Dolls & G.I. Joes
Homecomings & Proms
Graduation & College
Babies & Marriage
Distance & Time
Reunions & Regrets
If I wrote my own version of “Love and Basketball” it would be devoid of basketball, but all of the other elements would be present in various ways. Of course there has to be a few more twists and turns, but I need you in the right mind frame as I tell my story.
Dolls & G.I. Joes
He and I grew up together for all intents and purposes. My aunt married his uncle and being approximately 1 year apart, we were somewhat thrust upon each other. Being the oldest in our respective families we were each other’s play mates by default. His family lived approximately an hour away from mine, so we didn’t go to school together. But every family holiday and random gatherings we would get to hang out.
The opposite sex thing never phased me, because in my eyes he was someone new and different to talk to. We talked about everything and it got to a point where I thought of him as “family” or a “cousin” of sorts. We were pretty close I would say. I would be disappointed when they, well he, didn’t come on certain occasions, but it’s ok to miss your “cousin” right?
I want to say I was about 11 when things became complicated. I was going through puberty so I was all kinds of awkward. This was about the time I became extremely shy and introverted. I never thought I was as pretty as all the other girls in my class. But more importantly, I was noticing boys in a major way. I never managed the courage to talk to them, but that didn’t keep me from looking and liking.
I believe it was Good Friday, because that’s when everyone would come over. We have a really big get together. Crawfish boil, fish fry, etouffee, desserts…more food than the eye can see. All of our family near or far immediate & extended showed up. Honestly, I wasn’t sure of who was all coming all I was looking forward to was the food. I was in my room playing some game or other when there was a knock on my non-existent door. (Long story) I looked up and there he stood. I believe my heart stopped. Remember I told you I was now noticing boys. I felt like my puberty senses were on high alert. I just stared.
It’s not like this is the first time we’d been alone together. In fact, we were alone quite often. Like I said he was “family” but this time was different. I was immediately hot, not sexual but pure embarrassment and discomfort. I’m sure I turned a different shade of red. I couldn’t understand what was happening, but nonetheless it was happening.
I could not look him in the eyes. I stared at my feet as if they were a work of art. I started touching my hair, fixing my clothes, and my voice was barely above a whisper. I felt awkward and I didn’t know how to act. Comfort came in the form of my cousin Chass. She and I were extremely close so she was always around. Funny thing is she had the hugest crush on him. She wanted me to hook them up. So when she walked in she gave me “that” look.
Chass is a very pretty girl, she was never shy or awkward around people. However, she was still a teenage girl, so the direct approach with boys was still out of the question. Somewhere in conversation we decided to go outside and I just followed behind still studying my shoes. I don’t know what all we did throughout that day but here’s what I do remember. Chass reminded over lunch that I was supposed to hook her up. I was not looking forward to it, but she would have done it for me hands down so there was no backing out. I couldn’t have him, so she may as well. (Wait, that thought was inappropriate, right?)
The specifics of that afternoon escape me, probably because I was avoiding him and had said less than a sentence to him the entire day. After some more prodding by Chass I got him alone outside on the side of my grandmother’s house and while I was mustering up the courage to speak he kissed me. I wasn’t sure about what all had happened all I know is he was my very first kiss, but I would never be able to tell a soul. And to this day I never have.
Homecomings & Proms
Let’s fast forward to high school. We would still see each other on holidays and random visits. Sometimes he would spend the night. He was and remained the only boy ever allowed in my room or who could spend the night whenever he wanted to. We would go hang out when he came to my town or vice versa when I was in his. Once it was clearly explained to me that we weren’t technically related I was able to feel less guilty about my feelings.
But I was young, he was young and puberty causes so many emotions and changes I didn’t trust anything I felt. But there was no denying that I felt something. It was my secret. It’s fair to say we experimented with sex…somewhat. We never quite went all the way for the most part and for that reason alone I won’t say he was my first. But in retrospect, he was.
