The comfortable laughter, the familiar yearning. Times spent together creating new memories of what was not to be.
My oldest friends; insecurity, and worthlessness, they rear their devilish horns once again.
“Who do you think you are?”
“Will anyone love and accept you for who you are?”
Having grown up in an unconventional family where girls were to be independent and not taught to dress up and paint their faces like how magazines often recommended left me way behind my peers in terms of dating and socialising. Being a byproduct of an interracial marriage when it was not as ‘cool’ then also made me an outlier in school, often the victim of unintentional racism which was usually meant to be laughed off as a non-malicious joke.
But days spent with you made me happy and carefree, and a foreign sensation filled my heart every time you laughed. You were the only guy who made me feel like a lady, who had sacrificed his time for and drove me home after a movie though I said I could make my own way home. That car ride was the best forty minutes of my 21-year-old self. Maybe there could be a chance of a happily ever after.
It taught me how to stand up for myself, subconsciously building up invisible walls around me, where only people who really mattered could enter. Always feeling awkward and ever ready for a fight or flight constantly put me on guard. Doubts about my self-worth also haunted me as I was the only kid in class often overlooked during group discussions or playtime. I often found myself striking up conversations with adults at least two decades older than I was while my peers played among themselves.
But not you, as you listened while I talked, and asked to hang out together after training sessions.
Being a student athlete under a strict training regimen meant discipline and commitment to training sessions which ran throughout my schooling life. That meant having to turn down offers to ‘hangout’ with classmates during term breaks from school which blew any chance of cultivating lifelong friendships with the same people I get to spend five years of being classmates. The said classmates are now firm friends with their own cliques even after having graduated for 12 years.
We swam in our own lanes with you pacing me and encouraging me to go faster. Breaks from sprints were spent teasing each other and sharing about our day.
Having said that, I did manage to cultivate firm friendships with people I could trust and feel comfortable with once I started working. However these are often met with incredulment when I share that I haven’t been to a night club or dated anyone in all my 29 years of living and breathing.
But my mind often drifts back to you, how we shared those fleeting moments of comfort and familiarity. The ‘would-have-beens’ often flood my mind when I recall how I was ashamed to admit that I have fallen for you and rejected you in my mind even before we spoke about dating.
Funnily enough, now I happen to give sound-minded dating advise to friends who tend to ask for advice.
“Do not be ashamed of loving someone and telling them you love them.”
Why had I told you that I ‘used to love you’ when I still yearned to spend the rest of my life with you? I then finally decide to write you a letter, confiding that I was still in love with you from the time we hung out, 6 months after you left to study abroad.
Then there was silence.
One day with the aid of social media, I’ve come to realize that you have finally found a girl whom you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. With a sinking sensation, I knew then I had lost you forever.
An occasional ‘Happy Birthday’ from you throughout the years lifted up my spirits, if only for a split second.
Six years later, it was my turn to leave for greener pastures abroad. You got to know about it, and asked me out for a meal. It was a simple affair, where we caught up more than we ate, asking questions about each other we knew through social media over the six years of silence. And then I knew you were no longer with her.
“Is there hope for me now?” I asked myself.
As the night drew to a close, it felt that things hadn’t changed between us. We have grown up apart from each other, matured in our own ways, yet the familiarity burns deep within. And then we said goodbyes.
And then I told you I still loved you.
Perhaps I should have left it alone, but nagging thoughts of would-have-beens flooded my mind which compelled me to bare my emotions and thoughts to you, which was met with an awkward, subtle rejection with promises to keep in touch, which I know will never happen.
But know that if you ever make up your mind about us, let me know, because I’ll be waiting.
When I finally left to a foreign land, anticipation filled me. With new adventures awaiting me, I decided that I will say goodbye to you now. Because of you, I have learnt to grow and found my niche. The most important years of my life were devoid of your presence.
Like a budding flower awaiting for spring, I feel a sense of freedom from you, for the first time since we met.
Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, you and me.