I think I was interested in Alex the moment I met her at the first newspaper staff meeting of the Fall 1998 semester. I knew only a handful of folks in Oakdale at the time, but I was positive that she was someone I wanted to add to that list. Through that first semester, we built enough of a friendship up that I asked her out shortly before Christmas break. We had our first date early in the spring semester, followed it with a couple more and then she gave me the cold shoulder.
However, you can't just shake off a connection like ours -- although we had no idea how strong it was at the time.
The Cliffs Notes version of the three years that followed go something like this... I loved to give her attention. She loved to receive it. I haven't checked Guinness, but we have to be up there in the category for longest game of tease. If it had been any other woman, I wouldn't have stuck it out like I did. Every once in a while, though, we'd somehow come together in some way that always seemed like magic. It was enough to keep me going. I spent the years leaving her special quotes for her to find in her office. We made three very fun trips on the school's dime to Baton Rouge, Atlanta & Washington, D.C. -- each one improving a dozen-fold over the previous.
College doesn't last forever, though. Our friendship weakened a bit when Alex graduated in 2001. It weakened even more when I left Oakdale a year later. To be honest, I thought Alex would become one of those "college friends." We'd call each other a couple of times a year. I figured that every now and then, we'd get together for dinner and talk about old times and how we never really explored our chemistry as a couple. We were abiding by that schedule until August 2003. After a lunch date in Oakdale and an afternoon spent riding around our old stomping grounds, she kissed me.
The kiss led to phone calls. The phone calls brought conversations like we'd never had before. The conversations led to her visiting me in Franklin. Her visit led to something. I wasn't sure what it was at the time. I'm not sure what it was now. I know that we both had strong feelings for each other, but in typical Fletch fashion... I locked up. I pulled away. I wanted to be vague and non-committal. As Alex & I drifted in Limbo Land, Jessie started putting demands on me. She wanted us to be more than friends. She wanted us in a serious, committed relationship -- or else. I was completely confused.
After being cramped up in Franklin since 2003 became 2004, I headed down to south Louisiana for Mardi Gras on February 19th. The long road trip -- with an overnight pit stop to see Alex in Oakdale -- was good for my soul. Being among old friends was good for my soul. Being away from work, from home, from Franklin, from the relationship stress was all good for my soul. And one night, I sat down at the computer at Zoe's apartment and started writing.. By the time I'd finished the Deadline Pressure entry for Fat Tuesday 2004, I'd decided that I was going to start a relationship with Jessie.
Alex came up in April. She knew that she was swinging on a thin string between friendship and relationship. Although I tugged at that string a bit during her visit, I didn't cut it like I should have. However, we did have talks about how we probably wouldn't work out... And how we'd probably end up as just as we once thought we would -- as "college friends." Because of that, I thought our kiss goodbye on that trip was symbolic. On May 15, I told Jessie that I loved her and then we made love. It was real, sincere and passionate -- something that had been missing in our years-long friendship with benefits. During my drive home on Memorial Day weekend, I finally told Alex that it wasn't going to work between she and I. She complained that she never got a chance. I didn't really listen to her much. I just let her talk. I'd made my decision and I didn't want to be swayed.
For the most part, life was just okay for a while. Jessie & I did our thing. Alex & I talked every once in a while. As late as June of last year, it looked like Alex and I were both in serious relationships -- with other people -- and were happy. Things were going along as they could be expected to... and then came the hurricanes.