He was a boy. I was a girl. As Avril LaVigne would say, "can I make it anymore obvious?"
Apparently, you could with me and this guy. Let's just say, we were pretty clueless that one liked the other at first. We met in the college theater. The first time I saw him I was walking into the theater from backstage, and as if it were straight out of a movie I pulled the curtain aside and in a chair in the audience sat the most handsome boy I had ever seen. Immediately my heart skipped a beat, and I'll admit, my thoughts were not completely pure. There sat a handsome young man, and it was all I could do to keep from staring.
Little did I know, he felt the same way.
He described it to me later as such: he was sitting in the chairs, minding his own business, when the curtain was pulled aside. And there she was: a beautiful young woman with fiery red hair and a fun personality to match. We talked briefly and got to know each other over the course of our semesters, but I never suspected he had feelings for me.
Still, I thought he was just the most handsome boy I had ever seen.
As I really got to know him, I found out that he was more than just a pretty face. When I first met him, I thought he seemed like such a cool, older boy. And there I was, a dorky girl he would never like. But I found out he was an even bigger nerd than I was! He loved Star Wars and video games. He taught me about his passions. He told great stories about the adventures he had lived and the mischief he had found himself in. He wanted to know more about me. He saw me live my life and do what I loved. He didn't think I was embarrassing or weird. He thought I was beautiful, in every sense of the word.
We "fell in love" at a college dance, and my high school self would have swooned at the romance of it all. I say "fell in love" in quotes, because we were not really "in love," but we still fell for each other hard. We confessed our feelings for each other. We danced the night away, and though the room was filled with people, all I saw was him.
Over the next few months I continued to get to know the boy in the theater. I found out he was lactose intolerant, like me, and yet we spent a lot of our dates at the local ice cream parlor, sharing flavors and lactaid pills. I met his family and immediately loved them. They accepted me as one of them, and I felt as though I was being welcomed home the moment I stepped foot in his house. He showed me around the town he grew up in, and I did the same. We met each other's friends. The more time I spent with him, the more I felt myself falling in love with someone I had once thought was unattainable. But I was not in love. I couldn't be in love. I had never been in love before.
My time with him was the most wonderful time of my life.
But it was finite.
He broke up with me because of time, or so he said. He lived far from me, and he was working several jobs, and I had my job too. He said he didn't have the time to give me that I deserved, and I deserved the whole world. It completely took me by surprise. We had been so happy. Things had been hard with the distance, of course, but I thought we had been happy.
"Maybe when things aren't so crazy we can try again," he said, to which I nodded and smiled, knowing it wasn't true.
I did not cry when he did it. He seemed surprised yet relieved by that. I watched him drive away and waved as he pulled away from my house, a faint smile on my face as I replayed the words he had said over and over in my head, the memory of what had just happened intermingled with all the good memories: meeting him, dancing with him, playing video games with him and watching our favorite TV shows, his family, and every kiss we'd ever shared.
And when he was out of sight I just cried.
I grieved for a long time and did not reach out to him, though there were many times that I wanted to. I needed the time alone. We lived far enough from each other in the summer that I had little to no chance of ever running into him. And I didn't. Even when we got back to school it took nearly two months for us to run into each other again, which was an awkward encounter to say the least but shook me to the core. Eventually, despite the odds of exes, we rekindled our friendship. He had been my best friend for so long, and despite the history between us we had ended on excellent terms. There was not a world that I wanted to live in without him in it. At least, not then.
There were moments in our friendship when it felt like nothing had ever happened between us. We laughed, playfully bantered back and forth, and were the best friends we had always been. But then, there would be a moment when everything went still, and I realized that things were different between us. There was an elephant in the room, an elephant we dared not discuss, because for some reason we believed it would crush us. We still don't discuss it often now.
Throughout the course of time and being friends with him, I couldn't shake something. Something was bothering me. It kept me up at night. It broke my heart, as if I my heart had been run through with a double edged sword. I didn't realize it until about five months after he had broken up with me.
It was six months after he broke up with me that I uttered the words out loud to myself.
"I love him."
I was never one to take love for granted. I had never said it to him, or anyone for that matter, and he had never said it to me, because we wanted to be sure we were serious. When he broke up with me I hadn't been ready to say it. Months later, I sat down, thought about him as I had every day since he had broken up with me, and felt like I had been punched in the stomach when I realized:
I love him.
It was an awful time to realize I loved him. He was gone. Long gone. He was still in my life and had made it clear he still had feelings. But he also wasn't coming back. I knew that to be true. He didn't have to say it. I just knew. Our time was over.
I regretted the fact that I hadn't told him I loved him for months. Why had I realized it too little too late? Why was I so slow to come to love him? Why hadn't I realized it or felt it before he left, just so I could have told him once? But then, these questions in my head became questions directed toward him, filled with grief and anger: Why did you leave? Why didn't you give us more time? Why didn't you fight harder to stay?
Do you love me too?
I still think about this a lot, coming close to one year post-break up. He's still a part of my life, but his part grows smaller every day, and while part of me celebrates that fact since that means I can move on, there's a large part of me that mourns his absence still, even after all this time. I'm still not ready to live in a world without him just yet, but I am getting closer to letting go. Still, I'll never let go of the memories he gave me and the lessons he taught me. Because of him, I love myself a little more, and love the life I'm living. He taught me how I deserve to be treated, and he taught me how I deserve not to be treated.
There's a part of me that still hopes that there's a future for us, but I know that it's unlikely. Maybe he'll change and we'll be together. But maybe there's someone better out there for me. Or maybe, I'm not supposed to be with anyone. Either way, no matter what, I believe in a world where God has blessed me with a happy life. I believe everything will work out. I believe in my own joyful future.
Still, I regret that I never got to say "I love you." Maybe one day I'll be able to tell him. But I've accepted the fact that maybe I won't. I probably won't. It's my biggest regret. I wish he knew. Even if he never felt the same way. Even if he never loved me. I wish he knew.
But someday, I know I'll say it again to someone. Maybe, just maybe, that person will wipe away the regret I now hold. The future is such a bright and mysterious thing. After all who knows what, or who, is behind the next curtain?