I was mid-run on the treadmill. My face was dripping sweat at twenty-two minutes in. Halfway there. I focussed my gaze on a barren branch in the distance; one of the many in the thin strip of woods that separate the YMCA from the highway behind it. My music was blasting through my headphones as I steadied my breathing, focusing in and out on Gary and how whatever song I was listening to related to something, anything, that somehow had to do with him. This was a daily routine of mine; thinking about Gary as I ran to keep me motivated to push through my dripping sweat and collapsing lungs. But this time what motivated me was not my yearning for the past to become a reality, but rather the change that I said I wanted to come of the New Year.
Almost instantly my mood switched to anger and frustration. I didn’t want to miss Gary anymore. I didn’t want to wonder what he thought about me, if he even thinks about me at all. I wanted to know. I wanted to know if he does or doesn’t – and more than that, I needed to know if I ever wanted to move on. I needed to let go of this dead weight that’s been nothing but a pathetic, unrealistic idea of the reality that would never be true.
A bead of sweat dripped off my nose and I frantically wiped the back of my hand across my face to get rid of it although I knew it would be back in five seconds. Regardless, I found my hand reaching for the trigger to increase the speed. I picked up the pace by .2 miles per hour, then another, and another. Before I knew it I was running 7.5 miles per hour and I still had another twenty minutes to go. If I finish out these twenty minutes on this speed, I am texting Gary and asking him how he feels about me.
A promise is a promise. Not only had I proven to myself that I have enough endurance to make a step towards my new years resolution, but I had proven myself to be a stronger runner than I expected. I finished my forty-five minute run at eight miles an hour and ran a total of 5.36 miles.
The treadmill slowed down and I ran for an additional couple minutes to cool myself. I did it, it’s done. I felt better already. At that point there was no doubt in my mind that my promise was going to be fulfilled. There was no going back and by some amazing stroke of luck or fate or whatever it may have been, I was completely at peace knowing that his answer could potentially put me out of my Gary days forever. Yet at the same time I knew in my heart this would not be the case. I knew he still thought about me.
I made my way off the treadmill and over to my cubby where I left my things. I unscrewed the top of my water bottle and took a long, much-needed chug. As I put on my jacket and walked out, I whipped out my phone. I opened up a new message to Brain.
Me: Hayooo can I have Gary’s number? I’m ending my obsession.
Hours passed without an answer. I tried not to think about it. I didn’t even tell any of my friends what my plan was – other than Phoebe because we got smoothies that day – and that was mainly because I didn’t even know what the plan was myself. Then finally, after three long hours, Brain finally responded.
Brain: OOPS just saw this
Me: Ok thanks
My heart was racing but my head was steady. I knew exactly what I was doing and I was full of the perfect balance of confidence and fearlessness needed in order to pull it off. As soon as she sent me the number, I opened up a text and didn’t waste any more time.
Me: Hey Gary it’s Lacy Baker! I just needed to let u know that idk why but I can’t stop thinking about you and I know this is totally unfair to say to you bc u have had a gf for forever, but I needed to let u know so I can get over u if that’s how it has to be. Am I crazy or is there hope that we will ever be the way we used to be?
It took all of thirty seconds to develop that text. Everything I needed to say had been building up in my head for months- all I needed to do was get my fingers to write it out. As soon as I had it typed in my phone, I pressed send. I then proceeded to lock my phone and place it on the table next to me. Then, I casually continued to do my homework. I knew that no matter what his answer was going to be it would make me feel better than I had before; better than longing and wondering what he was thinking. I would finally know.
My phone vibrated and I quickly looked down at it. Gary Fitzgerald. God it’s been a while since I’d seen that name flash on my screen.
Gary: Hey Lacy you’re not crazy I think about you too sometimes! You have a boyfriend too right? But ya for now things are pretty good with my girlfriend but I would never say never. And I know that’s not necessarily what you wanna hear but it’s better than me saying never right? Maybe you wanted to hear no it’s never going to happen though so you can move on?
My head was spinning. It felt like the Fourth of July in my stomach. I couldn’t hold back the smile that spread across my face. I knew he thought about me too, I knew it.
Me: Hahaha yeah sorta.. But me and my boyfriend broke up back in September! I hate to say all this to you because of your girlfriend haha. I’m glad things are going well though 🙂
Gary: Yeah I understand its okay. I hate to talk about it too because I feel guilty but don’t rule it out. I think you’re really attractive still haha
Good to know all of those times at Brain and Sally’s parties weren’t all in my head; I guess he really was staring. And his girlfriend would totally kill me if she knew about this convo. It made me smile.
Me: Hahaha fuck well the feeling is mutual. I’m just glad I could get that off my chest
Gary: Yeah well we should keep in touch. Where are you going to college
He sent that last message at around 5:45 and we continued a solid conversation until he had to shower (was he trying to kill me?) at around 7:00. It was a really good feeling coming out of that conversation knowing that my gut was right. He did think about me, he did sometimes wonder about how I was doing just like I wondered about him (although maybe not quite as often), and he did still think I was attractive! Amongst all the butterflies and exploding firecrackers in my stomach, reality began to sink in.
He has a girlfriend, he goes to college, I’m going to be going to college (most likely in Virginia or some other far away state), and – it’s Gary Fitzgerald! Aka biggest flirt, aka guy who built me up and dropped me down, aka guy who will most likely do it again. Aka…I can’t go back. Not again. I know I shouldn’t. But it’s not simply a matter of knowing, it’s a matter of wanting; a combination of knowing what’s good for me and wanting what’s best at the same time. The only problem is I don’t want what’s good for me. If I did I would have never ended things with Ted.
My internal struggle continues to fester as time goes on. The longer it’s been since we’ve had that conversation, the more I know that he won’t keep in touch even though he said we should. But then again, what did I expect? We live different lives and he has never been one to keep a promise anyway. He is notorious for letting me down whether it be unintentional or simply a lack of caring.
I wish I didn’t care. I wish I wanted to get over him. Until then I will pray to God when this summer comes around and the opportunity arises, I pray that I won’t give in. I pray that I develop enough love and respect for myself to turn him down; to shoot down his expectations just like he has done to me ever since I’ve met him.
Until then I will dream of the day I meet another guy who will make me feel the way he did.