Poison Oak and Other Dangers

“Do you have a thing for Jesse?”  I have been mentally preparing my answer to this question, should my boyfriend ever ask it.  I’ve settled on: “Of course!  Don’t you?”  This is foolproof; he does.  We all do.

But Brian won’t ask it because he is a logical man, and this query can be answered using logic:

Jesse McHatton, the most eligible bachelor in town


I, a young maiden


Of course I have a crush on Jesse – science demands it!

I have a crush on Jesse the way married women bond over Twilight characters.  He is in the same category as Brad Pitt and Monopoly money – pretty, but it’s not going to work in real life.  Still, I avoid him for a year out of loyalty to Brian: Don’t talk to him, don’t look at him, don’t even think about him.  I mostly succeed, although when Brian takes me to have dinner with Jesse one evening, where I get a glimpse of Jesse's inner life (which is decorated much more tastefully than Brian's rented room in the ghetto), I must remind myself, You are on a date with Brian to go visit Jesse.  You are not on a date with Jesse.  You are not on a date with Jesse…

It doesn't help that Brian greatly admires and talks a lot about his taller, darker, handsomer best friend, always trying to find a woman worthy of the most eligible bachelor in town.  “Anita?” I suggest, secretly relishing this process of elimination.  They would be terrible together.

"She's too uppity," Brian confirms.  "Jesse wants someone more down-to-earth."


"Too silly.  Jesse’s not silly."

Me? I want to ask.  What about me and Jesse?  Too uncouth, probably.  Jesse's got class.  Also, I'm not single enough; too… whatever the adjective is for "dating his best friend".

When Brian tells me Jesse met his "date with destiny" in a girl named Bridgitte from North Carolina, I feel vaguely disappointed.  Well, there goes Jesse.  It was bound to happen.  Life goes on.

Months later, Brian and I break up, and suddenly Jesse is not off-limits (at least, not the self-imposed ones).  I haven't heard any updates about this Carolina girl in awhile.  Could I have a chance?

Let me explain why Jesse is the most eligible bachelor that I know.  He has a stable job, yet he's a rock star by night – an incredibly talented drummer.  He is good-looking, good-natured, well-dressed, and well-mannered.  On top of that, he manages to be humble about it all.  He's so balanced!  I have yet to find a flaw in him.

Here, I must recap:

Jesse, a Rock Star


I, hopelessly nerdy


Never going to happen!

One day, Jesse casually says, "We should go to karaoke sometime!"  I whole-heartedly agree, then hang up the phone and squeal like a twelve-year-old girl.  JESSE MCHATTON JUST ASKED ME OUT!  But then my rational side pipes up, No, nobody goes to karaoke on a date!  He meant "we," as in we, the people of the united friends of Abra and Jesse.  Actually, he probably didn't even mean it, the way people don't mean, "Let's do lunch; I'll call you."  Besides, isn't he dating that girl from out of state?  The twelve-year-old girl pays no attention.  All my repressed feelings from the last year are released.  I don't want to get my hopes up, but now my Jesse-radar is on.

A few days later at a party, Jesse is being super nice to me and repeats his karaoke invitation, to which I again agree.  Then, as I am leaving, he follows me to the porch and awkwardly mentions it again!  What does he want me to respond?!  Maybe I've finally found his one flaw.  Guys these days don't seem to know how to properly ask a woman out.  I've been reading Jane Austen and have become a bit uppity myself.  What would Anne Elliot do?  First of all, she would consider Jesse "tolerable," not "hot."  (Extremely tolerable, if you ask me.)  But he was so nervous, at least now I could be convinced that he's interested in me!  It is at this point that wishful thinking becomes a break with reality.  Jesse's behavior has an adverse reaction to my crush on him.

From this point on, my thoughts revolve around Jesse.  Sensoring myself around him is a lot harder than it is at the dentist.  One day, Jesse is looking especially tolerable in his gray blazer, dark sunglasses, and chocolate skin.  He greets me, "Hi Abra! How are you?"  Anne Elliot was nowhere to be found.

Hi Jesse McHotness, I am in a rather state right now on all becount of you are looking so "fine, thanks!  Good to see you!"  Better to touch you.  I didn't just use the speaking-words, did I?  Where is Anne Elliot when I need her?!

