There’s something absolutely and inorganically soul crushing about falling in love. No, seriously. This isn’t the kind of tale about the girl who knew it was “love at first sight” or the girl who “realized he was the one all along.” This is the story of a girl (who cried a river and drowned the whole world) who looked pure, selfless, ever-lasting love in the face and said, “hmmm fuck that,” but was thwarted by the sheer idiotic willpower of the lover in question.
I met Ryan Pederson when I was seventeen years old, fresh out of my first two years of public school, and before a series of horrendous life choices completely demolished my self-esteem and left me with a sarcastic, almost comical air of self-loathing that very very few people found endearing. You see, at this point in my life, after a summer of lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons (both of which I was severely under qualified for—like seriously you’re going to put people’s lives in the hands of a hundred pound teenager who can barely run a mile? I can maybe MAYBE save your toddler, but anyone taller than five foot and heavier than a small stack of books, forget about it), I was tan, cocky, and ready to continue my career as “hot girl” on my new college campus.
Arriving at Cal Poly was like getting hit in the face by several beautiful, blonde, skinnier-than-you-but-still-terrifying trains. In never-ending succession. For four years. I wasn’t even that hot in my hometown, but some guy had spread a rumor that I was a super slut after my high school sweetheart and I broke up (the first time), so I got a lot of male attention. Mix that with my perpetual daddy issues and need for attention, and San Mateo had created a monster. So I entered my freshman year thinking I was just as pretty as my absolutely gorgeous roommate (I wasn’t) and that despite my undying devotion to my high school sweetheart (which would be completely shattered by the first guy to blink at me and play me acoustic guitar in my dorm room—seriously Andrew who were you freshman year), I would be a total dude magnet. I know, I hate me too.
Ryan had come into his freshman year with a high school sweetheart as well, and I wish I could put more details in about how he talked about swimming in her beautiful brown eyes (I have no idea what color her eyes are), or how he thought they were destined to be together, but either he never talked about her OR I was so self-absorbed in my own personal universe that I didn’t pay attention. Probably the second one. Either way, our mutual teen angst, disturbing abilities to put away massive amounts of alcohol despite our size, and unwarranted loathing for most human beings in general meant we spent a lot of time together. I’ll admit this friendship began solely because Ryan always had tons of alcohol in his room, but it developed into more than that…eventually.
As I said before, this isn’t the story of a girl who realized she’d been in love with her best friend all along. Honestly, anyone who reads this and isn’t Ryan Pederson will probably be thinking “wow, you really don’t deserve him” by the end of this, and I couldn’t agree more. But so long as he’s dumb enough to put up with my bratty ass, I’ll milk every moment of it until he smartens up and runs the hell away from me, god damnit!
Freshman year, despite our friendship, Ryan was more of a background character in the cheesy after school drama I called my life. I played FIFA in his dorm, drank his alcohol, and half listened to stories he’d tell me about stupid stuff he did in high school. I was much more focused in creating perpetual love triangles between my boy back home and guys who emailed me Fifty Shades of Grey role play (hey). I thought I was in love with anyone who so much as called me hot and then ignored me except for when they were hammered at 2am (give me an actual compliment on my intelligence or personality like a nice guy, and I’d run for the hills, because screw being respected!), and Ryan just wasn’t my type (anyone who has seen my first finsta post knows this is an absolutely lie, but just indulge me for a hot second).
Sophomore year, Pederson was idiotic enough to FORCE himself onto my radar. It started when he joined a new fraternity. (Wait. That’s a lie. It kinda started when he invited me over to meet his parents when they were helping him move in. His dad poured me a tequila shot and called me out for not taking it right away. Should’ve been my first sign I was destined to be part of this family. IT WAS TEQUILA BASED DESTINY. Okay. Back to the frat thing.) At the time, they weren’t well known and had, like, maybe twenty guys in it, tops. Nevertheless, he’d text me any time they had a get together, and if there was literally nothing better to do, I’d go for the free booze. The first shindig of this type I went to, I walked in and Ryan was surrounded by a group of three or four girls. He saw me and pushed all of them out of the way. Like, full blown, windshield wiper moved a small crowd of females to the side to come say hello to me. He then picked me up and buried his face in my neck when he hugged me, all of which I blew off as him just being drunk, and promptly asked, “where’s Will Moran?” I know. Awful.
His next attempt to get me to realize he was interested in him was when he asked me to his fraternity’s date party. It was Noah’s Ark themed, and he told me we’d be going as pandas. I liked pandas, and the guy I was obsessed with had decided we were “better off as friends” so I said yes in hopes that going would make that guy jealous, or at least get his attention.
We went, we had a great time, and as soon as possible I dragged him away from his friends to another party where the other guy was going to be. He went (like a good sport) and sat making small talk with some of my other friends while I blatantly threw myself at that other guy.
At our friend Megan’s birthday party, Pederson really hit the gas with his attempts to win my affections (or at least put himself on the scoreboard). I was crying–for some reason I don’t remember now–and I went outside to attempt to regain my composure. Ry followed me outside, listened to me cry (probably about some other guy if we’re being honest) for about ten minutes and then, mid-sentence, kissed me. Right on the lips. He then said he had to go find his sister and walked away, leaving me standing on the sidewalk outside Mustang Village debating if he’d kissed me because he wanted to sleep with me, or because he just wanted me to shut up (but not because he was into me).
He pulled a stunt like this again at the Christmas party. I showed up in a short red cocktail dress because I suck and I like attention, and after I’d drunk a decent amount of alcohol that I didn’t offer to help pay for (underclassman gurl lyfe), I said I was going home and he offered to walk me out. He walked me to the parking lot and kissed me right on my face again, only this time we kind of made out because I was drunk and wearing a red dress, so it felt appropriate. I know, what logic!
