Suddenly I'm fourteen years old again and I'm in love with you.

Wait.


Junior year, you get your first car and we decide to take drives together every night. Fuck gas prices, we've got part time jobs. That's what they're for, aren't they? We don't need savings. As long as we get into Ivy League schools next year, our parents will gladly pay for them.

Except, except my parents don't know we're together, because dating would distract me from my studies and supposedly prevent getting into those colleges, so I wait for you on the curb at the very end of my street, where years ago I used to stay and talk to my best friend in eighth grade, and you'd come by riding shotgun next to your mom, and she'd ask with that accent of hers I can recognize anywhere now, Do those two girls go to your school?

But now you can drive yourself, and it's just me standing on that corner of purple night sky and breezy darkness freckled with stars and the dumb hopes of two teenagers in love.

You never miss a night. Even when I get my own car, even when your car's running on empty.

But I do.

Once. Just once. Senior year, I'm rejected from the Ivy League schools I applied to, and my parents are so disappointed in me that they can't even manage to be angry. Their words are just hollow, echoing four years ago, when I applied for that prestigious high school and I was wait-listed.

You were wait-listed too, I remember.

That night, with the rejection letter envelopes sitting on the granite counter I've passed every morning since I was seven, you push open the front door without knocking and see those letter scattered on the counter, paper perfectly clean and the fold creases new on each one, and you see me curled up on the couch, whipped raw by the accusations of my parents and the sense of failure that is crushing my heart, and you wrap your arms around me and hold me.

I'm shaking so badly and you hold me.

This is enough, I think. You are enough.

But are you?


This is how we get together.

Eighth grade, I fall head over heels for you. I follow you all year. I dream about you. I drool over you. I muster the courage to talk to you, and you eagerly respond. I get to know you, and you get to know me, and I start to believe that you feel the same way. Oh, puberty! Oh, first love!

After nearly a year, the truth rolls out of me, and you don't reply for days.

Then, I'm sorry.

All you say, after the longest and most painful silence I've ever experienced, is I'm sorry.

But what are you sorry for? For not loving me?

I'm fine. My heart will mend.

It'll mend, I say. It's mending, I keep saying. Who am I trying to convince? Why do I tell myself that it's mending when it's not? It doesn't mend. It never mends. It's cracked and unfixable and ugly. And though I'm done chasing after you, when you turn to me in sophomore year, after a particularly bad breakup with your girlfriend, I welcome you with open arms.

I love you, you say after just a month.

I love you, I repeat, and I mean it, and only then does my heart begin to mend.


Field trip! Today, I am so happy I could burst. The chaperoning teachers aren't looking, and your arms are wrapped around me again, hands tucked into the front pockets of my shorts. You rest your chin on the top of my head and crane your neck every two seconds to kiss my forehead. When did you get so tall? When did you get so handsome?

But we both know, even in your ugliest moments, and I don't mean that just physically, I have always loved you, and I will always love you.

The sun is in my eyes and the wind is pushing my hair back, tendrils flying everywhere and curling around your collarbones pressed against the back of my neck, and so you know, I haven't cut my hair since I let you in. And oh, I let you in. I know it. You know it. Our friends know it, and strangers know it, and the sandy boardwalk under my feet knows it.

We sneak off to buy ice cream, and you finish your cone in the time it takes me to thank the vendor, so of course you start to steal bites from mine.

Hey! I complain, but we're both laughing like idiots, and you've got ice cream all over your face, and when I try to wipe it away, you kiss me. It's a sticky kiss. It's hot out, too hot to be wearing the matching black t-shirts our high school has forced us to wear, which attract the simmering yellow sun the way you attract me. A teacher could find us at any moment, making out next to a disgruntled ice cream man, but I no longer care. You taste like mint chocolate chip, my favorite flavor, and you are my favorite person, and this is my favorite memory of us.


We start to fall apart after the college letters. Despite the Ivy League rejections, I'm accepted into Barnard, the closest thing I've got to Columbia now. And you say, don't go. Come to UCLA with me.

UCLA, a school I didn't want to apply for in the first place.

Okay, I say. Because we're in love.

My parents, they fucking disown me. But I go to live with you, all the way across the country, in a tiny apartment outside of Los Angeles we can barely afford together, because we're in love. The commute is horrible. The heat is horrible. Two East Coast kids, lost in the west, and one doesn't want to be here at all. But I'm here. Because we're in love.

