Have you ever been involved with someone or had a friend who sends mixed messages? This has been a confusing year but a year filled with good conversation and fun. I met my “friend 15 months ago, just two months after his wife had died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was drained and exhausted from chasing the tail of elusive cures and many long days and nights comforting and caring for her. He found my ad online and wrote me a message explaining the situation up front and stating he just needed a friend and conversation partner, nothing more.

We spent one evening every weekend, dinner, sometimes a movie or even an occasional afternoon bike ride talking. I encouraged him to join a grief group, he resisted saying he had dealt with his loss already over the many months in anticipation of her death but i had had friends who had gone through the process and knew it was so much more and could be really helpful in getting your life back and rejoining the world left behind. There were many pleasant evenings, he finally did join a group and expressed appreciation for my persistence. I also benefitted from the conversations, discovering that I had many things I needed to unburden myself from. I was living with a mentally ill adult son and my mother had died eight months earlier after living with me for the past eight years as her dementia progressed. I got very comfortable with having a good friend and confidant and had successfully turned off the part of my brain that would enable me to see him as anything more than a friend, kind of like a husband of someone I knew, off limits, unavailable.

A few weeks into the relationship, and I call it that in the broadest sense of the word, when he walked me to the door and said goodnight, instead of our usual friendly hug, he asked for a kiss. It was a chaste kiss like the ones I gave and got from my sons and I was relieved. I had gotten very comfortable with the lack of any of the usual sexual tension on a “date”.

Months later we had developed a routine, a call mid week to determine what the plan for the weekend would be, a brief chat about what was going on in our lives, then the weekend get together and a perfunctory kiss goodnight. I was comfortable and even enjoying the distraction from the stresses of my daily life and being pampered with dinner and wine at some of the better places. He like good food and enjoyed many of my favorite diversions including opera, all the things I had been missing due to my austerity budget and not really being comfortable with doing everything alone.

The first curve ball came at me when we went to an art show and as we strolled through the long aisles of displays set up by the various artists. We shared out likes and interests and discovered many similarities in our experiences over the years with this particular event. We each encountered several people we knew and were often mistaken for a couple but neither of us was uncomfortable. There was a jeweler there who had create some beautiful, unusual geometric rings that fit together to create a multiple or could be worn singly. They were in a variety of golds and had genuine gemstones in many colors. I couldn’t resist asking some questions about the artist and the designs. The first thing I knew, the man behind the counter was pulling out a particularly beautiful and unusual one, long, with pale blue topaz and deep purple amethyst stones set in a white gold.

“Go ahead try it on, you have the perfect fingers for this piece, nice and long…” he said.

My friend had walked over and was standing beside me.

“Go ahead”, he said, “let’s see how it looks”.

I slipped the ring over my finger, it was a perfect fit and looked delicious, the perfect complement to my hands and coloring. After admiring the look and the beauty of the workmanship I quickly took it off, feeling awkward with sharing this sensual activity my androgynous friend. As we left the display he said,

“You know I’ve been trying to think of something to get you for Christmas, would you like one of those rings”?

I was at a loss or words, of course I was excited by the offer, like a little girl being offered an unattainable gift but also chilled by the confusion of the dramatic shift in my perception of our relationship. I thanked him but said no, it was too much, very thoughtful but not an appropriate gift under the circumstances. He said he could afford it but understood and guessed I was right. Later, lying in bed that night I rethought the events of the evening and told myself not to make too much out of it or read something into it that wasn’t there. He had been clear from the beginning that he just wanted a companion. My mind wandered and I took another look at him but decided I had crossed the threshold of being able to be attracted to this person many months ago and it would be like getting involved with my brother to shift gears now…

At couple of months later in the early spring I got an email from the LA Opera announcing the upcoming performances. I was aching for a get away, the winter doldrums had done their work. Without much thought, in passing I mentioned the opera to my friend, suggested we might like to go, get away from our respective baggage and have a fun few days out of town. I told him about the trips I’d taken with my coffee club to Chicago and LA  in the past for artist exhibitions and how much fun it had been. Then I added how much I had enjoyed train travel to LA as well. He seemed interested and said he’d let me know.

I hadn’t heard any more and decided not to push it when he called one evening mid week and after our conversation planning our weekend get together there was a long pause.

“You know, the trip to the opera is very appealing…but I need to be clear, I don’t want any misunderstandings…uh, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. If you’re thinking we would stay together I want to make it clear that I’m not comfortable with that, My wife and I lived together before we were married and I never felt right about that, it was just something that happened because of problems with my first marriage and a custody battle”.

I was shocked, then angry.  I told him in no uncertain words that that was the furthest thing from my mind and I felt insulted that he would suggest such a thing. After we hung up and I thought about what hd transpired, I couldn’t believe the gall of this guy, thinking that I would be inviting him to sleep with me! What nerve! After I cooled off and rethought it I decided he was just inept and had no skills when it came to dating but I was stilled offended that he appeared to be taking the high road with me even if it was in his own mind.

So dear reader before I continue with our story please send your thought and comments so far and wait an see how this will turn out…I’ll look forward to hearing from you!