“The years passed. You found yourself a boyfriend and I was no closer to telling you how I really felt”
It was the summer of 2000 when I met you. We were both kids, trying to find a place to fit in amongst the chaos of school life. A time when everything is uncertain and you have everything ahead of you.
I knew instantly when I spoke to you that you were going to change my life. In what way I didn’t know, but I just had an aching feeling in my gut that you would. I was right.
For the next five years I struggled to come to terms with the fact I was falling in love with you. I remember sitting alone in my room, trembling, trying to say the words out loud, as a kind of release. If I said it out loud even just to myself, then I could accept it. In school we kept up our awkward friendship, all nervous tensions and stumbling silences that could only happen with young crushes, that lacked the confidence that comes with age and experience.
You would turn up at my house sometimes. My heart would beat furiously as I walked out the door to greet you, excited and terrified all at once. Sometimes we would go on walks, sometimes not. Mainly we would talk and laugh. I would laugh harder than I ever did before with you. Everything was heightened in your company. I was a better person.
One summer we walked to the field behind my house and I let you scrawl all over my Converse as though they were your own personal canvas. I still have them to this day. Back then I kept almost everything you gave me, which I suppose in a juvenile way, was to feel close to you.
I have vivid memories of our very first music gig. Being so young, it was the first time I had been in a room so compact with sweaty bodies tightly compressed against each other. The smell of smoke was thick in the air. You held my hand. You pressed yourself against me. My heart thudded hard in the cage inside my chest. I remember hearing the band play My Name Is Trouble. Although my music taste has drastically changed, that song still takes me back to that very day.
I have another lingering memory of when we walked through the park. One of our friends asked us why we were holding hands, and you replied in jest, “Because she’s my girlfriend.”
The years passed. You found yourself a boyfriend and I was no closer to telling you how I really felt. By this point I had been pressured into wearing a head scarf. I was weak and naive and let it happen. I would stare in the mirror and not recognise the person staring back, my very own body encased no longer felt as though it were mine. I used to think there was no way you would love me looking like this, we were so different now. I was veiled both in confused sexuality and a religion I didn’t understand, a religion that frowned upon me feeling the way I did, when I could not help it. I was hurting no one but myself. Yet this was evil in their eyes. I kept quiet.
I learned to keep quiet. I learned to settle for smiles you directed towards me hidden in the midst of group laughter, for stolen glances, and for the rush I would get when you still occasionally held my hand. In many ways these were my loneliest years.
You consumed my mind to such a degree that there was no room for anything else. I decided if love was never going to be shared between us, I would rather have hate. I wanted anything but to fade into an obscure nothing. Things became less pleasant between us, I kept up this facade for a very long time. I wanted you to loathe me.
Looking back, I regret this behaviour, but back then I knew no other way of dealing with my emotions.
When we left school, I wrote my message to you in your leavers book, along with everybody else. I’m certain if you read it back, it was obvious my undisguised feelings were there in every line I wrote. You just needed to open your eyes.
College passed us by, we remained friends of sorts. University came and we moved to different cities. I started to doubt whether any of my feelings were reciprocated at all, when at one point I was so sure. I slowly started to forget. I grew hard and numb to ensure I would never find myself in another situation of unreciprocated love. I was stronger now.
I still ran into you from time to time when we were both back home. It was only recently at the age of 22, while you were drunk that you finally told me how you felt. You grabbed my hand like you had so many times in our past and said, “I don’t know why I love you so much, I just always want to be around you”. You proceeded to tell me of sexual dreams you’d had about me. If only you’d known how many times you’d featured in mine for years. Every once in a while I still dream of you, the person you once were when we were kids, of the time when you were nothing less than perfect in my eyes. Now we are both older. We are different people. Unfortunately, that person no longer exists, although I still see glimmers of her every now and again. It was only recently I realised that it was ok that it hadn’t turned out the way I wanted. Sometimes you have to be thankful that something had even happened at all, despite how painful it had been at the time. Something so innocent, that is so hard to find in the tainted world of adulthood. I’m not ashamed to say that I once loved you, even though the most we had ever amounted to was you holding my hand.
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