During my junior year, for no particular reason, he came to visit me. He drove down with his cousin, whose name escapes me, and the four of us went out. I think we went to the lake to hang out, but wherever we were he and I sat around and talked for hours. Chass and his cousin were off doing their own thing. In all the years we had been friends what I had felt that first day had grown and not because of the firsts but because he was special or at least that’s what I wrote in my diary.
That night when we came home my grandmother asked him if he wanted to stay the night, but he had an early work day so he left.
Not 5 minutes after he had gone my grandmother told me. “That boy loves you.” I laughed. She said, “Listen to me that boy loves you but ya’ll are too young and live too far to give it an opportunity. When you’re both older that will be your husband. When that day comes just remember who told you and it’s important that you always remain friends even when your last name changes.” I laughed it off, but she looked at me and said “trust me girl.”
I never told her that I loved him and hoped she was right, but looking back on it I’m positive she already knew. I wore my heart on my sleeve around him, not because I wanted to, but because it jumped out of my chest every time he came around. I never found the voice to ever tell him that. I had a diary that was just about him, no one ever read it, no one even knew about it. It was the only one I was completely honest in and it’s the only reference to what I felt for him.
Graduation & College
Funny how the universe can bring two people together and in the same motion pull them apart. It was no secret that we both dated and did our thing. Hell we were young what else were we supposed to be doing? He graduated a year before me and went off to college and then came back home to work. I graduated a year later, wound up pregnant and moved to the Bay. After toiling with all that happened in that relationship many, many, many other things.
Our paths crossed again.
At this point, I was living in his hometown working at a hospital. I was on hiatus from school and I ran into him at a bank. We chatted briefly, but we were both on our way to work so it was of no consequence.
How do I remember this stuff? Remember that diary I spoke of? I was still writing in it faithfully. In fact, he was the first person I thought of when I got pregnant, because I felt so guilty. And years later he was the first person I thought of when I moved to his city. I would write him occasionally because for me, he was the only person I had ever trusted unequivocally. These letters I never sent went everywhere I went. They told the truth of how I felt, my reasons for doing many of the stupid things I did. My truth sat on those pages and it was somewhat therapeutic.
Millions of times I had entertained the idea of being with him, but the idea of losing the friendship always forced me to keep my distance. Besides we didn’t talk much anymore, we were pseudo grownups trying to make our way in this world. Yet, every time I tried to close that chapter in my life, my grandmother would find some way to mention him or her “belief.” Even though I always blew her off, the mental cycle would start all over again. Did I mention that she compared every guy I dated to him? She even tried to convince me to take him to my senior prom when I told my then boyfriend that I refused to go with him.
Babies & Marriage
I remember getting a call from my mom telling me they were coming in town for the weekend. My place was big enough, but I fully appreciated my privacy. She went on to tell me they were coming for the wedding and if I was going. Imagine my surprise when she told me to whose wedding she was going. I fell completely silent and while she went on and on I cannot tell you what she said. I wasn’t angry, I was hurt. I realized that the window opportunity that I never thought would close was slamming in my face.
Immaculate timing it would seem because my grandmother called me. She only asked me about this and that, but I knew she was trying to see how I was. I appreciated the concern without the questions. She never mentioned the nuptials and I am grateful, because I don’t know if these secrets would still have remained mine alone otherwise. After talking to her, I felt better and I knew I was going to be alright. I grabbed my diary from its secret hiding place and I wrote what would be my 2nd to last entry.
It began slightly sketchy and incoherent, but 5 or 6 hours later it was the most honest piece of work I have ever written. I put every emotion I ever had or currently had in regards to him on those pages. I cannot recall everything, but the last few lines are as clear as if they were sitting right in front of me. It said:
To lay all of this on you hours before your wedding would be absurd, and I have too much respect and adoration for you to ever do that. But I hope that you have found all of the happiness you so deserve. I know that if you chose her she must be special. One day I hope to know what it’s like to find that special someone and not want to be without them, but something tells me that window has already closed. She is the luckiest woman on earth and I will always envy her. If I had it all to do over again, I would have done it differently.