Every time we’d get back from a school break, he’d ask me out to lunch to “catch up.” I might of caught on that these were like training wheel dates, except that the poor kid had horrible luck both times. The first time, he asked me to Urbane but he forgot his wallet at home, so I had to pay. which wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t even know it was a date, but he was beside himself. The next time, we went to Splash and he locked his keys in his car and I had to call my insurance company to come break into his car because his put him on hold for ten minutes and then hung up. These are two of the only times I’ve seen Ryan Pederson look embarrassed and, while I felt super awkward for him back then, I now look back on both those wannabe dates with fondness.
The last effort Ryan made sophomore year was the weirdest one. It was after he’d gone to a funeral for his ex-girlfriend’s cousin or aunt or something and he came back to SLO super emotional. I’d gone home for the weekend, and I was driving back from the Bay when I get a text from him saying, “I’m at the frat house and I really need you. Can you come get me?” Being the superb friend that I am (and also already in my car, so I went, but otherwise I probably would’ve made up some excuse not to), I went and retrieved a very drunk Pederson. I was going to take him home, but he disclosed he hadn’t eaten all day and my maternal instincts kicked in; I brought him back to my apartment to force feed him. We sat in my living room–him on the couch, me on the floor—watching The Office for five hours, holding hands. I figured this was just a friendly thing to do because he was sad. Then he kissed me again. And, to my surprise, I kissed him back. And I kept kissing him. And when it looked like things could progress, I stopped. “Look,” I said, “we’re both emotional. You’re drunk. We’re friends. We really shouldn’t do this. I think you should go.” And, like the amazing and incredible gentleman he was (and still is, I mean seriously every and all men should learn something from Ryan Pederson’s ability to understand the word “no” in these circumstances, because his self-control baffles even me), he got up and left without so much as a pleading look.
Now, the fact that both of my kind-of-not-really-boyfriends at the time (slut) had said to me at some point “I think Ryan Pederson is into you” should have been a gigantic red flag that Ryan Pederson was, in fact, into me and not just trying to sleep with me like I thought. But my idiocy at this point in my life knew no bounds, so I continued giving all my attention to the guys who thought of me as more of a bookmark than a human being.
Summer going into my junior year, Ryan and his high school sweetheart finally ended their weird on-off thing that I feel like a fair number high school couples go through when they go to college and still think they can make it work (same), and things had ended with both of my kind-of-not-really-boyfriends (again, slut). I came to SLO three weeks before I was supposed to leave for Spain for study abroad, half to party with my friends before I left, and half because staying broken up with someone is immensely hard when they’re your neighbor, which my ex was (is, great guy though!). Ped was also in town, so we hung out a lot and apparently had some crazy unspoken chemistry everyone but me seemed to pick up on. After the running jokes of “when are you guys going to hook up,” it almost became a game not to hook up. But one night, we were drunk making out on the couch and he asked if I wanted to go downstairs and I thought to myself, “screw it. I can bang Ryan Pederson for three weeks while I wait to leave the country.” The next day, I came over completely sober, asked if I could charge my phone in his room, and then threw a condom at him. So that’s how that started. Let’s just say I’m much better with written word than I am at actual verbal communication.
After that, we spent literally every waking hour together. He’d attempt to get me to sleep over, and I’d tell him I hated intimacy and didn’t want anything serious, and sneak out while he was sleeping at 3am. When time came for me to leave for Spain, he asked if he could text me every once in a while. I said, “sure, we’re friends. Why not?” and left.
My layover flight before Madrid was in Miami, and it was delayed seven hours because of weather. I decided to pass the time by Facetiming Ryan for all seven hours. I mean, could you imagine talking to me for seven hours straight and not killing yourself? Me either, but Ryan did, and that’s when I finally got the hint this kid might be sort of into me. Weirdly enough, after that phone call, I found myself sort of into him. But I figured I’d find tons of hot Spanish ass and get over it pretty quickly, so I wrote it off as hormones or something.
I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up Facetiming every day. I found myself looking forward to seeing his face, telling him about my day, and playing around with the idea of him flying out to visit me. It was all very lighthearted, I didn’t think it would actually happen. Next thing I know, I’m pulling money out of my (already not that large) mutual fund to help him buy a ticket to meet me in Barcelona for two days. TWO DAYS. The kid flew almost thirty five hours roundtrip to spend just a little over 48 hours with me in a foreign country. Now I for sure knew he was into me. Well, that and the fact that he handed me a letter that said “I love you” in huge capital letters at the end. That was pretty much the slap-in-your-face kind of obvious I needed, apparently.
The rest is pretty much history. Loving him was easy. He had been part of my life for the last two years and, despite my ability to push him to the background, he’d studied me. The kid knew me like he’d written the book on insecure children of alcoholics with trust issues (he did, in fact, read a book called Loving the Adult Child of an Alcoholic, annotate it, and bookmark pages that reminded him of me. WHO DOES THAT?!), and nothing I threw at him caught him off guard. I mean, the kid is seriously borderline insane, because every time I’m drunk I try to break up with him and I go through his phone constantly and he just laughs at me like being psychotic is just some cute little personality trait I have.
So this one’s for you Ryan Pederson: after reading this, I’m sure everyone can agree with me you’re a god damn idiot, but I hope you stay that way cause, I dunno, life with you is kinda rad. And I don’t think I’ll find anyone else to put up with my shit, so either I stick with you or I die alone so GET STOKED. ❤