How I got my best friend off the shelf

Anthea Kreston’s diary:

Never leave something unsaid. Life doesn’t travel in a straight line, and although it can be wonderful and fulfilling to simply follow its twists and turns, there are moments – junctures – where a thing left unsaid can forever sever a potential path. That path may not open, but not taking the chance can begin a pattern of adventure rigor mortus, a slowing of personal desires and creative dreaming.

A simple, straightforward Facebook message over three years ago began a path for me and my family that I would never have anticipated. “Do you remember me? Are you still looking for a new member for your quartet?“ The likelihood that the message would be answered, or lead to anything, was small, but to just type it out gave me a little dream, and that, in and of itself, was worth it.

We have a wonderful friend, Markus (not his real name) who plays the flugelhorn (not his real instrument). He is everything a girl could want in a boy – well-educated, handsome, sensitive (he even pinch-hits as the instructor when the yoga teacher is ill), funny, great with kids, successful, and a fantastic musician. Jason and I have known him since we were all in our mid-20‘s, and we normally find a way to play together at least once a year. And so, we know about each other‘s careers, struggles, and personal lives. We three rely on one another for advice in all manners. He is simply a “Top 10 Human“.

Markus is one of those people who excels at organizing massive amounts of people. He runs several music camps and festivals, and we often join him for one or more of these every year. To see him in action is amazing – he engages with people of all ages, and is so popular, one of the biggest ticket items at a festival auction is being able to take him out for lunch, one-on-one. Lunch with Markus. People go crazy outbidding each other.

But, why-oh-why was he such a disaster with his love-life? He is one of those semi-itinerant male musicians who, for some reason, is always hooking up with the page-turner, or the super-fan. Or someone from the gym. It was a dizzying array of 4-month relationships. He would lament, “we just ran out of things to talk about“, or “she couldn’t seem to understand why I had to go on tour”. His girlfriends all wore very short skirts, had well-groomed faces, and toned forearms. And they didn’t read Shakespeare, if you know what I mean. One day, over a coffee, I mentioned to Markus that perhaps things kept going South in the Love Department because his short-term priorities perhaps didn’t align with his long-term goals. His short-term goals were pretty obvious, but maybe he should examine more closely what the priorities of the people he was seeking out were. I mentioned that the people he was dating would have to spend a fair amount of time on personal upkeep, time not spent reading or contemplating the big questions of life.

During this time, we noticed that there was a girl, the daughter of one of his older colleagues, who he seemed so at-ease with. She was normal, smart, funny, and hard-working. Year after year, we would see them interact, and finally, I said to Markus “you should tell her how you feel“. He looked shocked, and said things like, “I am good friends with her family, I am older than her, I have a girlfriend…….“.

After this, I would ask him every time I saw him – he would balk, “she has a boyfriend, I respect her mother very much, I can’t say anything“. She had moved to Medicine Hat (not the real location) after her Masters degree to study Flugelhorn privately with Markus. They were like two peas in a pod. At the end of those two years, as she was preparing to leave for Ulaanbataar (NTRL) to start a new musical position, I said again to Markus – “you have to tell her how you feel – you have been in love with her for years, and she deserves to have that information, this is your last chance – you will loose her forever“. He said – “I just can’t, I have known her for so long, and I just can’t“. I said – “can I, with your permission, can I?“. She was waiting for her taxi, about to leave forever. Markus was shaking with nervousness, waiting in the next room. I told her, “Markus is too nervous to tell you, but he gave me his blessing to tell you that he loves you, and has for many years. You don’t have to say anything, but he wanted for you to know“.

She looked shaken, but left for the airport. Markus was overcome with emotion, but relieved. We travelled back to our respective homes, and he would write to me every week. No news from Suzanne. No news.

Then, finally, a message. She called him. Four weeks later, Markus went to visit her in Mongolia. Several months later, a simple photo in my sms – a selfie of them kissing. The rest is history – a beautiful wedding, an anniversary come and gone, a home purchased and filled with love and students. Travelling together to festivals and concerts. Somehow his flugelhorn was sold around the time of the wedding, and he is now playing on my Becker Flugelhorn. I couldn’t imagine a better flugelhorn babysitter. . .