And then, we begin to unravel at the seams.

We argue. And then we stop talking completely. You become a frat boy, and suddenly, your social life doesn't include me anymore. Too many nights pass with me alone in an empty apartment, too many mornings pass with me peeling you off the floor of somebody else's dorm, piss-drunk, out cold with a penis drawn on your face and a plastic red cup still clenched in your hand, to take you home.

And then, I'm tired of loving you.

So I apply for a transfer mid-year, and Barnard takes me. Don't leave, you beg on the morning of my flight, but your eyes are bloodshot and your breath smells like hangover. You try to grab my arm on the way out, but you haven't bothered to put in your contact lenses in weeks and you miss my wrist by a few inches. My bags are slung over my shoulder and my throat is closing up but I'm done, I'm done. I have spent years with you, more years loving you, and forgiving you, and I'm done.

I slam the door in your face. I hope it hurts.


The day I fall in love with you is the first day of eighth grade. We're the top of the school now, the big kids, and with my brand new binders clutched to my chest, I'm not scared at all. I'm thirteen years old, a teenager, and I will conquer this year. I am strong enough for anything and everything headed my way.

Except for you walking into class with your glasses gone and an entirely different swagger in your step. Who are you? Where is the dorky boy I've known since third grade?

Without thinking, I blurt, Hello, like I've never seen you before. And I haven't. Not this way.

You turn around, meet my eyes, and my heart whimpers.

Hi, you say, one eyebrow arched, and the corner of your mouth tugs up.

I have never seen you smile like that, and before I know it, I am spiraling.


For one of my philosophy courses at Barnard, I have to write a paper on a belief about fate.

So, with my heritage and my family in mind—because when I leave you, they take me back, and I have never been so grateful for family—I choose the Red String of Fate, a Chinese legend stating that two people are connected by an invisible red string, and regardless of the circumstances, they are soul mates. The string will stretch or tangle, but it will never break.

I write about how it's impossible to tell the color of a string when it's invisible. I write about how the whole 'destined lovers' thing is bullshit, because love isn't that simple. I write and write and write, and I realize that my essay, as passionate as it is, is too long and pointless and complete crap, and I'm not going to get good marks this semester if I hand it in.

So I go to one of New York's many coffee shops, and I plant myself down at a table with hot java and my laptop, and I get ready to edit.

Three lines in, you walk in.

My blood runs cold in my veins, icier than the weather outside, but you're not even looking at me. Your broad shoulders are hunched, your eyes tired, and you order the same thing you've been drinking since I ordered coffee for you all those years ago: hazelnut, with an unhealthy amount of cream and sugar. I see the barista dumping huge spoonfuls of sugar into your cup, and I wonder why you still drink your coffee that way. That's what I wonder, not why you're back on the east coast, not how we could meet like this, not if it's not really you and I'm just slipping into early senility.

But it's you. It's you, and I know this because when you take your coffee and turn to grab a napkin from the metal dispenser, you glance around the shop warily and our eyes lock.

You stop. I stop. Time stops. The blinking cursor on my screen freezes with my heart.


Suddenly, I'm fourteen years old again and I'm in love with you.

Wait!


No, forget editing. I'm going to rewrite my entire paper.

The red string legend, maybe it's real. Maybe. You and me, maybe we've got this crimson thread between us, and although it's dirty, although it's tangled and twisted and messed up in every possible way, it's not broken. Maybe we're destined to be together. Maybe we're destined to love each other, and maybe there's a reason I have never completely forgotten about you.

Maybe.

Or maybe not. Maybe I have always forgiven you too easily, maybe I have always loved you more than you've loved me, and maybe you're just an insecure guy who needs an insecure girl to keep him company. Maybe all of this is just a coincidence, and we're not meant to be together at all.

Maybe.

I close my laptop and I grab my cup of coffee, clearing my table and brushing past you without a word. I don't even raise my head. You flinch at this, and I pretend not to notice.

I'm about to push the glass door open and face the harsh cold of New York in winter, when I stop and take a step back. What am I doing? Am I really going to ditch this opportunity? Am I really over you? God, who am I fucking kidding? I love you. I have always loved you, and I will always love you.

I can feel your gaze scorching the back of my jacket, a little hotter when you see me freeze like I've just remembered something, or someone—and I close my eyes.

Nah.

No.

I open my eyes and push the door open, ready to face the future.