They were male pants.
I’d worn them home one slushy, sleeting, snowy night in December and they had been sitting on the shelf in my entryway ever since.
That’s what they were. But what they signify–what finally mailing them to their rightful owner means–is much more important.
Once a relationship is over, I am never under the impression that we will ever get back together. It’s not because of an attempt to preserve some dignity; anyone who’s read even a little of my writing knows I have no interest in that. It’s just that I recognize if there’s a reason you break up, that reason probably isn’t going to just suddenly disappear one day (of course, going on a break is different).
But regardless of the circumstances of a relationship’s demise, I always want to be friends with the other half.
Is it practical? Maybe not. Does it happen for me? Hardly ever. But I still desperately want it.
So when I managed to construct a flimsy friendship with the owner of the pants, I clung to it. Sure, I was basically forcing this guy to hang out with me so I could pretend we were actually friends, despite the fact that I could tell he didn’t really want to be. But I had convinced myself that finally, here was someone who had once liked me and decided he no longer wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, yet still thought I was good enough to remain in his life. It sounded so simple to me.
Is it some kind of sickness? Do I have some sort of disease that spurs me to create clumsy scenarios in my mind of what friendship is and then try to live them out in real life even though I’m the only one who’s playing along?
Maybe. Probably. I suspect that’s the only explanation for why I crave connections so badly–with guys I’ve kissed, guys I’ve dated, guys I’ve loved, guys I’ve lived with. Because I think most people can eventually learn to tell themselves that a friendship just isn’t going to happen and, more significantly, be okay with that.
Mailing the pants is a symbol that for once, I’m accepting the fact that the owner doesn’t want to be my friend. I didn’t include a note saying, “Here are your pants; put them on and come meet me in the park.” I didn’t drop off the pants in person and say, “Well, since I’m already here, we should totally hang out.” I didn’t send a ransom email saying, “If you ever want to see your pants again, have a drink with me.” I just decided that this time, I was going to stop wishing that a person who was once in my life would someday return to it.
It’s not specifically this pants person, either, that I’m letting out of my “you must be my friend” grasp. While it’s true that if any of the people who no longer notice I exist suddenly contacted me and asked to be friends, I’d say yes in an instant, I’m not going to keep them on any sort of abstract “people I’d like to be my friend” list. Consider them, from this moment on, released from the responsibility of being humans I long to reconnect with.
I don’t have a lot of friends, and I doubt that will ever change. But the ones I do have want to be friends with me, and that means something. It means I will never have to mail their pants to them, and that’s a spectacular piece of knowledge to have.