Dying. Dead. Buried.

Everything about him that I respected, admired, enjoyed. Gone.

Killed by a single gesture that extinguished all others that preceded it.

The way he made me feel was changed irreparably, irrevocably by that one action.

A flinch. A shrug.

A two second movement away.

Two seconds that communicated more than the previous two months.

Two seconds that said, you are not someone I want to be close to.

Two seconds that said, I am only with you because I have to be. You serve a purpose.

Two seconds that said it was all a pretense, a grand ruse.

Two seconds that said I had been used.


We would chit-chat about life, the universe: conversations deep and warm about how happy we were to know each other. How blessed we were to find each other in all the billions of people on Earth. Soulmates.

A coincidence orchestrated by the universe in which we were complicit co-conspirators.

We were friends planning a way to change the world.

One of my favourite things to do.

It was something that neatly unfolded over the passage of conversations, revealing a need, want, desire to do good.

It was exciting. Interesting. Encompassing.

We were wrapped in English, using my beloved language as a way to make things better.

Improve the lives of others.

And enriching our own lives in the process.

Or so I thought.

He asked me to help him with a project. He needed my English.

I loved being in his company. Of course, and without question, I was happy to oblige.

He suggested payment.

I suggested a meal.

He would pick me up from my apartment on his motorcycle, texting or calling me when he’d arrive.

He refused to come up, saying his girlfriend wouldn’t like it.

I was deliciously flattered, because it hinted at what could be, were circumstances different.

We would eat then go to class. Or go to class then eat.

He made sure my vegetarianish requirements were taken care of first.

I interpreted his actions as kindness and caring.

And then we would drive around the lake, the night air cool and damp with humidity, orange and blue and red and green lights reflected and dancing on the still water.

We would chit-chat about life, the universe: conversations deep and warm about how happy we were to know each other. How blessed we were to find each other in all the billions of people on Earth.


A coincidence orchestrated by the universe in which we were complicit co-conspirators.


The very last time we talked, was like any other.

I hopped on the back of his motorcycle after class and we took off in the drizzling rain.

It was cold, and I moved closer to him, seeking comfort from the warm body in front of me.

Weeks before he had admonished me for sitting too close. His girlfriend wouldn’t like it, he said.

I laughed, but complied. I admired his loyalty, his restraint, but resented the distance he engineered between us because it was unnecessary.

Despite my initial crush, I would not overstep. The Italian taught me caution.

But the truth is: I was bored with the absent girlfriend who conveniently appeared in moments that could best be described as bordering on intimate.

Like on the back of his motorcycle.

For the last time, I talked to him over the noise of the engine.

I touched his shoulder lightly to make a point.

Underneath my hand, he flinched and moved his shoulder forward, shrugging me away.

A scolding without words, but I had received the message loud and clear.

And the message was: that despite what he said and how he behaved, he found me distasteful.

I said nothing for the rest of the journey.

No words could breach the chasm that had opened up between us.

I got off the bike, and the hug that indicated the end of our  journey, always instigated by him, wasn’t forthcoming.

I entered my apartment, not looking back.

See ya, I said.

Our journey had ended.

Our friendship was over.

Forever’s time was up.


Last word

Over the course of the next few days, we messaged. Or rather, he messaged me. It was clear that he knew exactly what he had done and the exact moment he did it in. He asked me to change, to be not so “friendly”. In other words, to not be me. I said that was impossible, and I could not be friends with someone who wanted to cherry pick my qualities as and when and if it suited him. I said our contact would be limited to work situations. He said he still wanted to be friends, to continue “meeting up”. I said impossible. How could that not be awkward? I avoid him now, and barely speak. When I think about the three months we were “bestie friends”, all I remember is that two second flinch, and how he ultimately made me feel. Ugly, unloveable, unworthy. Ain’t no one got time for that. Least of all me.

This is the 6th essay in the #52essays2017 challenge that I’ve set for myself this year. I’ll be writing (or trying to write) one personal essay a week: 52 in total. And I’m doing this because I’m the first to admit I’ve become a lazy writer: allowing guest posts and series and cross-posting to make up the bulk of content on The Diane Lee Project across 2016. The brave, fearless writing that readers admired and respected me for has all but disappeared. This year—2017—will be different. I’m reclaiming my voice—my write like a motherfucker voice! And if you are interested and want to join the #52essays2017 challenge, you can find out more information here, and join the Facebook group here

Photo credit: josef.stuefer via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Crush: extinction #52essays2017 #Essay6

Diane Lee

Diane Lee is a fifty-something Australian author who quit her secure government job in 2016 because she was dying of boredom and wanted an adventure. Taking a risk and a volunteering job, she escaped to Hanoi, Vietnam and hasn’t regretted it. At all. Diane now works part-time for a social enterprise, and as freelance writer and editor. One day she hopes to marry a red-headed Irish or Scottish man named Stan.

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “Crush: extinction #52essays2017 #Essay6

  1. Entirely his loss, my darling. That said, it made for an excellent piece of writing. Oh how we’ve all experienced that moment – a look, a flinch, a faltering smile – that made us feel less than zero. Beautifully written xx

    1. Thank you, Melsy. I explained it away (to myself) as cultural differences, but that kind of distaste crosses borders. He took up with another foreign volunteer almost immediately, so I have to assume that he had an uncanny knack for targeting, and that I was used for my English…

I'd love to hear what you think. Leave your comment below:

%d bloggers like this: