The Girl I Love

Have I ever told you about the girl I love?

Come on, I'm not that bad, am I?

Dude, stop laughing I mean it. I'm trying to be serious about this and shit, but if you don't want to talk about it whatever, we can talk about something else.

Are you sure you want me to keep talking about it, or do you just want to hear about it so you can keep laughing at me? I mean, I know I'm not exactly the most "relationship-oriented" guy you've ever met or anything, but even someone like me can have feelings like that, right?

I mean, yes, I know that it's not exactly expected of me, but it can happen.

I'm just human, right?

And it's not like I intended to fall in love with her, it just sort of … happened, I guess.

Let's see, it started back … gosh, I don't know, when I was like fifteen or sixteen, maybe seventeen. Those high school years are really starting to get fuzzy now, aren't they? Anyway, as you know, I've been writing stories for a long time and posting them on this one website so random people can read them and tell me that they're good and make me feel better about myself.

Don't laugh, we all need something to make us feel better, and that's what I used.

Well, after being on there for a while, I started noticing that this one user in particular was consistently reviewing my stories and kept going on about how good they were and so forth, so being the polite guy I was, I figured that if someone was reading and reviewing that many of my stories, I could try to return the favor by reading and reviewing theirs.

They didn't have very many stories posted, only like two or three, but I read them all, enjoyed them immensely, and left my reviews about them. Sure enough, within the week, she sent me a message thanking me for my reviews and complimenting me on my stories.

I guess that was the start of it all.

After she opened communication, we began sending messages back and forth constantly, at first we were just talking about one another's stories but eventually the conversation turned onto one another, about who we were, what we enjoyed and so forth.

Eventually we dropped the stupid pen names that the site required us to have and began just calling each other by our first names.

You laugh, but that's actually a pretty big deal when meeting internet strangers, or at least, it used to be. Now with the advent of Facebook, half the time people will just randomly add friends that they may have only seen once or twice for six seconds, but whatever, that's not the point.

Now where was I?

Oh right, I discovered her name was Cassie and that we had very similar interests in books, music, and movies, which when you're a sixteen year old, give or take, boy, those are the big things that you worry about, of course since then, I've learned that those are such a tiny part of a relationship that they hardly even matter, but back then, it was almost like she had proposed to me.

The other thing that I think had a large effect on our relationship was that, believe it or not, in high school I was a pretty awkward teenager, or at least, I thought I was. Girls didn't really talk to me all that often, so having a girl who wanted to talk to me, even if it was through a series of emails online, was a huge deal for me.

Now the next question that I'm going to ask you, and I know you're going to laugh at it, is: can a person fall in love with someone without ever seeing their face, without ever hearing their voice, without ever feeling their touch? Can a person fall in love with black text on a white background that someone somewhere typed?

Because somewhere during those messages back and forth, I fell in love with her.

Yes, I understand that I was just a teenager and that I didn't know what love actually was, or at least that's what everyone has told me, and what I've told every teenager when they tell me that they're in love, but even now, eight years later, I still can't shake that feeling.

Have I talked to her recently, well, I'm getting to that, so don't rush me.

Now, at this point, we'd been chatting back and forth for at least six months or so, give or take, and our conversations were starting to get a bit more personal, a bit more in depth. We started sharing our aspirations, our fears, our doubts. We were sharing things that I have hardly shared with anyone, before or since.

I was going through a tough time too during all this, my depression was flaring up for the first time, and I was trying to figure out how to deal with it, and besides my parents, Cassie was probably the biggest help with that, just knowing that when I came home from school, there would be a message from her waiting in my inbox, made everything easier somehow.

It made me actually want to get up out of bed every morning, just so I could see what she said.

Finally, one day, we decided to take what was perhaps one of the biggest plunges you could take with an internet stranger at the time: we sent each other pictures. It was at her request actually, although deep down I wanted to see what she looked like, I just didn't want to ask and seem like a creep.

I can't even remember which picture of mine I ended up sending her, it was probably one from my junior prom where I was all dressed up and looked much better than I normally do, because I wanted to impress her.

The ones she sent me were very candid, almost as though she wasn't trying to impress me, which is what made them inadvertently more impressive for me. She took them quickly in the morning before she left for school, basically right after she got out of the shower and got dressed, so her hair was still all wet and uncombed, and she wasn't wearing anything particularly attractive, just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, but my god, when I saw her, my jaw dropped.

When you read someone's letters or notes having not met them, your brain tries to fill in the gaps as much as possible: imagining what they look like, whether or not they wear makeup, what their hair color is, what they would smell like if you pressed your nose against their hair.

You even imagine what their voice is like, and every time you read their letters, this surrogate voice that you've created for them is the one that narrates their words.

However, you also sit there and doubt that the person could possibly look like that, you think that there's no way that they could be that beautiful, or attractive, or whatever, because you know that if they were, they wouldn't be spending so much time online chatting to you through email; they'd be outside living their life, being with their friends, dating guys and so forth.

It's a rational concept when you think about it.

I just tried to convince myself not to get my hopes up for her picture because I was afraid that she'd be horribly average looking, or worse, just plain unattractive. Not that that would stop me from emailing her, but it would put a damper on some of my romantic feelings.

You can say it if you want.

Yes, I'm a shallow bastard. But then again, you're friends with me, so what does that make you?

Oh shut up.

Anyway, I was trying to describe her to you, wasn't I?

Well—and I wish I had the pictures to show you to help punctuate this, I know they're probably still buried on some old email on my computer, but I for the life of me can't find them, so you'll just have to believe me—she was perhaps the most beautiful girl I had ever seen at the time.

I say "at the time" because as the years have gone by I've seen more beautiful girls. Those girls were all dandied up like little porcelain dolls on parade, trying to make all the guys at the club or the bar fall in love with them, and that's the only reason why they were more beautiful: because they had taken the time to be.

She hadn't even tried, and she still remains one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen.

It was like—how do I say this—have you ever been outside one day, early, like really fucking early in the morning, and you see the sun beginning to come up, shining through the dew, and there's no one else awake, and it's just you and the world around you and near silence, and in that moment you feel eternal? Like all of a sudden, after all these years of living your jaded existence, suddenly everything seems so full of life and wonder, and you question how you could've ever forgotten such a thing?

Or did you ever have a secret place? Like somewhere you'd run off to at night when you were upset, where you'd go and close your eyes and just let everything fall around you until there was nothing but cool silence? Or maybe you wouldn't close your eyes and you'd gaze out at some beautiful after dark landscape and you'd remind yourself that things weren't as bad as your originally thought, that there was still beauty out there, and you thought it silly that you could've ever thought otherwise?

Looking at her in that picture, smiling at the camera for me, had the same effect.

Stringy wet hair and all.

She blew away any of my expectations, knocked them right out of the park.

I must have spent five minutes or more looking at her pictures, trying to memorize every detail. The only reason I stopped was that I suddenly felt self-conscious staring at her like that, even though I wasn't thinking sexual thoughts or anything, it felt kind of dirty somehow. So I minimized them and returned to emailing her with a newfound fervor, now knowing how gorgeous she was.

Our emails increased from once every other day or so to sometimes two or three a day.

I found myself staying in more often than not, because I was more concerned about reading a new message than I was interested in seeing my friends.

Ha, yeah, I know, right? It doesn't sound like me at all.

But there was just something about her and the way she wrote that enthralled me.

After seeing each other's pictures, we also started getting a bit more flirtatious with our messages, which could also be why I was so excited to get to be reading them every day. We complimented each other on our looks, talked about our previous relationships or lack thereof, and just in general into what I consider the second phase of attraction.

You know, it's the point where you're closer than just acquaintances but you're not quite friends either because that sexual attraction is there. Of course, you haven't actually done anything about this attraction yet, like kiss or fuck, so it's your relationship is stuck in this awkward sort of limbo state.

That's what I consider the second phase of attraction.

Like I was saying, things between us were getting more and more personal every day. We shared where our general locations were and such, and I discovered that she was all the way down in Florida. Which quite frankly sucked seeing as how it would take me at least eight hours to get down to her.

Not that I was actually planning to ever get to visit her, but it was one of the little fantasies I had.

Dude, shut up, I was a teenager, you know you did the same thing back then.

Anyway it was around this time when we hit our first major problem, her dad found out about our frequent messages back and forth. Now this usually isn't a huge issue, but you have to understand, this guy was really uptight of his daughter's privacy, and fearful of random internet strangers like me.

Seriously, he didn't even let his daughter have a Myspace or Facebook account. He didn't even know she had an account on the story publishing website either, so as you can guess, he didn't take well to this news.

He put a stop to our messaging.

For three weeks I didn't hear a single word from Cassie, and I started to get worried about her.