One day the phone rings.  Jesse McHatton!  Wait for the third ring.  Breathe slowly.  "I have a question for you," he says.  This is it!  Yes, Jesse, go ahead, I'm listening!  Ask your question.  "Do you know what Brian's favorite dessert is?"  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  After I get over my rage, I'm just happy that he found any excuse to call me.

Still, why won't he just come out and say he's interested in me?  It must be because he is close friends with Brian!  It's a catch-22: If he talks to Brian before he talks to me, and I'm not interested, then he hurts his friend in vain.  But if he talks to me before he talks to Brian, then he's betraying his friend.  Well, I am going to go crazier if I don't tell somebody!  I can't risk talking to anyone in Richmond, so I call my friend Laney who is safely three time zones away.  Unfortunately, this action does not produce the desired result.

"Abra!  Guess what!  I got poison oak and I had to take steroids and now I'm really hyper…!"  I can't get a word in edgewise.  I try back a few days later and leave a voicemail.  I receive one in return that says: "Abra.  We.  Don't.  Have.  Time.  Declare the name of your God.  Jesus is coming back.  You and Brian need to get married.  We don't have time!"  Here I will say that Laney is already a little "out there."  Once she left me a five-minute message detailing different kinds of animal feces for no apparent reason.  Also, she is a major Jesus freak.  Still, this was extreme even for her.

I call back but only reach voicemail again.  "Lane?  Are you okay?  You sound really weird.  You know Brian and I broke up, right?  I hope you're okay!"  I don't hear from her for a few days… until I do.

Laney had gotten a bad case of poison oak, and her doctor had prescribed her way too high a dosage of medication.  For two weeks, the steroids made her increasingly intense versions of her regular self – turning her from a mere Jesus freak into an end-times preacher, questioning grocery shoppers and shouting through the streets.  She was so crazy, she was sent home from work to rest.  Later, a coworker came by with some "natural medicine" from her garden to help calm Laney down.  High as a kite and far from calm, Laney started hallucinating and chased the well-meaning "demon" out of the house, throwing water in her face, slapping her and hitting her (quickly exiting) car for good measure.  Another coworker had the sense to tell Laney's husband Mark what was going on.  He came home from work to Laney screaming at him that he was the devil and she wasn't married to him anymore.  He called the cops when she started talking about killing him.  The police came and took Laney, who refused to clothe herself because she was in the Garden of Eden, to the hospital.  Laney lives in a very small town, so she is acquainted with all those who saw her naked, including the neighbors, the cop who pulled her over last month, and the FedEx guy.  She spent five days in the psych ward, and was still feeling abnormally energetic, but was back in her right mind.  I'm so caught up in the story of her psychotic episode that I completely forget to consult her about my own delusion.

Next weekend is the Irish Festival, and Brian and Jesse's band is playing.  At one point, the three of us meet up to get food, and Brian excuses himself to the restroom.  Over corned beef and hash, Jesse takes the opportunity to say, "Abra, have I ever showed you a picture of the girl I'm pursuing?"  Now there's a silly question.  We haven't hardly hung out all year, Jesse.  Have you ever even told me about the girl you're pursuing?  Have you ever showed me a picture at all?  Have you ever awoken from a strange and wonderful dream to someone throwing cold water in your face?  Because you must have learned it somewhere.

I am slow to wake, and for a moment I can't understand why Jesse would try to make me jealous by showing me pictures of a pretend girl.  Then, in Part 2 of Stage 1 (Denial), I wonder when Jesse is going to realize he likes me – just like Brian futilely wonders when I'm going to come around again.  I play it cool like I knew about her all along – which I did, kind of.  "So when are we going to meet this girl?" I ask without missing a beat.

"When she feels comfortable," Jesse replies.  "We're not officially dating," he explains.  "But I'm definitely pursuing her," he emphasizes a little too slowly.

Gradually it sinks in and I realize more and more the depth of my break with reality.  There were logical, non-romantic explanations for everything.  I had found one scrap of "evidence" to support my wishful thinking, and twisted the bounty of evidence to the contrary in favor of my predetermination.  I felt like Tyler Durden at the end of Fight Club: The nervousness on Jesse's porch wasn't in his behavior… it was in mine!  Jesse wasn't confusing… the confusion was mine!

At least Laney had a legitimate excuse.

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