The rose smelled sharp, but not headache-inducing and dizzying like other men’s fragrances I’d come across before. It smelled clean, like soap and simplicity and a boy with a guitar and a slow smile whose lazy voice didn’t always hit the right notes, but always tugged the right heartstrings.
To say that I have a crush on this boy would be a gross simplification. What I feel for him is not love, or lust, or really anything I can attach a romantic label to. I like him, yes, but in the way I like nighttime rides through the city with the windows down or the hibiscus-raspberry tea (one honey; warm because it’s nearing Christmas; size depends on my mood) I order from Starbucks. To me, he is safe. Warm. Kind. Definitely not awkward. Which is more than I can say for the rest of the world, or at least the rest of the guy world.
Liking the boy is easy. Simple. Comfortable. I have never been gripped with the same awkwardness, same rush of head-spinning euphoria or heart-wrenching moments of despair that I have experienced with the other boys whose initials I’ve added to my daisy-chain of girlish crushes. Talking to him is as simple as saying hello and sliding into the seat beside him, and the conversation can go on for minutes or hours without me worrying that he doesn’t want to be there.
Being around him is easy. Too easy. Which is why I don’t think I have a crush on him. A crush, from experience, is a rush, an irrational “falling in.” Sometimes, it creeps up on you, but always, once you know it’s there, the symptoms arise in short order: giddiness, hyperactivity, a semi-permanent state of euphoria where the object is always on your mind and always painted in the most flattering light. It is a lot like love, but an imaginary love, with an imaginary lover. We only think he exists, but in truth we have merely borrowed the image and likeness of a person, and spun around him an ideal, a Mr. Perfect.
What I feel for the boy is not irrational. It is a liking based on qualities that I know exist. He is kind, soft-spoken, a bit of a nerd. He and I believe in the same God and in the same way. He likes music and streetdance. He is a boy’s boy, with the slight veneer of awkwardness that entails but an awkwardness that never seems to get in the way of a conversation with a more-awkward girl who hasn’t grown into her girl-ness yet, despite being legally an adult. Because of this, I like him. I don’t claim to love him. I don’t even claim to know him very well beyond the traits I have just mentioned.
But I like him, because he is one of the better boys I know, and because if I think really hard about it, compare him to my checklist, go over the criteria I have stocked up over years of daydreaming about the one, he comes very close. Closer, in fact, than the guys I have fallen for. He is not my Mr. Perfect, but he is my Mr. Almost Perfect.
Most of all, however, he is a friend.
In a world of crushes and hormones and searching for “the one,” a boy who is merely a friend, who is willing to be a friend even if he might be treading on the dangerous territory of befriending a girl who might have a preference for him–who very obviously has, in fact–is a valuable thing. It is a comfort of a different flavor, nothing like the rosy sweetness of a boyfriend, but comforting just the same in its goodwill for goodwill’s sake.
Most of all, it is comfortable to have a friend, just a friend, whom I know does not read a longing for romance in the lines of a good conversation. There is no pressure. I can be friends with Mr. Almost Perfect while waiting for the one.
I cradled that rose like it was the real thing. It was only paper. It had been easily given–a gift, a wish of “good luck” for a critical performance, a simple gesture of goodwill. I knew it didn’t mean anything, that his gift was the same as he was: nonchalant, easygoing. None of that mattered. It was a friend’s gift and he was a friend and, in that moment, a friend was all I needed.