What Fred said

Remember the story I had posted last year about Fred and his twice-in-one-night attempts to try and get me to sleep with him (if not, you can catch up by reading, “Can boys and girls be just friends?“)? Turns out Fred read it too.

A few nights ago, I was startled to receive some IMs through Facebook chat. “Hi Irene/ still alive?” they read.

It was Fred.

We hadn’t spoken in just about 10 months after the infuriating cheating-attempt had occurred. I replied cautiously, to see what he wanted.

me: yesyes. how are you?
Fred: busy as usual. I noticed you got a new job? 

Me being me, a classic case of curiosity kills and slaughters the cat, as usual, I decided to bite.

me: i work on wall street
Fred: nice nice..

In what seemed like an effort to prove he still cared enough to keep up with my life, he brought up a prior post on this very blog.

Fred: saw your blog… I noticed you posted the wonderful caribbean bay story amongst others..

It was a running joke between the two of us that our respective versions of this story varied greatly from the other. I had posted mostly his version since it was, admittedly, more entertaining. (As such, I confess I exaggerated the part about looking down to see my swimsuit baring my entire chest. I only remember realizing that my straps had fallen, and then immediately ducking into the water.)

me: ahahah. i guess it had more of your spin in it to elicit humor
Fred: i did notice you admitted to your top coming off..
me: again, to elicit humor
Fred: it’s documented.

I rolled my eyes, but not entirely in bad humor. But my foremost concern was still finding out why he was contacting me after all this time.

He started coming round.

Fred: btw… ‘Fred’? dissapointing.. you could have chosen a better name.. I don’t like Fred. of all the common names, fred is no good…
me: what name do you want?
Fred: dunno.. something other than Fred

We expatiated a bit more on the subject of names, which I won’t go in to so as not to use Fred’s real name. But afterward (and we return to the (mostly) direct quotations), he finally got around to:

Fred: hey Irene… I wanted to talk to you for a sec…

I could guess where that was headed, so I did what anyone would do, naturally. I feigned ignorance.

me: hm? yeah wsup
Fred: Just wanted to tell you sorry about that night (you know what) and my bday…

And there it was, finally: the long overdue apology. I read on.

You know how there are those apologies that are so overwhelmingly sincere that even if they don’t hit on exactly everything you both were instantly and grew to be resentful of? Or those apologies where they’re so spot on you’re astonished by how well this person, who is not you, who does not occupy your being, actually in fact knows you?

This was neither.

Fred: read your blog.. and at the risk of sounding truly insensitive, I didn’t know it bothered you so much…

I wanted to laugh in his face. If you recall from “what I’d written about his indiscretions,” Fred not only pretended to be my big-brother protector from someone else he accused of having the intention to try and pull a fast one on me, he also made a move on me, then made a move on me again despite having already been told a firm no, with absolutely no regard for his nor my significant others, then proceeded to take his frustration at not having been able to seal the deal out on me, hence resulting in his not only being a sleazy cheater, but also a hypocrite, a self-centered charlatan, and a terrible friend.

(No, I have not forgiven.)

But I tried to be civil, for the sake of what had been a 13-year friendship.

me: it is what it is

Undeterred, Fred went on.

Fred: I was a little flattered by how you described me… haha..
me: i was pretty upset when i wrote it, so… sorry if i come off a little unnecessarily harsh
Fred: hey what’s done is done… more on my part that is.. and I’m sorry for that.. as well as blowing you off on my bday. I don’t remember what happened.. hadn’t really thought about it until I read your blog. felt bad about it and wanted to tell you..

I briefly contemplated recommending that he really think about what he’d done, not just to me, but to the people we had been dating at the time. I relented.

me: i appreciate the apology. thanks for letting me know
Fred: hollow apologies.. but that’s all I have for now.. felt like we sorta fell apart since then… and it’s been almost a year..

After a moment, Fred added something that made my hardened heart to sway just a little.