Don’t leave it unsaid. If you can’t say it yourself, have a friend say it. Life deserves the magic of chance.


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  • This is an uplifting story.
    A person who is perfect in almost every way. Helped out in getting over his only imperfection by an almost-perfect friend.
    It’s uplifting if you look at your imperfect life, imperfect friends, family, your imperfect self – you smile and you give thanks for it all. Happy New Year!

      • True. If knowingly breaking up two relationships isn’t going to put you off from “trying and trying again” to date someone, then a little imperfection is hardly going to get in the way.

  • There is so much in here that is disturbing. Disdainfully insulting women who are attractive or dress “in short skirts “, assuming they cannot be smart or well read because they work out or groom their hair or faces (odd descriptive – does she mean wear makeup?) the female on female sexism is astounding. Then encouraging an older teacher/mentor to tell his younger graduating student, whose parents he had ingratiated himself with, that he “is in love with her” as she is starting a new job is risky- #metoo territory— that she didn’t rush to him or contact him for a month interesting as is author’s cluelessness re creepiness of her telling woman this. That a month of loneliness in a new town and not having her old boyfriend still or a new one led her to consider him is not point. Also odd use of she is “normal “- code for plain looking?? Cause smart and funny aren’t normal. And aren’t page turners normal too, or women you meet in the gym- I avoid her pieces because I can tell irk me but this time I’m commenting

    • One must wonder, of all the possible musicians who can write, how does something like this end up here?
      It starts with some memory of a Facebook message between old acquaintances and abruptly shifts to some unremarkable story. At the same time the writer also seems to belittle various instruments and cities to add what little humour is on reserve. “Markus, go date your student” is a little tone deaf, no?

      • “Markus, go date your student” is a little tone deaf, no? — it is indeed. Especially when the speaker knew that Markus already had a girlfriend, and knew moreover that the student already had a boyfriend.

    • Was she making assumptions about women based on their grooming/ dressing habits? Or was she making observations about these specific women based on meeting them?

      Is it unethical to wait until your student is no longer your student before letting your feelings be known to them? And then, only when they are leaving town forever? Also, she was not his “graduating” student — she moved to “Medicine Hat” to study with him privately after completing her master’s degree.

      It doesn’t say how long she waited to contact him. It only says “he would write to me every week. No news… no news.” It could have been more than a month, or less. It does say that he went to visit her 4 weeks after she contacted him. I guess I could accuse you of being condescending, with your assumption that one single month in a new place with no boyfriend would drive someone into the arms of a creepy older man. (He’s older than she is, so he must be creepy. Never mind the fact that he used his age as a reason not to make a move.) You must think she’s pretty shallow, and/or immature. Or maybe you think people in real life act like people in the movies: “I don’t care if I miss my flight, I must go to him!” [cue theme from “A Man And A Woman”]

      Oh, and did you miss the part about how now they are married now? Or do you have an assumption to share about that, too?

      Yes, there is more than one way of looking at any situation; but when you willfully misunderstand (and then misrepresent) the situation, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    • Oh for God’s sake. Please could people take a page out of basic subjective opinion, or even moral relativism, and quit being so offended all the time? The aim of the story was clearly not to provoke. You take that lovely tale about love and insecurities of a man (no objection there?) and make it about your perceived issues. And you even presume what they should and shouldn’t have done, labelling the behavior “#metoo territory”. That makes me sick.

      If you feel so strongly about these “astounding”, “disturbing”, “sexist”, and “disdainfully insulting” issues which denigrate women oh-so-very much, I would attempt to be a fixer elsewhere. This is not really the battleground any of us want.

      If anything, I believe your comment is ignorant and selfish, and a bit petulant.

      • Maybe it’s that for artists this is a cheap version of Dear Abby.
        There’s hardly anything interesting here—has virtually nothing to do with SD’s focus.
        Person uses Facebook to get job.
        Person reflects on old playa friend who got around.
        Person convinced friend his elder associate’s daughter—-also his student—is his true love.

