what’s real, what’s not.

It’s been an interesting week.

On Sunday night I went to watch for northern lights with a friend I’ve hung out with before.

I’ve gotten confused since I’ve been here about what constitutes boundaries when loads of cultures get tossed together. Swedes don’t like to be touched. A German guy paid for my drink, told me I’d rejected him, and then when I explained I had a boyfriend, added that of course he had a girlfriend. (Of course.)

On the dock, watching for northern lights, my friend tried to kiss me.

I ducked away in time, but of course it wasn’t over.

I’d hung out with this friend before, yes. One-on-one, yes. On one occasion when he invited me to do something, I said, “Sure! Who else will be there?” when I knew that was not the plan. But after that once, I didn’t bother. This friend, according to his Facebook, is engaged. His Facebook and WhatsApp profile pictures are of him with his girlfriend; his phone background is a picture of her; he has a bundle of letters marked open when… on his bookshelf.

And yet he is sufficiently unhappy in that relationship to try to kiss someone else.

Not to mention the havoc wrought when I told my boyfriend.

It was badly timed, badly phrased (though in fairness to me there is hardly an effective way to explain to your boyfriend that you were stupid enough to allow another guy to think it was okay to kiss you). I spent a rough day in my pajamas watching the Big Bang Theory and waiting for him to wake up again.

Joy cometh at 8:30 pm in the evening in the form of a three-hour phone call.

Basically, though, love, forgiveness and tears aside, the whole episode made me think about authenticity.

My friend seems to have a good relationship with his girlfriend. I know a lot of people – and I may have been those people – who would have considered it proof of eternal love for their significant other to have a profile picture featuring the both of them. The “Open When” letters are considered by the Internet to be the height of adorable love.

And yet, in their case, he isn’t happy and he tried to kiss someone else.

Meanwhile, neither my boyfriend nor I feature in each other’s Facebook profile pictures. That doesn’t mean we have a better relationship than my friend does with his girlfriend, but I am certain we do.

The very day after the phone call that saved everything, I was on my way to a game night with some friends and decided, apropos of nothing, to check my mailbox on the way out.

What did I find but a small packet from Pocatello.

Many waters cannot quench love.

And also there is nothing quite so romantic as an air mail sticker on a love letter.

 

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