I don't really know why you came into my life when you did. Or why you ever left it. But I know you helped me through a great deal. My relationship with you was one of childlike trust and friendship. And lust. We lusted after one another in a way two teenagers have no business lusting. It was intense, it was that kind of lust that will sweep you off your feet if you're not careful. And we certainly weren't. Had we been able to see each other on a regular basis, I'd have lost my virginity to you in record time. I wanted to that one time we were able to see each other, and given the opportunity, I'm certain it would have happened. Then where would we have been? I often wonder how differently things would have turned out had we slept together that fateful weekend in February of '98. You were a boy with raging hormones, I was a girl with raging hormones, and we felt so alone except for each other. We were all we had as far as we were concerned. And then you went away. That was what nearly killed me. I realize this now, after all these years of burying the hurt and the sense of betrayal. It was why I grew to resent you. Why I chose to hate you; I was tired of being left. My brother left, my sister kept leaving, my parents and brothers had turned their backs on me....and then, you were gone, too. It was just easier to start pushing everyone away. To leave them before they could leave me. I pushed you, and you clung harder. I pushed again, and you became belligerent....but when I pushed that final time, you gave up and walked away. Left me, the way I knew you would.
You see, I didn't know what else to do. I loved you so much it hurt. It physically hurt. Sometimes I would sit and think about how I couldn't see you and this gnawing pain would open up in the pit of my stomach. When faced with the force of such an obsessive love, what is a 16-year-old girl with abandonment issues supposed to do? I was flailing, crying out for help. I began acting as if I'd gone through a breakup after you left. I cut all my hair off, lost weight, started getting into more and more trouble. And no one saw it. Not my friends, not my family, and certainly not the object of every desire I'd ever had, the one guy who I thought saw me clear to the bone, the one who was supposed to be there for me through everything and anything. He saw nothing at all. Nothing regarding the truth, anyway. He saw his girlfriend not being the docile, easily manageable girlfriend anymore. She wasn't staying at home, waiting by the phone for his call. She was out meeting people and making him angry and confused and jealous and insecure. It became all about you, didn't it? If I was acting out, it hurt you, and it became about that. Never mind that the hurt I was facing was the reason I was acting out in the first place. I'm not sure if our breakup was inevitable. I suppose asking that question now, after 16 years of no communication, is rather silly, but I can't help but wonder if there was any way to salvage what we had. There were plenty of things I did wrong. I know that now. Hell, I knew it then, I just didn't know how to do anything right. I loved you, but I also hated you, and I didn't want to lose you, but I didn't want to be with you anymore, either. Hurting you was the last thing I ever wanted to do, but I knew it was inevitable...but I also thought maybe I could salvage it. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I wanted a boyfriend I could have, all the time, and a boyfriend who was you, waiting and hoping and wishing and loving me from afar. It's selfish, yes, but I didn't know how else to express it. I wanted it all. I wanted you, all the time, and I knew I couldn't have that, and that knowledge made me crazy. I also irrationally thought that if I acted badly enough, I could force your hand and make you come see me. I knew it was irrational and unfair, which was why I never told you, but I couldn't help feeling it. It was a compulsion I was incapable of checking. You were 20 years old, capable of going anywhere and doing anything. I was going on 17, stuck in Michigan for at least another year, and then what? After 12 months of loving and hating and hurting and crying and being crazy...move to you and live where? I saw no move on your part to begin making a future for us. I didn't know what you wanted, only that you wanted me to continue being the obedient, accessible long-distance girlfriend that I'd been since I was an innocent, naïve 15-year-old girl with serious self-esteem issues. I changed. I was changing, and you either couldn't see it or didn't want to. I wasn't that same naïve 15-year-old girl anymore. I was approaching womanhood, with its endless mires of hopes and frustrations and entanglements. You still reacted to me as if I were that child you met in a chat room in 1996, and seeing me reacting differently probably just confused the hell out of you. I wish I could go back and counsel you. I wish I could let your younger self know that it wasn't your fault. You didn't know how to react because you didn't know what you were reacting to. And that's OK. Maybe all relationships that begin like ours did are fated to end because of changes that can't be adjusted to. Maybe, in the end, all young love is hopeless.
