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A message drops in my inbox from a name I don’t recognize.

A week of chatting back and forth and he convinces me to come to watch the game with the rest of the group. My life had just been turned upside down and when that happens, my instinct is to turtle.

“Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, girl. It doesn’t get easier, you have to move forward, one step at a time. It’s one game, you’ll survive. Dating is going to be even scarier.” My pep talk to myself isn’t particularly convincing or effective, but I decide to go. I need to break patterns, and I learned long ago, sometimes going backward is the quickest way to move forward. Sometimes you need to worry less about direction and more about momentum.

So I went. I arrived late and ended up in a corner away from the group. Away from him. We chatted through Facebook throughout the game, waved a perfunctory hello. “This wasn’t how I planned this, lol.” says my inbox.

Eventually the crowd started to thin. A hand reaches out and grabs my drink. “Come on, let’s talk”. And for the next however long, until the game is over, as people slowly leave, until we are the only two sitting at the table; and then for another hour.

I reach for my tea and I spill it all over the table. In a moment the world shifts, my cheeks flush hot. When it comes to my heart these days, I’m too jaded, too defensive, my walls too high. Nobody gets me flustered, not unless I decide to let them in. I didn’t chose this and a part of me resents the hell out of it. A part of me doesn’t care. In my confusion, humiliation and wanton school-girlishness, I catch his quick smirk of victory. He knows, just as surely as I know, that I am already sunk.

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