Once upon a time, there was a boy.
He wasn't a particularly interesting boy; in fact, most girls saw him as a dark, quiet type with thinning brown hair, somewhat heavy eyebrows, and a rather sharp nose. There wasn't anything about him that drew the attention, save perhaps his height. But to one girl, he became special.
That girl was me.
My story isn't a glamorous one. It isn't different or exciting or full of midnight liaisons and stolen kisses. It's a typical story, almost cliché. Girl meets boy, girl grows to have a crush on boy, flirting happens, hopes rise… boy meets different girl, falls in love, and eventually marries the other girl. But it's my story, and the memories I have of it are fond.
I was introduced to him, briefly, through a movie night at our mutual friend's house. I walked through the door and shook his hand, and I didn't think much of him, other than giving him a very short once-over and thinking "No."
No, he wasn't cute enough for me to consider as a prospective future boyfriend. I sat across the room from him, and didn't give him another thought.
And because I didn't think he was particularly cute- perhaps he thought the same about me- we sat in the same living room every Sunday night, never communicating beyond maybe a comment or two, a request to pass the popcorn or chips, a mutual laugh at a joke. I'll admit that I sometimes wished he were cuter, because he was tall and dark and he seemed kind of nice, and — at the time– I was desperate to have a special someone.
Then suddenly, around a year later, I found myself sitting one person away from him at a table as the group of us gathered at a certain restaurant that stayed open late, and I noticed that he was sort of cute –in his own way– and that I sort of liked him. I paid more attention to what he said. I noticed that he had nice teeth, and a sweet smile. That he seemed to be genuine. That the color of his eyes was hard to make out; it changed, darkened, turned gold.
For the next few weeks, I talked to him more and more, and took every opportunity I could to gauge whether he might like me too. I got to know him better every movie night. Sat closer to him and hoped that he would start conversations with me. Waited to see him walk through the door. Got disappointed if he wasn't there. The more I talked to him, the more I liked him.
Before I knew it, I had a crush.
Fast forward… I'm not exactly sure how far ahead, to me sitting at a piano in a dark room, occasionally playing, but more concentrated on the fact that he had recently shown up in my chat bar due to a group email that I replied to, and he was online. I was house-sitting, bored, crushing, and hoping fervently that he would start talking to me. You see, I'm not the kind of girl who will make a first move. Even if all he might ever think was that I wanted friendship, I wasn't about to do something against what I've been raised by, and start any sort of relationship with a guy. Especially one that I liked.
So I sat there hoping, resisting the urge to be bold, and changing my status message every two minutes to something that I thought was funny in hopes he'd comment.
And after about ten minutes, he did. The first few lines of our conversation were in regards to whether or not hearses can drive in the carpool lane. The rest of it was frivolous, full of hahas and lols, and a few points where I pretended that I was distracted by the piano and said so because I had nothing else to say. I learned nothing about him other than I liked his sense of humor, he was watching a movie with his family, and his laptop was dying. It- the conversation and the computer's battery- lasted all of fifteen minutes.
I wrote a song based on him that night. Whether I started it before we chatted or after we chatted, I can't remember, but I finished it fifteen minutes after he said goodnight. It was called Every Little Thing Reminds Me of You. I couldn't stop smiling as I sang it to the darkness.
From that day on, we chatted at least five nights out of the week for three months straight. I almost always waited for him to start the conversation, but the more I knew him, the less I cared who had started it. So long as I could talk to him, I was happy. I learned about his job, his family, his likes and dislikes. I grew comfortable enough with him to blurt out whatever was on my mind, and he seemed to do the same for me.
We singled each other out- or so it seemed to me- whenever we were at movie night or any other place together. When the group went to a movie at the theater, I would get off of work and be there early, and he would meet me at Borders. We would wander the bookstore, talk about anything and everything that came to mind. When he told me that his grandma was sick and his mother was under a lot of stress, I bought them a card and a truffle. When he got a new apartment, he asked me to help him decorate. I couldn't go over there alone, but I would have.
I remember teasing him a lot. I remember feeling special that he paid me attention. I remember feeling beautiful.
It was a wonderful summer, cliché as that sounds. We went to the midnight showing of Dark Knight with a group of friends, and while they waited in the long, long line, he and I took a walk. It was breaking the rules, but I didn't care. There were a lot of things I rebelled against with him, because he was more important to me than the cautions my mother gave me. She knew better than I did, but that didn't stop me.
We'd go to drive in movies with other people and sit in the bed of the pickup and share a hot chocolate and get close to cuddling, while I wondered whether he thought we were just friends, or more. I didn't know if he really liked me, although everyone around me wondered how I could doubt it. There were a lot of signs, but he never solidly confirmed them with words.