Finally I got a message from her, well actually, it wasn't directly from her, it was from one of her friends, letting me know what happened and about how Cassie was going to be forced to delete her account and how we were not going to be able to message each other again.
Not going to lie, it really sucked.

No, no, that's not the end of the story. Which honestly surprised me too.

I'll go ahead and fast forward about three years, I'm finishing up college at this point, first semester of my last year if I'm remembering right and one day as I'm walking to class I hear someone shout out my name.

Now usually, I just don't bother to reply since I have a very common first name, but when the person repeated it, I decided to turn around and see if they were actually talking to me, and that's when I saw her: Cassie, in the flesh.

At first I didn't quite realize who she was, I mean, three years is a long time and I had only ever seen the one picture of her, so it's not like I had memorized what she looked like. But then when she said, "It's me, Cassie," everything suddenly clicked and all those feelings came flooding back.

Feelings that I hadn't felt for another girl.

No, I dated in college, quite a bit actually. But I just never really—and this is going to make me sound like a complete asshole—but I never really felt like I genuinely cared about the girls I was with. I mean, I think I sort of liked them because they liked me, if that makes sense.

But Cassie … I don't know, she made me feel something. At the time I didn't know it was love, and I guess I still don't know for sure, but I just know that no other girl before or since has ever made me feel like she does.
It's hard to describe the feeling, but there's butterflies in my stomach, except it isn't painful or frustrating at all, in a way, it's sort of comforting. Like I said, it's hard to explain, but I guess, even though it sounds cliché, it's one of those things that you know it when you feel it.

I felt that when I turned and saw her and it only increased when she exclaimed, "Oh my God, I can't believe it's actually you. I thought I was crazy or something."

I mumbled something about how awesome it was to see her too and I was about to ask what she was doing so far north from her home state, but before I had even started the sentence, she moved over to me and embraced me in a hug.

It was nice, to say the least.

"It's been a long time," she whispered as she held me.

"Yeah," I replied. I mean, it had been literally years, I figured that whatever you would consider our relationship was gone and I'd never heard from her again. The thought of ever seeing her in person was so far from my mind that it seemed almost dreamlike in a way.

No, I hadn't ever dreamed of her, and no, I certainly didn't dream of her like that.

I won't lie and say I hadn't imagined something along those lines with her once or twice, but I never spent any of my sleep dreaming about it. My dreams are usually much stranger than something simple like that.

Moving on.

We chatted for a couple minutes, catching up and apologizing to one another about letting the communication we had fall apart. Granted, it wasn't exactly our fault that it ended, but we apologized anyway. After a couple minutes, she glanced down at her watch and exclaimed, "Oh shit, if I hate to do this, but I need to get to class." She began rummaging through her purse, pulled out a Sharpie and grabbed my hand, "Tell you what, here's my number, and you call or text me and we'll get something together, alright?"

I stared at the number in my palm and nodded, "Yeah, sounds good."

She then embraced me a second time, sighing, "It's good to finally really meet you."

Then she let go and ran off to class with a wave, leaving me alone with a number in my hand and my head spinning. There's just something about her, every time we're in the same vicinity, she always leaves me lightheaded.

Even to this day.

Yeah, yeah, we're still in contact with one another, but I'm getting to that.

Anyway, I text her later that night and we agree to get coffee later that week, and I am elated. I think that everything is going great, because I've got this date with a girl that I actually legitimately have feelings for, I'm acting like a fucking freshman, that's how excited I was.

The day comes, we get coffee, the conversation is going great and then she drops a bomb on me.

You guessed it, she has a boyfriend.

A fiancé actually.

I wish I had the words to describe how I felt in that moment, how crushed and betrayed I felt. Unfortunately, I don't think I can explain the feeling, but I can try. Imagine you've been trapped in the desert for a week, you haven't had water in days, you're feeling desperate, praying for some sort of release. Then up ahead, there's a pool of what looks like clear water. You crawl over to it and dip your chapped hand in there, only to find out it was a mirage, just sand.

Except my experience was worse than that.

Because in that instance, at least the person had at least had water at some point, and while it sucked to have been taken away from him, he at least had the memory to comfort him. I had never really had Cassie in any sense, and I never would.

No, that's not the end of the story.

It probably should have been, but it's not.

No, she never broke up with him actually. They actually got married about six or so months back. I ended up not being invited to the wedding for reasons I'm about to get into.

