Here we have the most pre-written (and no doubt rewritten) blog post so far!
So one Saturday I stood in place a short distance away, and watched a bride walk down the aisle towards me. This was always going to happen eventually. I knew that one day an old crush or flame would call upon me to celebrant at their wedding.
And in a way, I knew it was always going to be HER.
I remember another Saturday, far too long ago now, before I moved into the Mansion but while my friends Stu & Alyce still lived there, we arranged to meet at the local sports club, our regular haunt, for a few drinks.
However, as the time to meet grew near our friend Sangas had messaged to, once again, change the venue to his flat, as this was where we’d been continously hanging out at his and his girlfriend’s insistence for the last month or so both Alyce (Stu was out of town for a gig) and I were annoyed at having to go there again when the promise of the club had been made earlier in the evening.
When Alyce’s friend Autumn texted to see what she was up to, we decided to blow Sangas & his girlfriend off and go to the originally planned venue, especially as we could meet Autumn there now.
Being single I instinctively asked what I always asked at the time. It was a question of great forethought and intellect.
“Is Autumn hot?”
Alyce confirmed she was.
We met Autumn at the club and Alyce was right. Not only being hot, Autumn was also a lovely girl, friendly, personable, good sense of humour, did not act awkward about meeting a friend of a friend whom she’d never met before – even inviting me to a party at her house that was taking place a few weeks later.
(I wouldn’t be able to go – for two reasons, the first was Sangas was holding a fundraising trivia night the same night… the second we’ll get to shortly)
Over the next few weeks I would make every effort to go hang out with Autumn whenever Alyce did. A small part of me was so determined not to screw this up, I tried to date one of Alyce’s friends before and it had ended badly. So this time I made sure that Alyce was okay with it before I proceeded, and with helpful encouragement from her, I did. She even deliberately arranged a bowling night with the intention that I could get to know Autumn better.
Autumn brought a guy friend with her. Whilst Autumn was insistent he was simply a friend of the family, this would be the first hint that the ladder I was sitting on was not the ‘Relationships Ladder’ but the ‘Friends Ladder’.
(For a brief description of what I’m talking about with the Ladders check here:
However fully aware if I didn’t make a move soon I would most certainly be on that Friends Ladder I psyched myself up to ask out a girl. And one day after work I called.
Let me tell you now: I suck at girls.
Despite the fact I’m still single, I think I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, but this was not in the ‘a lot better’ period. This was in the ‘I wince a little when I think about it’ period.
So I called Autumn.
She picked up. She didn’t have my number, so I had to say who I was, and that was where it all went horribly wrong.
Oh Past Liam. While ‘mind vomit’ is a lot less of an issue now (unless alcohol is involved) it was then.
So it went like this:
“Hey Autumn, this is Liam. Alyce’s friend.”
Autumn seemed surprised, and a little confused to be hearing from me.
“Hey Liam, what’s up?”
It seemed so simple. Ask her to come to see the musical Alyce was in with me. Just her and me. She was going to go see it anyway. Half the work was already done. So simple. It would relatively hard to screw this up.
Don’t worry, I found screwing it up quite easily.
“So…. I was calling to see… to ask if wanted to go with me to see Alyce’s musical?” I did pause at the end of that sentence. Whether it was very long or it just seemed like a very long time I’ll never know. But after I paused at the end of the sentence I swear Autumn was silent for a while. Knowing full well what a ‘long pause’ normally meant when you asked a girl out… I panicked. And immediately wanted to fill the silence.
“This was just a long winded way of me asking you out,” I added. In case she didn’t know. It is not wise to say this. Especially not in that way. Not for a 23 year old male.
Another long pause. I opened my mouth to stick my incredibly small feet in there even further in there when Autumn finally spoke and saved me from further embarrasment.
“I’d really like to hang out with some more Liam…. just as friends though.”
As the link above describes. This is what we call doing an unintentional ladder jump. From the Friends Ladder on to the Relationships Ladder. However, as with most ladder jumps, instead of making to the Relationships Ladder I instead was kicked in the head and plummeted straight into the Abyss.
I awkwardly got off the phone call. Grabbed a six pack of cider. Drove to an old dirt road in the middle of nowhere and drank the entire six pack. Being a complete light weight this wrote me off so I went to sleep in the backseat of my car and called in sick to work the next day.
When I recounted the tale, word for word, to Alyce she appropriately responded
“I can’t believe you said that.”
I know. I couldn’t either. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Even worse, we still had to go see Alyce’s musical together, since we were both going anyway. As friends.
A small part of me, with encouragement from Sangas that I could ‘turn this around’ (I couldn’t) hoped that perhaps I could work my way on to the Relationships Ladder from there.
The non-date pretty much cemented in my mind that wasn’t an option. Though we got along as friends I could tell the chemistry I wanted to be there was pretty one sided. Autumn ended the night early, straight after the musical, and I went drinking with Stu & Alyce.
