We had been best friends since we were thirteen years old. Both new in the same school, thrown into an impossibly smaller class. An entire grade comprised of 28 kids, and we were the two new ones. He and I.
We did not stay “new” long. We learned quickly that a sense of humor and an even bigger sense of humility would get us where we needed to go, and we found allies in eachother. He was as sarcastic and quick-witted as I was. Even at thirteen, we began our plots to take over the world. Well, obviously, we’d decided to start with the school, but the world wouldn’t be far behind.
Thirteen was the end of an age and fourteen brought the beginning of high school. The odds of us staying best friends through the transition were bleak, in my eyes anyway, and yet it happened. We would save eachother seats. We would sneak the other one completed homework assignments. We looked out for eachother. It was obvious that we would make it through together.
We spent hours on the phone each night, often discussing our peers in pseudo-intellectual terms that were very amusing at the time. We reigned from our obviously self-made thrones, I the queen to his king, and we knew it. We were truly only friends. We dated other people, once consent was gained from the other party on the choice of partner, but we obviously never looked at eachother as more than our other limb. Necessary, but not glamorous.
We slept over at eachother’s houses and were extended family. Our actual families would feel slighted if only half of us attended a dinner or gathering. Hell, we served as a superlative couple in our high school year book: “Most Polite (aka Most Sarcastic and Bitter but Nice About It)”.
Our senior year of high school, with the fear of the unknown future looming in front of us, we finally looked at eachother. That way. And we saw what everyone else had been whispering about behind our backs, that they are obviously going to end up together.
I remember the first time he kissed me, really kissed me, and how complete I felt. “You’re, like, 98% me,” he told me one time. “I have 2% that’s just me, but you’re 98% in my head all the time.” 98%, we’d pass in notes to eachother. It’d become our Jerry Macguire anthem, to remind eachother that obviously we’d been working on this relationship since we were thirteen years old and movies and sitcoms and comics had all proven that the one right in front of you is the one that’s perfect for you.
He left the country shortly after high school for a brief tour, and I sent him care packages while he was away. We wrote long letters to eachother, speaking deeply about how we couldn’t wait to be reunited. It was just meant to be. Obviously.
When he returned, he asked to take me to dinner. I remember stressing out about what to wear, since it was obviously such an important occasion. Being that we were young and poor, Olive Garden would constitute a “nice dinner”, and bowling seemed a perfectly quirky but romantic after-dinner activity. As we sat in his car, shivering in the winter air, he finally told me, “I love you very much.” And what was obvious came to fruition.
“I love you, too.” I said.
“And I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it work,” he said. And I still, even as I recall this conversation, feel my heart sink. “But I know I would get bored with you.”
Suddenly, I realized that things were not as obvious as I’d imagined them. Much like those same comics and sitcoms and movies, I was overrun by a montage of things that he had said over the years that should have given me the signs. Condescending things, ranging from the state of my cuticles to the car that I drove, that let me know that I would never be worth his attention. He finds me boring, I wept. I’m not worthy of him.
It’s taken me years to realize that I tormented every single man since then by making our relationships “interesting”. If things got too comfortable, I’d shake them up. I worried that familiarity would breed infidelity, or worse, that he’d suddenly see me as I really was and he’d be bored. After all, if someone knew me 98% and found me dull, what chance would anyone have if they knew me entirely?
I actually hesitated to date anyone with light-colored eyes for years, such was the wound.
Tonight, I realized that I’ve led nothing near a boring life. I’ve traveled, I’ve met amazing people, and my biggest achievement, I’ve written about it for six years now. I don’t know where he is now although I often see his family (and they are just as lovely as they have ever been), but I wonder what life he’s led and if it’s what he anticipated when we were 18 and sitting in a chilly car and he broke my heart.
I’m so glad that he did.