She was so sweet.
I mean, really sweet. Almost sickly sweet, but in a good way, you know? And with a wonderful, genuine laugh. As we got to know each other, initially quite by accident, and later quite on purpose, we'd talk about whatever, and it'd be riveting!
I think things started developing potential when, after a long break from friend-level hanging out due to our schedules, we were at a group gathering, and I plucked up the courage to tell her that I missed her. I don't remember her response; I was too busy thinking fuck, I sound like an idiot. I guess we agreed to meet up later in the week.
Things slowly-but-steadily moved in a direction I liked, and we saw each other regularly. I liked when she sat on my lap, and when she held my hand. I liked when she fell asleep in my arms when she was supposed to be watching a DVD with me. I really liked when I'd drive her around on my bike. She'd put her arms around me, or put her hands in my jacket pockets, and rest her head on my back. Man-oh-man. I melted every time.
I think it was the first time in my life that I was so comfortable with a woman that I just looked her straight in the eye one day and said, "I like you, and I want us to be a couple." Naturally, I was thinking, fuck, I sound like an idiot. After all, is it any different from the grade-school playground's "will you go with me?"
But I meant it. I felt something that was...right.
But then things got a little bit odd. Having told her that I'm interested in more, she started asking if I want kids. Sure, I've always wanted kids. "No, but do you want to have kids with me?"
Excuse me? She wants to know this is before we've even started dating? In all honesty, I nearly said yes. She'd be a great mother, and I really do want kids! But Jesus Christ, does a brand-new relationship need that extra expectation and pressure?
And it got worse: "How long do you want to be with me?" Shit, honey, I don't bloody know! How does anyone know? Who starts a relationship with "I do??"
Then she brought up religion. Here we go...
"If you don't believe in God, then what do you believe?" The thing is, she's a Buddhist! I'd not have expected a a Buddhist to come up with that. And I couldn't answer it. Seriously, if you can answer "what do you believe" in a sound bite, then you don't believe anything important, and you don't understand it anyway.
In any event, I don't really 'believe' stuff. I have philosophical views on all manner of things, but that's not belief. I am aware of the scientific method and I like it for its self-correcting nature, but that's not "believing in" it. She didn't seem happy with my response and thought I was avoiding the question. But I just thought it was as all-encompassing, and therefore as practically meaningless, as asking "what is?" Completely unanswerable in less than a week-long seminar.
She didn't bring it up again, until one night at dinner. It was the last time I spent alone with her.
"I can't date you because you're not part of any religion, so I don't know if you have any moral foundation."
Seriously? Did she just say that out loud?
Yes, I did go ballistic, thank you for asking.
I over-reacted, to be sure. I let loose for an hour on all the things I'd been researching about religion and the horrors committed, not merely in the name of faith, but mandated by it. Specifically instructed in these allegedly holy books. Death for apostasy. Death for being raped. Death for suspicion of infidelity. Death for more-or-less anything, really, and this is all still taking place in the 21st Century.
I didn't let up, and I didn't stop speaking. I'm surprised she sat there and took it for so long. But she had just told me that after all the time we'd spent together, she still thought I might not have any morality. Although I showed anger, more anger that I should have, inside I was heart-broken.
After she left, I sat there for... I don't know how long. Half an hour, maybe more. I didn't move, eat, drink or speak. I was just deflated, not from my ridiculous tirade, but from the realisation that all this time, she thought I was morally defective. How could she have thought that??
A friend came over and sat down with me. I told him about her view of my morality and he said, "who cares?" Two other friends sat down. Both of them: "Who cares?"
I care! I care deeply that she has been thinking this way about me. I was shattered. I stayed at the restaurant for four hours, arguing with my three friends about how fucked this situation was, before I trudged home and failed to go to sleep.
I didn't speak to her for a week. I had no idea what to say. How does one respond to, "Hey, I've known you for months, but I'm not sure if you're actually nice." Do I really need to list all the reasons I'm a good person? Is that something a fellow has to do if he doesn't "believe in" his own, personal imaginary friend? If someone doesn't identify with the inaccurately-but-conveniently labelled packages of the commonly accepted faiths, do we need to write a manifesto and carry it around like identity papers?
But it's even worse than that. To suggest as she did, that I might actually become a better person by throwing my lot in with any faith is a particularly low punch. I wasn't justified in the intensity of my response, I know this. But I think I was justified in being offended.
After perhaps a week or ten days of silence, I sent her a long email on what I 'believe,' along with links to two amazing videos by Carl Sagan and Sam Harris, respectively, which are strongly in line with my own philosophies. I didn't like having to spell it out, frankly, and I'd not have bothered for anyone else. But she was exceptional to me, so I made an exception for her.
I never got a reply. I guess the damage was done.
Sucks to be me.