I closed the journal and fell asleep. My folks showed up so early Saturday morning it should have been a sin. I had no intentions of attending so I sat around watching them get ready when my mom said “get your slow ass up and get dressed.” I said, “I’m not going, because I don’t have anything to wear.” She said, “How can you not be there on the most important day of your friend’s life?” I opened my mouth to argue, but my grandmother intervened and said, “Go get dressed.” I was not going to argue with her, so I went. I tried my hardest to get left, but to no avail.
I felt like a hooker in church in her work clothes. I wore my discomfort on the inside. Outwardly, I smiled, laughed, and socialized; all the while my insides felt as if it housed a small village of butterflies. My journal was in my purse, but it was only there for moral support. I dare not take it out. What if someone sitting near me caught a glimpse of its content? I clutched my purse as if it contained my life savings and emotionally it did.
As he stood alone at the altar, I closed my eyes and for one fleeting moment I imagined he was waiting for me. The music began and I realized my dream was someone else’s reality, and it was even harder to accept in person than it was on the phone. As the vows were exchanged I could no longer fight back the tears. But at least the timing was appropriate. When it came time for the kiss, I pretended to have lost something and began to rifle through my bag. I may have held it together this long, but I was no fool. There was only so much I could bear. Seeing them at the reception, I became that 11 year old girl again, never made eye contact, beet red, and uncomfortable.
Throughout all of the relationships, break-ups, broken hearts, and tears I thought would never end this hurt the most. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I left.
As soon as I got home, I pulled out my journal. I read every page, even the loose paper inserts. That’s when I wrote my very last entry:
Saw it with my own eyes; he has a wife and daughter. So it is done. Every story does not have a fairy tale ending, but all stories end. Our story ends here.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
Distance & Time
Ten years later…
The same Universe that had pulled our lives in opposite directions spun around one more time. While updating my facebook page guess whose name popped up in my “friend suggestion” section. Without thinking I sent a friend request. I did not expect him to accept it let alone reply, but he did both.
Reunions & Regret
In talking to him, we found that our lives did indeed go in different directions. I went to college and he ended up going to the military. We had even landed in different time zones. When I asked him how he was he told me that all was well and he hadn’t been home in years. I was in a similar way, but had finally broken down and went to visit. What I could not bring myself to ask was about his wife.
I have learned not to ask questions if you are not prepared for the answers. That’s when I realized how not over it I was. We continued talking about our current careers and future goals.
I was doing a good job of being generic, when he hit me with a low blow. “I still consider you the one that got away.” While I dismissed it in conversation, my mind refuses to let it go. How could the person I had loved since I was 11 say I got away from him when he was the one who had gotten married? Did he not know that all he had to do was say the word back then and I would have dropped everyone for him? Maybe he didn’t, because I never told a soul.
After we concluded our conversation I sat back and reflected. I realized I still carry regret. I still wonder “what if”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a precocious person or because I never got the chance to say all the things I have always wanted to.
It’s funny now as I reflect on it; there were so many missed opportunities. So many periods where there should have been commas or semi colons and words that were never spoken. I am not delusional in thinking that things would be different now if at least one of those opportunities were seized, but maybe it would have saved me 15+ years of wondering “what if or maybe?”All the things I have experienced both good and bad have made me who I am today, and while I can say I am grateful; I still wonder if I would be better if I had made other choices. For example, if I had said “yes” here and “no” there or if I had asked at least once “what about us?” I have many regrets, but that would be my greatest to date.
I honestly do not believe in true absolute limitless love. Everything that has a beginning has an end and what has an entrance has an exit, it’s a matter of choosing to remain or continue. However, I have never gotten over my feelings they were only buried deep down in my soul’s journal. My question is now that the journal has been unlocked and re-opened do I turn the page or burn the book?