I’d known Daniel for a while. Wait, let’s go back. When a mutual friend introduced me to Daniel, it was at that point that I knew him to be a stranger. Which is to say, he was a person I now knew to be in existence, but didn’t know beyond that. But then! The next time that I saw him! I… well I didn’t remember having met him before and thought that he was just crossing that existence-to-stranger threshold again for the first time. But then he reminded me that we’d met before. I’ll never forget what he said… something like “No yeah, we’ve met before.” Something like that.
I didn’t know it then, but I would be destined to like him, then ignore him, then lose him, then totally fall head over heels for him. My official “backup guy” became my very first “the one who got away.”
Slowly but surely, Daniel and I became part of the same group of friends. Then, slowly, like a flower opening its petals, Daniel and I sort of became friends independent of these people. I called him “Dave” for three weeks before he felt comfortable enough to tell me, “Actually it’s Daniel.” We would hang out from time to time. I didn’t think of these outings as dates. He was, you know, okay I guess. But he wasn’t my idea of whom I thought I’d end up with. He wasn’t really into planning his life beyond the job he currently had, a position I wasn’t sure he even liked. So that concerned me. He wasn’t into the same music as I was. In fact, he hated Taylor Swift. But mostly, he didn’t look like Zac Efron. That was a huge red flag.
Despite those dealbreakers, Daniel would occasionally say something memorable. Not memorable-memorable, or anything. I wasn’t listening that hard. But I sort of remember the general idea of what he said. Now, I remember every single word that came from his mouth after he left my life forever.
Last year at Friendsgiving, Daniel was passing me the sweet potatoes when his hand lingered on mine, and we locked eyes. It was nothing short of decent. I thought to myself, “Wow, he really could be it. He could be my ‘backup guy.’” If I had a wedding to go to and needed a date and hadn’t found my soulmate yet, Daniel would do. He seemed like he could wear a suit. Or if someone bailed on me last minute to go to the movies, I bet Daniel would be down to go. He had lots of free time.
And one day, that’s just what happened. After the movie, we got drinks. There, something just shifted. It felt like he could possibly be more than just my backup guy. I suddenly found myself thinking romantic things, like, “Maybe I can get him to listen to Taylor Swift,” We made out that night and from there, started dating.
But then the relationship got hard. People say, “Relationships are work,” and so I went to work! I tried to get Daniel to be more ambitious, to find a job he really liked. But he was all like, “What are you talking about? I really like my job.” Blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t convinced and kept pushing. I was really doing such a good job. I tried to get him to just give Taylor Swift a chance, but he “just couldn’t get into it.” What can you do with that kind of ignorance? That lack of taste? And then I tried to put him on this Zac Efron workout and hair-grooming routine, FOR HIS OWN GOOD, and it all fell apart.
Now that Daniel’s gone, I’ve spent so much time looking back on my whole trajectory with him. First, he was a stranger, then he was my backup, then he was my boyfriend. And now, I fear that he is “the one who got away.” When Daniel broke up with me, he told me that he was going to try and forget that I existed… but I mean, really, would it kill him to do some sit-ups and cut his hair every now and then?
It’s like Taylor Swift always says: “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.” I’ve been playing that song on repeat.