In 1997 the game began.
I ran into an old college friend (let's call him S) in the toy aisle of Walmart. He was in the toy aisle. That should have been my first clue.
We got together for old time's sake; talked about the musical we were in as freshman and how our lives had transpired over the past seven years. Another friend from college, who coincidentally was in a marshal arts class with S, said we should invite him to a party that was scheduled for that weekend.
So the party came and went, he was the center of attention (I'm not sure why. The Guinness in cool new cans that he brought, maybe?), and we had fun. That was about it. By the time we got invited to another party a couple of weeks later we had begun phoning and flirting at the possibility of liking each other. Once again he was the center of attention, this time due to his sketching ability. The hostess was his main admirer but she was dating someone, and had been for three years. She was therefore harmless.
But I had noticed her attentions and S's response and questioned him. He assured me, although he thought her cute, he liked me, and besides she was taken. By the end of the evening we were kissing goodbye on my front stoop.
So ensued a fun, goofy relationship. He made me laugh until I cried. We went to lots of parties, many more than I had ever been invited to before (remember I was only the friend of a friend). I was acutely aware that my joined-at-the-hipness with S was the cause of my new popularity. But I tried to ignore that fact and have the kind of fun I had missed out on in college due to my shyness and annoying insistence on doing well academically. We went on trips together, he came to my choral concerts, had dinner with my family, and we attended friends' weddings. One wedding was that of our before-mentioned hostess (K) and her beau, B. In fact, yours truly sang at the festive occasion. And the gift and card were given jointly from the now-serious couple J and S.
At some point, S and K, at K's encouragement, began a "project." S was a cartoonist, K was a writer. There was also another cartoonist friend involved (a chaperone?) for a while. After work K and S would meet at the waterfront and make plans for their book, or whatever the hell it was. At this juncture I was more hurt that I was not included in their creative endeavors than by anything else. After all, I was a writer and an artist. I did not doubt S's faithfulness - to all appearances, including mine, we had a healthy relationship.
But then 1999 rolled around.
In 1997 the game began.