He brought me coffee at work. We chatted every night for hours on end. He sat next to me whenever we saw each other. I knew his aspirations and dreams, and he knew mine. He even attended my church for a while and sat with me there, but he never asked me out. He never told me he liked me.
At the end of the summer, after three months of hope and slowly falling for him, telling my family that I really liked him, giggling and dreaming with my friends who reassured me that he liked me, the end started to draw near. I didn't see it immediately, but it was there.
My church holds a camping trip every year, and that year, we invited him and the rest of the movie-night group. My family wanted to get to know him better, seeing as he seemed to like me, and I definitely liked him. Slowly but surely, I was letting myself think of him as "the one." To my elation, he came, as did a few other friends from the group.
I don't remember much about that weekend, other than I was happy. We played Frisbee and made stupid sand sculptures on the beach, soaked in the sun, laughed. We gazed at the stars together, sat around the fire roasting marshmallows, shared stories and fond memories. It was the first time I'd ever felt beautiful around a guy when I had a bare face and a sunburn, my hair wild and full of sand. It was the best camping trip I've ever been on.
Fittingly, on the last day of camping, it rained. I remember that at breakfast that day, he could have chosen to sit at the fire with the rest of our friends, but he chose to sit at the picnic table with me. I was nervous that morning; I felt like something was different, but I wasn't sure what. I ignored it and focused on the fact that he had chosen to sit with me. We had cocoa.
It rained so much that by the time we left the campsite, we were all soaked. He and my brother and I were driving back home together. We decided to take a side-trip to the jetty, to see the storm and watch the waves. We were so drenched that my jeans kept falling down- I had recently lost weight, and they were too big anyway. He was amused, and offered me his belt. Of course, it was too big. I tied it around my hips and hoped it would keep my jeans in place.
When we got to the jetty, it was absolutely freezing, raining, muddy… and exhilarating. When I slipped on the rocks, he would catch me, and when he slipped, I caught him. I was so cold that he offered me his coat, though he only had a tee shirt underneath. I just accepted it for a few minutes before making him take it back. We stood close instead, and he shielded me with the sides of his coat to keep the wind off of my arms. Had I stepped back two inches, I would have been completely within his embrace.
But I was still unsure, so I stayed where I was and reveled in our closeness.
On the way home, as I lay across the back seat of the car, with him leaning the passenger's seat against my legs, he took my hand to feel how cold it was, and then… we did not let go. I'm not sure which of us decided to hold hands all the way home; I relaxed my hand once, just to see if he would do the same, and he didn't. After a while, I pretended I was sleeping, to have an excuse for why I hadn't let go.
It was the first time I had ever held a boy's hand.
For two hours, I pretended I was sleeping. For two hours, he had his arm behind his head, his cheek leaning on the back of my hand, his fingers wrapped around my palm. I remember the roughness of his stubble, like sandpaper against my hand and wrist whenever he moved. I remember thinking that it couldn't have a comfortable position for him. For two hours, I felt happiness, I felt guilt, I felt fear that my brother would notice our hands and tell us no.
When we stopped for gas, I said that the energy drinks we'd gotten were making me hyper. But really, it was elation that he'd held my hand.
After that day, I felt almost sure he liked me. I wondered why else he would have shielded me with his coat on that rainy day, sat by me at the table instead of with our friends, held onto my hand for so long. I hoped that soon, he would vocalize what everyone reassured me was obvious. That he liked me and wanted to date me.
I don't remember how long after that it was that my parents decided it was finally time to step in. I have no doubts that their involvement had a lot to do with why he never said anything, if he had ever liked me. I don't know what all they said, but they called him over when I was at work. I knew they had him over; they told me they were going to talk to him. They wanted to know what his intentions were.
And though they told me that he had said he wanted to date me, he never asked. I'm certain it's because of the fact that my parents made sure he knew that this wasn't something frivolous. They wouldn't allow him to date me if all he wanted was a bit of fun and games. I often wonder if commitment scared him then, or if he really didn't like me enough in the first place to take it a step further.
Not even a week after they talked to him, a girl came into my friend's house for movie night. She was short, bubbly, pretty, and flirtatious. Her dark hair was streaked with red, and I felt insecure. She was prettier than me. Almost immediately, I could tell that she liked him. And while I wasn't outright jealous or protective, I held onto the hope that he still liked me, even while I could already see that it was futile.
After three weeks, wherein I tried my best to hold onto him, talk to him, weakly compete with the other girl in my own way… my hopes were dashed, and I had nothing left. Four of us went hiking, and as I watched her flirt and laugh, I knew I was no match. She was much more interesting than I was. It was the worst hiking trip I've ever had; I walked in the back of the line so that no one would see it if I started to cry. When I hung back, he wasn't the first to notice. It hurt.
