right next to each other and headed for quite some time in the same direction. I supposed I could have pulled the ol' "see him and then turn, run in the opposite direction and then hide behind a tree until I thought it was safe to come out again" but (let's face it), there's just no way to come out of that looking graceful.
It took a while to get to the "run and hide" point with him, though. So at first, I was happy when I ran into him like that, even though conversation was becoming more and more difficult to forge through.
It was like I was talking with a different person than the one I had said farewell to pre-Oz. I would say "I miss my friends in Australia so much!" and he would furrow his brow at me and say, "Why?". I would furrow my brow right back and say, "When you miss someone, it means they are dear to you!", and he would look annoyed and say, "It means something."
I was so dismayed. "It means I love them, Eddie."
Another day, my best friend, Star, came to see me with her little almost-two-year-old, Adelaide. I was so ecstatic to have her on campus with me. She lived a good 45 minutes away, and as a single mom with so much to keep up with, it wasn't often that she could escape to come visit.
Eddie had often spoken, in the past, of his love for little ones. I had witnessed his eyes sparkling at them in our pre-Australia church searching escapades. I was pretty stoked for him to meet Adelaide, since I was positive she was the cutest toddler in the world. I was also excited for him (and the Hanwells) to meet Star, since I was well aware that Star was pretty much a super hero.
(See? Aren't they so lovely? These are my dear ones.)
The Hanwells loved them. They brought a box of stuffed animals and children's books down from upstairs for Adelaide to play with and hit it off beautifully with Star. Eddie, on the other hand, looked stressed out. I could tell he was annoyed at Adelaide's toddler jargon while he was trying to teach. He almost had a look of panic and outrage when she untied his shoelaces and pulled the tongue out of his sneaker.
He didn't want to get to know them. It didn't matter how fantastic and wonderful they were.
I was becoming increasingly suspicious that my friend Eddie had been kidnapped and replaced by some kind of freak malfunctioning alien robot.
Wednesday night rolled in again and found us all sitting on the floor in the Hanwell's living-room. Genvieve came in and put our tiny church's tiny "tithe jar" in front of us, joyfully announcing, "You are this church's elders because you have been here the longest. We've got close to $300 in tithe money here and it's up to you to pray and decide what we should do with it!"
After much deliberation and prayer, we decided that we should just take the money, third it up, and stick it randomly under doors in various dorms. Who knew how much the recipients might actually need it? We trusted it would bless someone, and that's all we really wanted. Eddie went off with Rosie and Josh to accomplish this mission.
I don't think that was the last time Eddie showed up at church... but the slow fade out had begun.
More and more often my peeking out the glass on the living room door was in vain. By the middle of the semester, he wasn't coming anymore. He wasn't calling. He wasn't communicating with me, or with anyone else in our friendship circle. It was like he dumped all of us.
I stubbornly clung to the belief that he still cared about us all very much, and really, he must be so busy.
I was talking to Star on the phone one night and I spied Eddie and one of his soccer friends on their way up the sidewalk. I quickly formulated a plan. I was going to test him. I was going to prove once and for all that he really wasn't avoiding me.
Eddie and his friend and I were the only people out on that part of campus that night. If I left quickly, I could hop up the stairs and come out in the middle of the sidewalk just in front of Eddie and his friend. I would just keep talking to Star and looking ahead, pretending not to notice that they were directly behind me. Eddie would give my shoulder a sweet little squeeze and say hello as they passed me, like he always had done in situations like that in the past, and I would be reassured. Maybe we would even hang out a little and catch up. Maybe I would have a chance to "instigate a change", as Miguel had suggested.
This was the best idea I'd ever had, I just knew it!
I trucked up the stairs without glancing back at them and came out just in front of them as I had hoped.
They didn't acknowledge my existence in the least.
They did, however, continue to walk less than 2 feet behind me for another seven minutes or so before they crossed the street onto another sidewalk and went off in another direction.
This was the worst idea I'd ever had! Why did I think that was going to end well?! I sighed a great sigh, plopped onto a concrete stair, dropped my forehead onto a metal railing and began explaining to Star about what had just happened.
That was when it finally came rushing in and hit home. Our friendship was in shambles. Normalcy was not being restored. It was even possible that he hated my everlovin' guts.