A terrible pity

I had dinner with a friend last night and she asked about the girl at work. I was surprised, but it turns out I said something in passing a couple of months ago and she remembered. So I updated her a little on what had happened since and she gave me her verdict.

She reckons A – that’s the girl at work – had a thing for me. When I went all quiet over Christmas she felt rejected. She took it very personally and lost trust in me. She still likes me my friend reckons, but won’t allow herself to get over the mistrust and disappointment.

I admit it was one theory I had considered, but was unwilling to believe. It makes sense in a lot of ways though. Her rehearsed response to me is friendly, but distant; her spontaneous reaction to me is much brighter and engaging.

Still – and I argued this last night – surely she must know it wasn’t directed at her. I sent her an email, after all, explaining it. That was my very male, rationalist take on things, but my friend last night basically dismissed that. She reckoned the wound was so deep by then that my words would have had no impact: the damage was already done.

Do I believe this? I don’t know. I know something is badly amiss, and it fits at least some of the known facts. And of course once I accepted that a whole lot of small things came into view – how within hours of each other a couple of people had called me a womaniser in front of her; how on another occasion I had a female friend join us for drinks; how my social activities can be so easily misconstrued. If this is the true reason then I reckon she thought I didn’t take her seriously just as she was starting to seriously invest in me (before Christmas I thought we were on the verge of ‘something’ happening), and afterwards, when I went into my shell, she took it as a rejection of her feelings. She was hurt by that and angry. Then when she starts to see and hear other things about me (which I’m innocent of) she begins to join the dots. She likes me as a natural thing, but wants nothing to do with me – and though she’s friendly enough, maybe she just wants me to suffer a little too.

In any case hearing this last night I was filled with a deep remorse. I don’t want anyone to feel bad about something I’ve done, even strangers. I have no right to hurt anyone like that. That it was never my intention – the opposite is true – is beside the point. I had my reservations – the difference in our ages, the fact that we work together – but I really liked and respected her. I still do.

I left wanting to make it good, but not knowing how. I realised that I need to change some of my current behaviour towards her. My demeanour mirrors hers: I’m friendly, but I’d given up on trying to engage. If I’m at fault here I need to own up to it. I don’t think I can say anything, but I want her to know that I like her, and that I’m here and ready if ever she wants to open up and get closer.

The whole thing feels a terrible pity.

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