And logically, everything should’ve ended there. She wasn’t interested. We would never be anything more than friends. I wish I could tell my past self that would never change.
In retrospect, I think a small part of me clung the idea that it might. Unfortunately, after everything that happened, I rarely hung out with Autumn after that night. We were friends on facebook. Something which probably kept the less sane part of mind hung up on her.
Months went by. Months.
There WERE other girls. I asked out other girls. I got shot down. But for some reason, my thoughts kept coming back to Autumn.
It was stupid. And lame. And potentially a little creepy. And I knew all this.
When many months later I realised how much of an idiot I was being, I unfriended her on facebook. It was much easier to get over someone if constant reminders weren’t popping up all the time.
Besides, it had gotten beyond a joke now. Even I never mentioned it to my friends because I couldn’t justify still being hung up on someone after so long.
It’s time to talk about this great ability I have, that I don’t have complete control over, to compartmentalize things. It’s probably why I so succesfully worked at so many different locations in one of my old jobs, I was able to lock stuff away in my mind and not think about it until I needed to.
At some point or another, that happened with Autumn.
Without a constant reminder (the curse of facebook) the memory of her became locked away in my mind.
Until Alyce’s a birthday party over a year later.
It was literally only a couple of days before Alyce’s party that I flicked over the facebook event to see who else was going. Alyce & Stu are two of my closest friends so I knew most of the people coming anyway which is why I hadn’t bothered to look.
Autumn was right at the top of the list.
And in the back of my mind, that box got ripped open and everything hiding away in there came creeping back in.
I remember looking in the mirror and noting how much weight I’d put on recently. Cursing myself for not exercising more. Hating that a girl I once harboured a long crush on would now see me in a worse physical conditon than she had previously.
It won’t be so bad. I told myself. Plenty of people at the party. Chances are you’ll barely see her.
I did see her. I spent most of the party with her. Autumn hadn’t known many of the other people there, so when saw me we stayed hanging around each other all night. She didn’t stay so late because she had to pick her current boyfriend from another party.
I brought up me asking her out the previous year at one point. She had no memory of it.
That bruises my ego a little. I thought. But at least she didn’t feel awkward around me.
She invited me to her farewell party that was happening the following week. She was going to England FOR TWO YEARS. Even after she left the rest of the night was awesome. Even the hangover the next day was bearable.
Ah, my ability to compartmentalize things worked great that night. I awoke the next day a little hungover, but happy that I’d had a good night out. I drove to Stu & Alyce’s to help them clean up after the party.
I remember rolling up a massive extension cord when my phone rang. The number wasn’t in there.
And the box in my head sprang open surprising even me.
“It’s Autumn,” a voice in my head said hopefully. “After last night she realises she wants to be more than friends.”
The flood of emotions surprised even me. Even that part of me saying that. I was over her, wasn’t I? Apparently not.
It wasn’t Autumn.
It was a couple calling about a wedding.
And now the box was open and I once again fallen for a girl who not only had a boyfriend, had rejected me once before, but was also about to go to ENGLAND FOR TWO YEARS.
I spent the next week in a weird emotional state. Hating the situation. Hating myself for bringing this on to myself.
Hating myself for re-adding her on facebook that night at Alyce’s party.
Autumn went to England.
And stayed in my thoughts for far too long.
Once again, there were other girls. In fact, a girl I worked with, Jenna, made me forget all about Autumn for a long period of time.
When I got a new job, I asked Jenna out.
She turned me down too.
The abyss isn’t so bad. I should build a house there.
And then somewhere in the haze of the Jenna rejection, the failing at the new job and having to return to my old one, a newly single Autumn came back from England.
I never told anyone, but I had a plan.
And win her over.
(I still sucked at girls. I realise now this wasn’t a wise mindset, but I was less experienced then. )
I think this plan lasted about a month.
By then Autumn wasn’t single anymore. And wouldn’t be again.
And I wish that was the end of the story.
But it’s not. We know where this story ends.
I heard along the grapevine that she’d met the new boyfriend when she’d bought a car upon her return to Australia.
Years later I would find out she actually met him at a Bachelor & Spinsters ball.
During the early days of their relationship, part of me clung to the hope that maybe it wouldn’t work out.
However a few months in I was at Stu & Alyce’s house, and she was on the phone to her friend Maggie, and she mentioned Autumn was moving in with her boyfriend. To the town he lived in. A good three hours away.
And look, I knew that night in that moment, even before that moment, that nothing was ever going to happen with Autumn. I guess that reality of it never sank in until even the vague possibility of it never happening was completely destroyed.
I put on a facade at Stu & Alyce’s house that I was okay with it. In my head I wasn’t.