        No tie in to the Facebook message.

          • Based on “I would ask him every time I saw him – he would balk, “she has a boyfriend, I respect her mother very much, I can’t say anything,” I read the boyfriend thing as one of his excuses from the past. I figured she was single this time around, mostly because I didn’t think our Anthea was the type to go around breaking up other people’s relationships.

            But maybe I was wrong? 😉

    • oh jeee, it is pretty clear what she’s meaning and how she’s meaning it. Why, why the professionals of the political correctness are always on duty….?

  • “Faint heart never won fair lady”. Thank goodness you interceded. And a grammar irritation…”massive NUMBERS of people” versus “massive AMOUNTS of sugar/food…”. Things belongs to ‘amounts’ and people belongs to ‘numbers’.

      • The only reason I know about the existence of Medicine Hat is the movie “Atlantic City.” Susan Sarandon’s character keeps having to explain that she’s from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. When people look at her blankly, she says helpfully, “It’s near Medicine Hat.”

        (When I actually met someone from Moose Jaw, I was able to make an impression by saying “Oh – that’s near Medicine Hat, isn’t it?” 😉

        • Actually, Moose Jaw is not close to Medicine Hat. These two towns are in different provinces (Saskatchewan/Alberta)- and are separated by over 200 kilometres – as if anyone really cares . . .

  • “Life deserves the magic of chance.” A wonderful and profound line — even more so in a time in which fewer and fewer things are indeed left to chance and in which everything becomes subject to the tyranny of exhaustive planning, rationality, and usefulness — the very opposite of art. Thank you for that, Anthea.

    • Exhaustive planning, rationality and usefulness the very opposite of art? Why is it that the best artists have spent thousands of hours on i,t planning their work carefully, and the best works in all artistic fields are planned and are considered great works because of their effect effect on, that is, their usefulness, to the audience?

  • Ah, short-term “goals” so often are unaligned with the long term! Had a similar experience with a co-worker who greatly admired another co-worker. Upshot: they married (happily). Sometimes, a friend’s eyes see what one misses. Good for you!

  • I felt uncomfortable reading it. Very disparaging and dismissive about certain women. Don’t know if the heading was hers or editor but bit dated talking about “left on the shelf” as if life’s goal was to be married.

      • No, she tells us the Dude already had a girlfriend. So he wasn’t on the shelf. Nor was she. This woman broke up two existing relationships in order to put into practice her second-hand theory.

        • Hi David –
          This story spans 10 years, from undergraduates years to several years post-Masters, and not a very large age gap – both parties were single at the time.

  • You’re lucky. I had fixed up two good friends with men to whom I believed they would be highly attracted, although I had some reservations about both of them. Both friends fell in love with the men intensely. In one case it led to a very painful divorce (the guy just left without a trace). In the other case it led to a broken engagement which threw my friend, in fact, at the time my closest friend, into a deep long term depression. Needless to say I felt very guilty

    I now have a strict rule never to fix up anybody with anybody, gay or straight. I let everyone I know take responsibility for their own love life. Frankly I just don’t want the responsibility.

  • Strange how many people find this story uplifting or magical in some way. Especially since we do not know, on the basis of what is said, anything about the two people whose hopes for the future were ruined by the intervention of this author. She tells us that the young man was already in a relationship. She tells us that the young woman already had a boyfriend. Nevertheless, the narrator persisted in advocating for the break-up of both of these existing relationships because she thought she knew better. I am not convinced that she did. And I have more sympathy for those who were cast aside.

    This woman did not ‘get her best friend off the shelf’. He was already off the shelf. And he stayed off. Instead, she relegated his existing girlfriend to the shelf without a word of sympathy for her.

    I find this story very sad.

  • A great story, Anthea, even if the opening FB reference seemed a bit irrelevant to me! Im glad you were willing to help out – Im sure the happy couple will be forever grateful.

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