Dear you —
If things had been different, I wouldn’t be writing this, because I wouldn’t have to. In an alternate reality, we are together, a sprightly laughing pairing, the sort of couple you don’t see on television — because we never see people like us on television — but who do all the typical teenager-y things. We would sneak kisses in the locker rooms, and hold hands in the corridors between lessons, and the teachers would all register our relationship with rolled eyes but no direct comments. Because teachers don’t actually get involved in their students’ relationships unless they’re Will Schuester, and he’s a creepazoid.
In this reality, we would have been going out for over a year by now. We probably would have said our “I love you”s and meant them, come out to our parents holding each other’s hands, had awkward fumbling sex in our bedrooms. I’ve orchestrated whole scenarios in my head, our cinema dates and Supernatural marathons, our first kiss in the rain, giggling in changing rooms as we help each other try on clothes — the mundane little things, the detritus of life that makes up relationships.
Sometimes I can imagine this so vividly that when I remember it’s not real — that none of it has happened — I feel like we’ve just broken up.
It was 2011 when we realised that this spark existed between us, both working backstage on our school play, dressed head to toe in black. You said that’s how you like me best, and I’m tempted to reciporacte — it’s how I saw you the most, and it’s still the first image of you that comes into my head, you talking into your headset trying to get the actors into the right places for the next frantic scene change. I, meanwhile, would be in the lighting box, watching your silhouette move across the stage, as invisible as a thought. I’d wait until your pale face and hands were out of sight before bringing up the lights, and we’d congratulate each other over walkie talkie for another seamless transition.
(Well, more frequently, we’d be irritably asking each other if we could do our thing, and share hitlists of everything that went wrong, but sometimes it was seamless.)
We both wanted to act on our feelings, but it was never the right time. How many times have we stood, our faces so close but not touching, the air between us crackling with tension? How many times have I heard The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss The Girl” playing in my head while looking into your eyes like a terrible cliché? Too many.
We always chicken out, kiss on the cheek, hug tightly, hope nobody saw what transpired between us.
We have the worst timing.
I asked you out just before Christmas that year, but you declined due to your brother being unwell, and the stress it put on your family. Good reasons. You admitted you loved me, and I you — but nothing more came of it. And we never stated, really, what we meant — whether it was romantic love, or platonic love, or the short sweet amber drops of love that only exist for fleeting moment between hormonal kids.
Whenever I tried to talk to you, it ricocheted between overt flirting and dry insults. I never knew where I stood with you. You started to talk to me again only to ask for philosophy essays, which I provided with a certain resignation. Whenever your name appeared on Facebook chat, I knew what the conversation would be about. “You only love me for my homework,” I said, and you laughed and said “not only”.
Every time I tried to suggest something, you let me down so kindly it made me feel like the spaces between my ribs had been filled with cement, and my chest had been excavated. I was brittle, hollow, and you were a hammer. And we carried on, and soon I stopped saying anything, assuming you just weren’t that into me. I had a failed long-distance relationship, and I watched you deal with the crushes on your straight friends, and our lives seemed to diverge.
And then, out of the blue, after more than a year of this dance of awkwardness which neither of us knew the steps to, you asked me out. It was the day that the same-sex marriage bill passed its second reading, and we were both ecstastic.
And I accepted — but that was two months ago, and neither of us has made a move to set a date since, and the idea has slowly trickled from our heads until it’s like you never asked at all.
In these two months, when we were both percolating over our feelings, someone else made a move. A boy asked me on a date, and I accepted — and I realised, sat in a pub with him, that the last time I felt this way about anyone was in the wings of our new school hall. When you stood, pinning me jokingly against a wall, impressive given the fact you are shorter than me, and we were five seconds away from our inevitable first kiss. Your breath tickled my neck.
Then one of the actresses walked past, and shouted “LESBIANS!” as a half-joke, and we both laughed uncomfortably and claimed to just be messing around. Because you’re not out, and I wasn’t going to out you, and our not-quite relationship was so much better as this secret between us than as something which everyone could see and use to hurt us.
By the time you remembered me again, you made a “proposition” — of a “summer fling”. Forward-dating it.
I wanted to say yes. I wanted to so badly. I wanted to hold your hand in the pale-yellow days that count as summer here, to take day trips with you to the beach and to museums and musicals. I wanted to talk about our dreams over coffee and cake, to have a picnic in a park, to listen to you laughing for hours on end. But I knew I couldn’t.
It wouldn’t be fair on the boy. I like him. Maybe I will come to love him. We’re seeing each other once a week and he makes me smile like nothing else. I want to have awkward fumbling sex with him, at some point; all the firsts I had once optimistically associated with you, I now associate with him. I used to wish for you every day at 11:11, but now I wish for him. As much as I might want to indulge in an illicit tryst with you, that would require either telling him — and jeopardising our current agreement; or not telling him — and being a cheater.
“The heart never lies.” The heart says whatever. The heart is too busy pumping blood around my body and keeping me alive to have any say in my adolescent romantic problems.
If you had asked a few months earlier, I would have said yes. If I had asked you a few months earlier, would you have said yes — or would you have run away, like you always do? Your feelings are like fireworks, but not in the sticky Katy Perry sense: you light the blue touch paper, but then you retire, so far away that you’re not around to see the consequences. It’s infuriating. It’s infatuating.
So, that is where we stand. I think I love you, and I think you think you love me too, but we keep getting things wrong. We’re on two different parallel lines that seem destined to never intersect. When I’m ready, you’re not — and when you’re ready, I’m taken.
And I can’t say any of this out loud, because you’d either call me out on being sentimental and overwrought, and laugh at the extravagence of my feelings — or you’d return them exactly. And I’m not sure which is worse.
I hope we’re always friends. And maybe, in the future, if our lines align, and you still fancy me as much as I fancy you, we can make a go of it. But right now is just the wrong time.
(Once I would have signed this “all my love”, but I think I’d better stick to something a bit less dramatic.)