But you did do me some good. I want you to know that. For all the shit we went through, all the shit we put ourselves and each other and our families through; I think we learned a lot from each other. At least, I know I learned a lot from you, and I hope that you learned at least something from me. And I hope that that something is more than just “some bitches be crazy”. Because I'm not really all that crazy. Everyone is to an extent, sure, but it breaks my heart whenever I think you might still hold me in disdain for the things I said and did when I was a crazed adolescent. I was a mess. I know that. I think on some level I knew it then, I just couldn't recognize it. I was depressed after you broke up with me. I was hurt. But more so, I was angry. I don't know why, really, just that the anger began long before we split and wasn't your fault. And as much as it hurt to lose you, I also felt a sense of freedom. Freedom, however, rarely comes with a full sense of security. I was scared shitless. But to hide the hurt and the fear, I buried it. All of it. I convinced myself that I was better off, I put on a brave (and disdainful) face, talked shit about you, told my friends I didn't care, rolled my eyes a lot, but tried to talk as little about it as possible. I buried my shame over the failure that was us in trouble, sex, some drugs and alcohol here and there. In a few ways, I went even crazier. Got into fights, flirted with everyone, and began a mission to screw as many guys as humanly possible. I figured if all guys were going to use me, I was going to use them first. I know, such a cliché, right? Hey, in my defense, I was 17. There's nothing quite like the teenage brain; all the urges of an adult with the impulse control of an inebriated chimp. Toss in some depression and anxiety issues and you have the ingredients for the cocktail that was me in the latter half of 1998. I fucked up. And I fucked people over. I was selfish and cruel and uncaring. I was an island unto myself, beholden to no one, answering only to me.
And then came him. The one who saved me from what would probably have been the single biggest mistake of my life. I know you didn't care for him. Jealousy is a bitch and all. But really, he's one of the best people I've ever known in my life, and he came along exactly when I needed him. And he saved me. I know there are people out there who will tell me to give myself more credit, that I would have saved myself eventually, but those people don't know what it looked like inside my head at that time. I truly didn't give a single fuck about myself or my future. Just did.not.care. He made me see that I was worth something. I invited him in, the way I did with everyone, then pushed him away. And the strangest thing happened. When I pushed, he didn't budge. He didn't get closer, he didn't back away, he just stood there. So just imagine for a moment, me at 17, on a tear and determined to use and toss as many people as humanly possible, standing there with this confounded look on my face because this guy, this stupid, truck-driving prick who obviously can't see how fucking worthless I am, won't fucking go away when I make it clear that's what I want. I've asked him about this in the years since and he always says he didn't know what he was doing; he just knew he wanted to be with me. I realize now that he managed to gain my trust the same way you would a wild animal; by sitting near. Not so close as to be threatening, but not so far away that I could misinterpret his intentions. I fucked up with him, too. Don't for a single second think I didn't. I fucked up and hurt him and it was bad, but you know what? He didn't write me off and leave me. He didn't identify my shortcoming as some kind of indicator of who I was as a person. On some level, even though he didn't realize it, he knew I just needed time and care. And he gave me plenty of both.
So here I am, still with that obstinate son of a bitch who saved me from a lot of stupid mistakes, and I look back and realize that yeah, I love him more than I've ever loved anyone in my life. But I also still love you. I always will. There's that tiny piece of me that will always belong to the relationship we had in our youth. The sarcastic, idealistic girl who met the older indie boy in a chat room and fell head over heels. But idealistic girls grow up, and we realize that relationships have to be built on more than love. Because there's so much more to being a team than just having a fascination with each other, be it physically or emotionally. You have to be able to communicate, you have to trust that your partner will always strive to do what's best, not just for themselves, but also for you. And there has to be a shared confidence that you'll be there for each other even if one of you loses your mind for a while. We never had that. We talked, but I don't think we ever really communicated. I think I was too intimidated by the fact that you were older and more worldly than I to really open up about what was going on in the darker parts of my head. And I always felt that, deep down, there were parts of yourself you were keeping hidden from me, too.
Do you want to know what you taught me? I can give you this much. You taught me that I'm worth something, even when I feel like I'm not. You taught me to love my flaws, because you loved them, and I had unfailing trust in your taste. You taught me to look at things differently. When we'd have conversations about religion or philosophy and I'd make a statement of feeling, you'd ask why I felt that way. In truth, I believe you were the one who started me on the long path of self-actualization. I love to examine my motives. If not for you constantly asking me why, I may not have ever learned to love it. You taught me to appreciate the things about me that were good, and to forgive the things about me that weren't. And you were more patient with me than most. Up until the end.
You also taught me that the perfect guy for me isn't necessarily the guy with the same taste in music or books or movies. You taught me that the perfect guy for me is one who can love me and nurture me and not walk away. The one who encourages me to try new things, then tells me I'm perfect even if I suck at them. The one who plays with my hair even when he's tired because he knows I need it. The one who stood by me when my panic attacks turned me into a pseudo-hermit.
Thank you for teaching me these things, first boyfriend, first kiss, first love. Thank you for showing me what I needed....even if what I needed ended up not being you.