He started to sit next to her. He started to talk to her. She bubbled and laughed, I held fast to the hope that he was simply being friendly, though I knew it was more than that. He was over me. He liked her.
At the end of those three weeks, they were dating. Discreetly, even secretly. I have no doubt that it was for my sake because of a conversation I had with him later.
But while they tried to hide it, I knew.
It was the beginning of my first heartbreak. I sat in the dark room, barely surviving through a viewing of Zoolander, and I saw that he had put his hand between them, and so had she. For a second, a flicker of light from the TV, I could see that they were holding hands. I tried to ignore it, but there was little in the room to distract me. The movie was tedious and crude. No one else seemed to notice or care that the first guy to ever steal into my heart had just broken it, and a girl that I genuinely felt friendship towards was breaking it with him.
I went to my best friend's house, and I cried. I went to the house I was house-sitting, and I cried more. I wrote a song. I wished he would talk to me, tell me that he was sorry, that he hadn't meant to fall for her. I wanted him to at least tell me that my summer of hoping hadn't been all in my head. It was the worst pain I had ever felt, worse even than the death of my grandfather. At least with my grandpa, I had known that he loved me.
For two weeks, I was pathetically incapacitated by self-pity. I was thankful for the days I had in the house that I watched, for I could sit on the bathroom floor and sob. I could cry out and no one would ask me why. I could sit at the piano with my tears dripping onto the keys, and I could croak out the first words of a song that just barely touched what I was feeling. Nobody would ask me what it was about. Nobody would tell me I needed to get up and move on.
I remember one Saturday, sitting at home in my chair, reading the second or third book of the Twilight saga. One of Jacob's friends shared a name with him. I stopped reading to gather my emotions, and a commercial played that caught my attention. It was a preview for Star Wars Clone Wars. That same preview had played once at the drive in, at a movie I'd gone to see with him and a few others. Hurting memories curled around my heart. I cried.
That song I had written on that first day we chatted was becoming painfully true. Everything reminded me of him. Everything threatened to make me cry.
After a week or two, I finally got the courage to chat with him, and I asked him to confirm what I knew deep down. When he said yes, he was dating the girl, my response was "Awesome!". Somewhere behind the broken heart, I still wanted him to be happy. More than him, I wanted the girl to be happy. I wanted him to treat her better than he had treated me. I hoped that her heart wouldn't be broken one day as mine was right then. I liked her. She could have been a good friend.
He was surprised at my answer. He said I was the first person to ask about them, and did it make me uncomfortable?
Since I had nothing more to lose, I told him that I had liked him, and that at first I had felt awkward- which was a vast understatement. I'd sat in the parking lot before movie night bawling my eyes out because of him. But I let him know that I thought she was cool, and that they made a good couple. Telling him that I had liked him and gotten over it was hard, but it was honest. I was still hurting, yes, but I no longer liked him that way.
He told me he was sorry if he hurt me at all. He said he knew that we had been hanging out a lot, and that he had fun with me, and I was an awesome person. When I told him it was okay, I felt the need to reassure him that I got attached easily. I don't know why I said that. It's not true. I don't get attached easily, not in that way. It takes a lot of talking, and a fair amount of certainty that my affection is being returned.
But he hoped that we could still be friends, and I said of course. After a short conversation about how he and his family were, I had to leave.
That was the last real conversation we had.
His girlfriend held a Halloween party a few weeks later, and I went. I saw them as a couple. I felt bittersweet happiness for them. I didn't want to cry. I told him she made his dancing look bad, and he'd better take care of her. He said he knew, and that he would. Throughout the evening, he was friendly. He gave me an awkward hug before I left.
After that, I emailed him a couple of times. Mostly just to ask for my movie back, something I had loaned to him before she came along, and he's never returned. He never answered me.
It's been a little over a year since my last attempt to contact him. I've seen him in my chat bar almost every day of the week. He nearly always has his status set to available, but I'm pretty sure it's usually when he's at work. I suspect this, because the very last time I tried to chat with him, he told me. It was a short conversation.
Hey, how've you been? Good, can't really talk, I'm at work. Oh, sorry. Hi, bye. Sorry. Later.
That was last January. Somewhere around December last year, or perhaps it was the beginning of this year, I found out he was engaged. I also found out that he'd removed me as a friend on Facebook. By the time I found those two things out, I had thought my feelings on the subject had gone away completely, but they hadn't. Discovering that he'd removed me felt like he had finally decided he really didn't want to be friends like he'd once hoped we would be. It hurt more than I thought it would, and I shed a lot of tears.
