What She Needs

May 22, 2008
By Owen Mims, McDonough, GA

I had stepped out for a moment to grab coffee and doughnuts for an all night study session when she appeared on my doorstep two hours before midnight. My roommate Ronnie had hesitated when he found a sobbing girl on the doorstep of our apartment, but she pushed past him to run into my room and slam the door. I had just gotten back into the car when my cell rang, and I rushed back home.
Now she’s mumbling into my pillow, and I can’t really understand her. That’s okay, for now, because she doesn’t need conversation; she needs to vent, and I’ll give her the chance.
I tighten my hold on the coffee mug as she gives a particularly hard sob.
“I can’t believe it,” she whispers, whipping her nose on the sleeve of the sweatshirt that hasn’t been mine for two years now. “I just…he’s so…so…”
I just nod and set the mug down on the end table. My bedspread is covered in tissues, crumpled and thrown everywhere. Sweeping them onto the floor, I clear a space for me to sit. She lifts her head to look at me from behind the curtain of brown hair. I gesture to the mug, full of freshly made tea, but she shakes her head. Shrugging, I sit down and cross my legs.
“Jane, what happened?” I reach out and sweep a strand of hair from her face. She sniffs and wipes her eyes again with her sleeve.
The story isn’t a surprise, though I wish I hadn’t seen it coming. Her boyfriend hadn’t called all day and she had gone to his dorm to see if he was sick or just busy studying. His cell phone was off and she began to worry. However, instead of finding What’s-His-face emptying his stomach into the toilet, she found clothing thrown indiscriminately around his dorm. Instead of books and Post-It notes, she found her roommate in bed with her boyfriend.
I want desperately to say ‘I told you so,’ but that’s definitely not what she needs.
So instead, I offer her the mug of tea once again. Jane initially shakes her head, but I insist. She picks up the mug, but the sip she takes is too miniscule to count.
“Why do I always pick the losers?” she asks through the pillow. I’ve heard this all before, of course. Her track record with men is anything but perfect, and it’s really very unfair. Jane has a tendency to pick out the guy who had mother issues, or a drinking problem, or a drug addiction. I still remember the horrible bruises that one creep left on her wrists, and it makes my blood boil just thinking about it.
She goes on to plan out her perfect man. Her ideal characteristics are farfetched and yet are exactly what she deserves; a man who doesn’t drink or shoot up, who doesn’t feel the need to strike her every time something doesn’t work out; a man who doesn’t make outrageous demands of her, who realizes that she is a person herself who has needs and wants; a man who makes her feel safe, and loved, and wanted.
I listen to this list and on the inside I’m screaming “That’s me! I’m the guy you want, the guy you need!” I don’t say it out loud, though, because I know that’s not what she needs right now.
So I sit and comfort my best friend, wishing that I were the guy she were crying about, even though I know I would never be the one to make her cry over something like that. I want to tell her that I would make her feel safe and loved. I would gladly buy her flowers for no other reason than to see her smile. I want to be what she needs.
After she finishes her description of the ideal man, I flash a smile and jokingly say, “So what about me?”
She laughs and says, “That’s what I like about you, Matt. I’ll never have to worry about you cheating on me or anything else.”
I laugh, too, even though on the inside I’m cringing.
I could tell her that I love her more than anything, but that’s not what she needs right now. She needs a friend, a position that I fear I will ever be stuck in.

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