It really sucks when you feel, at the same time, that you haven’t really done anything objectively wrong but you’ve made a big mistake. There’s not much to be done about it. One can wallow, but that’s entirely unproductive.

There’s a girl on the program, let’s call her Sasha, who I’ve come to really like. It’s rare I meet someone, a girl, with whom I have a strong sense of compatibility. It’s happened a few times, and each time I’ve fucked up, missed the boat, awkwardly flubbed, or generally made a fool of myself. I guess it’s happened again, but I don’t feel I’ve done anything to regret too harshly.

About a couple weeks ago I decide to ask her our. Adult style, to dinner. This was when my mom was still in town, though, and there was no way I could break away to make anything happen that week. I promised myself that Monday, when the group was going to see a play about the Russian war in Afghanistan, I would find sometime when she was alone that I could make my proposition. I couldn’t make it happen. Tuesday, same thing. And then Wednesday. And Thursday. Either she would be around other people, usually our mutual friend (let’s call him Fey), or I could come up with some reasonable excuse to postpone. She’s walking to the bathroom and that would be weird, or we’re headed to a meeting that we share and if I were to be rejected we’d sit in awkward silence and quietly start to loath each other. Not necessarily real scenarios, just ones created by my mind.

Friday, finally, the right time seemed to fall into my hands. We both were going over to Fey’s place to spend the afternoon watching movies. His host mother (or babushka, I never know what to call them) bought dried fish for us. We went to the nearby store for beer, more edible snacks, and vodka. And cognac, it turned out, was on sale. After settling in to his rather homey room in the woman’s apartment, we watched, back-to-back, Dazed and Confused and then Clerks. Two of my favorite movies. It was great, seemed like we all had a good time. Especially Tim, who passed out about halfway through Clerks; their hockey game on the roof of the Quik-Stop being the last thing he remembers, apparently. Me and Sasha cleaned up a little bit and made our way out, after having a hearty chuckle with the babushka over Fey’s sleeping figure.

We made pleasant conversation, Sasha and I, to the metro stop and on the train, until I knew we were to part ways at the next platform. Tverskaya, if I remember correctly. There I resolved to make my move. After confirming that, indeed, she was getting off at the next station, I asked her. “So,” I said, “This is about to get a bit awkward, but I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you and Fey these past few months. I really like spending time with you, and… well… I think you’re really pretty.” Bit of cringe there, but oh well. Hope that made her feel good, at least. “I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go out with me, like on a date. I was thinking maybe this weekend, if you’re free.”

Her sigh told me everything I needed to know, but of course I had to sit through the whole thing. We were trapped together, after all. She went on to tell me how she and Fey had a thing going on for the past couple months. She hadn’t wanted to inform me because she didn’t want to make things weird between us three, which I appreciate. I never felt like a third wheel and I never wanted too. I just wish I’d known. Strange… it wasn’t like the thought hadn’t occurred to me, but in none of their behavior did I see any evidence of romantic behavior.

Of course, yesterday, Saturday, it seemed so obvious. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship as friends by being weird about the rejection. Of course it wasn’t her fault. So when she messaged in our group chat proposing a walk around Tsaritsino, the abandoned imperial palace in the southeast of Moscow, and Fey agreed, I felt somewhat obligated. It was a gorgeous day. After wallowing in bed until 2 in the afternoon, which I do feel embarrassed about, I responded saying I had woken up feeling shitty (true) and hadn’t seen the message until then. Promised to head over when I could. I arrived at 4, smoked a cigarette, looked at the palace’s majestic visage, and messaged them to ask where they were. That day I saw the signs. Not clear, certainly, but when you knew what to look for they were there. A slight nudge here. The way she put up with his stupid jokes and obnoxious behavior. (Can you tell I’m still not quite over it?)

Some of their friends from last semester-they both were year-long students, though she was in St. Petersburg last semester-were coming from St. Pete to Moscow for the weekend, and we met them for dinner. I could stand spending time with the two of them, but meeting a crowd of new people was just too much. I blamed my premature departure on a persistent cough which required a nap. A useful excuse; illness comes in handy sometimes. I should probably feel like asshole for giving the new arrivals the cold shoulder, but I have trouble caring what they think. Probably never gonna see them again.

What to do? I made a mistake, that’s clear. But put in the same situation again, I’m sure I’d act the same way. I honestly did not suspect that they were together. It blindsided me, which I guess speaks to my shortsightedness, but who is in the wrong? Certainly not her. Even less Fey. And I have trouble assuming blame… but why have I felt so shitty, then, the last couple days? Embarrassment, I suppose. Rejection. A feeling that our relationship-the three of us-won’t really be the same from here on out. The only way to fix this seems to be to ignore it, but that doesn’t really feel like a fix at all.

I guess I’ll see her, and Fey, tomorrow at the university. Maybe that will bring some kind of resolution, but I doubt it.