I went to the shops on the way home to pick up some groceries. While my mind wandered through a valley of self hate and acceptance of the situation the universe decided to surprise me even more.
That same night I found out Autumn was moving away, I walked out of the supermarket to find Autumn sitting on a bench waiting for her sister. So I sat down and talked with the girl who was completely unaware of the fact I’d harboured a crush on for years.
We talked about her moving away. We talked about Stu & Alyce’s upcoming wedding. We talked about how I was going to be Groomsbrant. (Groomsmen/Celebrant) In my head, I knew where the conversation was going.
Don’t say it. A voice in my head silently begged her. Please don’t say it.
But the universe seemed to have long since decided my life needed to resemble a romantic comedy. So the next words out of Autumn’s mouth were:
“When Brendan and I get married, you’re so being our celebrant.”
I think that wedding could potentially kill me.
Despite that, I held that night positively in my memory for a long time. As though the universe was granting one more chance alone with her, sitting outside woolworths waiting for her sister while we ate cabanossi and salami. (For a long time after that, both cabanossi and salami always brought back fond memories of that night)
There’s this line in one of my favourite songs, “Almost” by Bowling for Soup, it goes like this:
…and I almost got popped for a fight with a thug
that almost made off with a bunch of the drugs
that I almost got hooked on ’cause you ran away
and I wish I would’ve had the nerve to ask you to stay.
I’ve often thought back on that night, wondering if I should’ve said something then. Even though I know now it would’ve been a tragically sad end to the story.
Though, two or so years later, I never would’ve been celebrant at her wedding, so MAYBE, just MAYBE, that wouldn’t have been so bad….
When Autumn got engaged the initial announcement on facebook effected more than anyone ever knew. One person did. Rachel Merz, my friend, I told her because she was online after I got back from my run.
I’d been sore from the run I’d done a couple of nights earlier, and was planning to skip the run that night, but reading “Autumn Pearce is engaged” spurned me to go for a run to clear my head.
In the days to come though, I would accept it. A part of me was even happy for her. If she was truly in love and it would be a dick move not to be.
“It’s weird,” Alyce told me frankly. Who has full rights to say ‘I told you so’ now.
“It’s not.” I argued, because I’d convinced myself it wasn’t. “It’s perfectly normally, I’m a completely sexless entity to her, she’s forgotten I even asked her out that time. I’m the completely sexless should to cry on.”
“It’s still weird. You shouldn’t do it.”
“It’ll be fine.” I stubbornly told her. “Besides, she wants me to be her celebrant so much she’s willing to change the date of the wedding to suit my schedule.” I totally rocked that ‘friend zone’ thing.
Alyce was right. It was weird. But because I didn’t have a problem with it when Autumn initially asked me, I didn’t give it a second thought. I was sure I was okay with it.
In a way, it would be fitting in my mind. If I wasn’t going to marry her myself, then at least I could confirm she getting her happily ever after by my hand.
What I hadn’t realised then was that nifty ability I mentioned earlier to compartmentalise stuff had kicked in.
It would be a solid year later, when the wedding plans were firm and I actually sat down to write the ceremony…. And that’s when I realised it bothered me.
It bothered me a lot.
And the worst part is: I’d gone past the point of no return.
Arguably from the moment she’d been willing to change the date of her wedding to suit me, that was when any sort of backing out became awkward.
Also: the wedding was out of town.
Also: they organised accommodation for me the night beforehand.
So I stayed at the same venue as the majority of the wedding guests, trying to blend in. It was a little awkward but not so bad.
And the wedding wasn’t so bad. I feel ashamed to admit that once, just once, the groom made a statement in the wedding preparations I didn’t agree with and a voice instead of me snapped ‘If it had been me I wouldn’t be like that.’
But it wasn’t me. Autumn had fallen in love with this guy. Not me. He was who she choose. And on their wedding day, I was okay with that.
The ‘celebrant me’ kicked in as I helped set up for the wedding. During the ceremony. When they kissed. All was well.
But I would be lying if the urge to get the hell out of here and embark on the two hour drive home the moment the ceremony ended wasn’t overwhelming.
Also: the universe wasn’t quite finished laughing at my expense.
On the very same weekend I called a girl I’d gone on a date with a few days earlier, seeing if she wanted to go on a second date.
She gave me a familiar long speech, about how I was a great guy, and was really easy to talk to, in fact, she said, it had been a while since she met someone she could really like open up to and talk without a filter like she could with me.
Though, it would seem, that wasn’t enough: she said our ‘relationship’ would only be platonic. This conversation had happened before. Numerous times. And numerous times I’ve been okay with being ‘the friend’. But ever since Autumn asked me to be her celebrant, I fervently put a stop to the notion of being someone’s friend after they’ve turned me down romantically.
Because clearly if I remained friends I’d be celebrant at their wedding five years later watching them marry someone else.