Yeah, you've kind of guessed where this is going.

For the next year and a half or so, we became extremely close friends, I mean, it was almost impossible not to considering we knew so much about each other already. We would hang out all the time, sometimes in a group, sometimes by ourselves.

I wanted her, I wanted her so badly, but I met her fiancé and he was actually a great guy. You know, the kind of guy you just know is going to be a great husband and father one day. Someone who really has their shit together. Someone who she actually deserved.

Deep down, I knew that if I showed some sort of interest, if I actively pursued her, she'd leave him for me in an instant. At the same time though, I knew that I wouldn't be good for her, I mean, I would try, I really would, but at the end of the day I'm just not the marrying type.

I was afraid I would break her heart, and I couldn't let myself do that.

At the same time, I loved her—I love her, so I couldn't just let her out of my life. I ended up settling with just being her friend, her confidant, he whatever she needed. Honestly, I think I benefitted from the relationship more than she possibly did.

Then one day we were hanging out at her place and I was helping her with some Biology or some other science, I can't remember the specifics. I assume it was Biology though because that's really the only one of the sciences I'm any good at.

Anyway, I'm helping her on homework and as I'm pointing at something in her notebook, my hand brushes hers, just a simple little touch, but there was something more behind it, I guess, all the sexual tension that had built up over the years. She looked at me, I looked at her and she let out this pretty little giggle.

"What is it?" I asked.

She suddenly got very serious, "Can I ask you something, something serious?"

"Of course," I replied.

"Are we just friends?"

Somewhat confused, I asked, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, like, are we just friends, or are we something more? I don't know, it just—our situation has always been kind of different from other people's and I just … feel differently about you than I do about any of my other friends. Does that make sense?"

I nodded, still not knowing where she was going.

"And I guess, I was just wondering if you felt the same way."

That's the moment I leaned in and kissed her.

I know, I'm an asshole. You already knew that though.

For the record though, she kissed back.

I know it doesn't make it right, I'm just saying it wasn't completely one-sided.

Well things began escalating from that kiss, I kissed harder, she kissed harder, our hands started searching over one another's bodies. Eventually our clothes started to get removed and then … well …

I stopped.

I couldn't do it.

I wanted to, god knows, I did. I had wanted that ever since I was in high school, but I couldn't bring myself to have sex with her, I couldn't bring myself to ruin her life. It's not that I suddenly gained a conscience or anything, I didn't, but I guess when it came right down to it, I loved her so much, I couldn't fuck her.

I told her that it was a mistake. She told me that she wanted it.

I don't remember exactly what I said next. Honestly, I don't even know where the words came from, it was almost like something that wasn't me was saying them using my mouth. I just told her that I loved her, that I'd loved her for a long time, and I may always love her, but I didn't deserve her.

I told her that she deserved better, that she had a man who loved her very much and I knew she loved him back. I told her that even though we might have something, something very real even, I wasn't sure if it would last. I finally told her exactly how big of a piece of shit I was, how I was a womanizer, how I was afraid I would just fuck her and leave her like I did everyone else.

I told her it was a mistake and I apologized, already knowing the damage was done.

That wasn't the first time I made a girl cry, but it was the only time I felt bad about it.

More than anything, I wanted to comfort her, I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay, but I knew that I had already fucked up and that there would be nothing I could do to fix it. So I just grabbed my shirt and left.

I don't know if she ever told her fiancé about it.

I mean, he's still pretty cool around me, so he's either the most forgiving guy on the planet, or he doesn't know about it. It's weird, he seems legitimately concerned that Cassie and I are no longer as close as we used to be. He still calls me up sometimes and asks if I want to hang out with him and Cassie.

I have yet to take him up on it.

They got married a while ago and they seem incredibly happy, so I guess that's good.

As for me … well, I still have feelings for her, I still am in love with her, but I'm trying to stop. I don't think it's working though. I still stay up late at night sometimes, thinking about her, thinking about us, thinking about what would have happened had I not stopped.

I can't help but think that maybe I would have cleaned up my act. I like to think that I would have been a decent husband to her, that I could have actually made her happy. Maybe we could have made it work out. Deep down, I know that I did the right thing, but that doesn't make it any easier.

So that's the story of the girl I love.

I guess it's kind of depressing or whatever, but that's just life.

You know what the worse part of the whole thing is?

The worst thing is knowing that as much as I may have wanted it, I never deserved a happy ending in the first place.