Fred: Hey.. at the risk of making this weird… I understand your position on our relationship…

I prodded him to elaborate on this topic — chat style.

me: ?

And then Fred started to quantify his apology and explain his actions and his reactions thereafter in a way that made me feel that he was still feeling bitter about my rejection.

Fred: blah.. at the risk of making this sound really weird.. I think you’re attractive.. definitely talented.. we’re just so very different.. and it was just a stupid uninhibited move on my part… but yes.. like I said.. I have no idea what I’m talking about.. except that I wanted to apologize for it.

I bristled. I earnestly wondered why, how, we had been so close all those years.

me: i agree, we’re definitely different. we have different values and different qualities we look for in the opposite sex. that’s why we’ve been friends all this years as opposed to anything else
Fred: that’s good.. thanks…

I wondered whether Fred was thinking he was getting off easy. I pushed the thought from my mind, as even I had determined I was letting him off too easy, it was probably a losing battle anyway. For the record, he probably was.

Fred: well.. in an effort to break the awkwardness, I do have two comments about yoru blog. 1. I don’t think you ever mention that we did go out.. albeit everso briefly..
me: it was for like 2 weeks in hs!
Fred: 2. you missed a few key stories, the “[Fred] Feel this!”
me: that’s SUCH a non-story!
Fred: I wonder if my xanga site is still alive..

Fred’s Xanga, by the way, was what he used back in college to write up snarky recounts of embarrassing/hilarious situations that had happened to him and/or his friends. I had been a frequent subject of these stories, by virtue of our being such close friends, and also, in hindsight, his secret interest in me at the time. Admittedly, I can’t help but think back on this with some degree of contempt, because of what I know of Fred’s personality and how he categorizes the people around him in his life. But that’s a topic for another time.

me: here. (IMed him a link.) i just google searched it
Fred: haha.. wow… that is absolutely embarrassing..
me: it’s absolutely hilarious is what it is
Fred: I think I would have hated highschool fred

I frowned. That commend made me genuinely sad. Yes, High School Fred did hold grudges against people and hold his friends in love/hate regard out of competitive spirit and some bitterness at the not-always-so-favorable cards that could be dealt to him. But High School Fred was also not jaded yet, and he was warm and generous and kind. I missed High School Fred.

me: but high school fred was very lovable

I was getting tired, because it was now past midnight before a work day, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue engaging in this quasi-amiable, still tension-filled exchange.

me: anyway… i’d love to catch up more, but i’m about to pass out
Fred: alright. ttyl

I paused, thinking of High School Fred. We had been, in the words of Forrest Gump, like peas and carrots way back when. I liked to call him my Dawson, my soulmate who I couldn’t quite be with. We talked all the time, on the phone and in person. He would advise me on my romantic endeavors, and I would advise him on his, and we would play silly card games and chase each around campus in mock arguments. We watched movies together all the time and keep track of what number we had reached — an old Irene and Fred tradition. In the summers, during break, we would be seen together all around Seoul, even frequently holding hands and prompting inquiries of, “Are you two together?” from everyone from random passersby to retailers to friends we would happen to run into. And when Fred left for college, and then I left for college, I was always happiest to see him, among all my friends.

I used to always wonder why I didn’t have romantic inclinations for Fred.

For the sake of our history, I decided to give this one more go.

me: maybe we can do lunch or dinner sometime

Fred’s response made me think that he was not so keen on preserving our memories after all.

Fred:maybe later…

At that moment, I was glad I wasn’t having this conversation with Fred in person, because I would have either smacked him for what I perceived as his insincerity or started to cry. Fred went on, changing the subject back to what we had been discussing before.

Fred: hey I’m sorry i didn’t get back to you earlier
me: better late than never
Fred: perhaps

The moment was gone.

“Good night, Fred,” I chatted, in what I guessed would perhaps be my last ever words to him.

“Night,” he responded.

I post this today in celebration of Fred’s birthday. Happy 30th, old friend.

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