Shortly after that, I realized that the year of wishing our friendship had continued, of wondering if he had ever liked me, of harboring those unfinished feelings… it was a waste of time. I realized that I was holding onto hope, even though I no longer had any romantic feelings towards him. I still hoped that at least he'd consider me a friend. I hoped that those three months of chatting every day wouldn't be thrown into the past and left there. I had hoped that the friendship we'd had beyond my liking him was real.
But for whatever reason, he had decided not to continue the friendship. I'd left the channels open, and he closed them.
Once I realized that, I finally let go. I let go of the hope that one day we'd meet and he'd want to be friends again. I let go of the hope that I'd be friends with the girl he loves. I let go of the disappointment that nothing had turned out the way I had wanted it to. I let go of the frustration, the hurt, the heartbreak, the confusion, the craving to know what he'd been thinking in those three months of one of the best summers I'd ever had.
I took it all out of me, dropped it in a box, and I said goodbye. It was one of the best things I've ever done for myself.
Now, I feel nothing towards him. I wish him a good life, but I have no emotions on the subject. I don't feel I have to be happy that he's found the love of his life. I'm not jealous that he chose her instead of me. I'm not sad that we never were. I'm not mad that he broke my heart. I have nothing.
It simply happened. A long time ago. It's as if it wasn't even me, that girl two years ago who had a crush on a boy, who spent her summer happy and wondering, who was broken hearted in the end. I felt sadness for her as I wrote this, but not sadness for me. I could have cried with her, but she's not me. She's someone else. Someone young and naive and silly. Someone brave enough to give her heart, stupid enough to let it be taken without something in return.
She's in the past.
There were a lot of firsts in that relationship. He was the first boy to ever take my heart. He was the first boy I ever dared to flirt with, and the first boy I ever cried over, the first boy for whom I did not hide the fact that I liked. He was the first boy who ever held my hand. He was the first boy that I ever thought I might marry one day. He was the first boy my parents had to talk to, and he was the first boy to reject me for someone else. He was the first person whose friendship I eventually lost.
Had I been the older, wiser me, I wouldn't have held his hand that day on the way back from camping. I would have tried to be more cautious, to withhold my feelings a bit more until he vocally confirmed what I hoped. I know I can't ever completely keep myself from liking a boy, but I hope that I'll be able to rein in my feelings and be more subtle about my liking him until I know he likes me too. I hope he'll be braver, or more committed, or whatever it is he needs to tell me he likes me.
Had I been the older, wiser me, I may have never given him the signs I had given him. I would never have shared cocoa with him at drive-ins, or sat so close to cuddling, or huddled in the almost-embrace of his arms and his coat. And had I not done that, I would not have given my heart away to him so quickly.
I don't wish it undone, for had I not been impulsive and naïve and hopeful, I would never have learned so much about myself. I would never have known what to give, and what to hold back. I would never have grown to be as confident as I am today. I would never have known to wait for the boy to make a first move that was more than just a late night chat on the internet.
And I never would have known why it's wiser to hold back a little, and not give away my heart until I know without a doubt that he's the right one. I would never have learned to wait.
So have I really forgotten all the feelings that went on in me in those four months of happiness and heartbreak?
I haven't forgotten them. I can still recall what it's like to have my hopes crushed and my heart shattered. But they no longer have an effect on me. I no longer shed tears at their memory. I no longer waste my time hoping for something that will never happen. I no longer want to ask him why. I remember that part of me, but I am cleansed of all wishes and emotional connections between myself and that piece of my past.
The only thing I want to say to him, should I ever speak to him again, is thank you.
Thank you for giving up. Thank you for being scared away, walking away, or perhaps never feeling anything for me at all. You helped me become a better version of who I was two years ago. I am a better writer because of you. I'm stronger because of you. I'm more confident because of you. I no longer wonder whether or not I'm attractive because of you. Thank you for being a friend, and for giving me three months of happiness. Thank you for making me think you liked me too. Thank you for falling in love with another girl.
I've learned so much from you and everything I felt in the year that followed that heartbreak. I've learned to depend on God for my happiness. I've learned to be blunt and bold with boys who I suspect like me. I've learned to clarify my interests with them, because I never want a guy to go through the confusion and wondering, never knowing whether I like him too, or whether my actions are as a friend only. I've learned to be more conscious of what signals I may unknowingly mislead someone with. I've learned that I can live through a heartbreak without bitterness. I've learned to be thankful for my past mistakes and the lessons they offer instead of regretting that I ever acted in such a way.
And without any bitterness, regret, sadness, or anger; with all gratitude and honesty, I say this.
Thank you for breaking my heart.
Yes, this is a true story. And it's mine.