“You. You’re h-here.” I stutter my way through the simple
sentence. He looks just like I remember him. His quiet voice is
formed by those soft, full lips. Kind eyes lie underneath dark
eyebrows and hair. A gentle and hesitant touch, so out of character
for his muscles and calloused hands. There he stands right in front
of me. Barely even six feet away. If I stepped forward I could reach
out and touch him.
I wasn’t ready for this. For years I had imagined this moment:
what I would say, how I would scream at him, and I would let him know
how he’d hurt me. But now faced with him my heart has stopped. It
has jumped straight into my throat and lungs, filling me up with him.
“Um, yeah?” His voice has grown deeper with our years apart, but
it’s still quiet. I still have to lean towards him in order to hear
his words clearly. He seems confused by my reaction, as though he
can’t imagine why I would hate to run into him.
My voice comes out small and my palms are sweating. I look down at
my feet readjusting my back pack. Once again, I am a high school
junior, walking next to him and wishing that I could hold his hand.
How I wish that I could change what I had done after that day; how I
wish that I could disappear from this moment.
I’m oblivious to the people walking around us. It’s been so long
that when I look up I only have eyes for him. I can’t look away. I
want him, hate him, love, miss, and hurt for him all at once. I want
him to leave, but never want to leave his side again. Now that he is
back I can’t imagine a room without him. It’s like he’s leaving
for college once more. It’s like having my heart ripped out and
stomped on. All I can do is watch, and lament that I don’t have the
strength or desire to stop it.
Seeing him now, just reminds me that I can never say no. My heart
will not let me. I see him and any reason or rhyme is lost. For
better or for worse, I have come to love him unconditionally.
“It’s been a while.”
His voice breaks the silence, and I take my first deep breath since
we bumped into each other. My heart hasn’t gone back to its proper
place, but I force myself to speak.
“Yeah. What’s it been, two years?”
“Something like that I’m sure. How have you been?”
In a moment the last two years flash before my eyes. All of my
mistakes. Texting him, bothering him when I shouldn’t have.
Obsessing over him and the moment that I realized he wouldn’t
respond to me anymore. Realizing how much I actually missed him now
that I couldn’t talk to him. Deciding to block him for my own good.
All of the sleepless nights crying, and all of the scars that had
stopped only to multiple among themselves once he was gone.
“Pretty good,” I lie. “How about you?”
“Great.” There is an awkward silence and I don’t think either
of us knows what to say. I have too many feelings to speak and I’m
sure he has too many angry questions that he wants to ask. I can’t
imagine how much he hates me – after all of my immaturity in high
“I thought you wouldn’t come to this university.”
I look at him confused. Why is he bringing up college choices?
“You told me this was your last possible choice,” he elaborates.
I feel my cheeks turn bright red. I had told him that years ago, and
he had remembered. On that last when we were ice skating, I’d told
him I would never come here. My heart skips a beat; he remembers
that. He remembers us. But that shouldn’t be what I’m focusing
“I’m kinda embarrassed about that now honestly.” I look right
in his face as I choose my next words. I want him to understand that
my college choice was made in spite of him – not because of him. “I
meant it when I said it. But I also meant what I said about not going
to a school in my home state. This university was the most affordable
for me. So here I am.” My back pack shifts again, but I don’t
take my eyes off him, and he doesn’t look away from me. He’s
watching my face and motions – judging if I’ve matured or not.
Have I really changed or have I gotten too good at pretending?
“That’s the only reason?” he pries.
“Yeah. What other reason would there have been?” I can’t stop
myself from asking it. The anger I feel towards him is bubbling to
the surface through my shock. The spite creeps into my voice, and I
wonder how much of it he can actually hear.
“I guess you’re right.” He looks away like he’s embarrassed.
He should be after all. Didn’t he just assume that he was the
reason I choose to attend his college? “Umm, about when I graduated
high school …”
“I’m sorry for everything that I did after you graduated. I had
liked you a lot and it never really hit me until you left. All of a
sudden you were in another state, city, and had a completely
different life. I became afraid that I wouldn’t see you again.
Especially if you were anything like me, and would just cut some
“I freaked out, and that led me to some really stupid decisions. I
let my friends egg me on, and I texted you, had them text you, and
everything. I’m sure you thought I was really weird and obsessive,
and you were right. I was really wrong in everything that I did.
“So I know that you had every logical reason to stop talking to
me. I want you to understand that I get it, and there are no hard
feelings. I just wanted to apologize for my actions because I am
sorry, and I should’ve apologized a long time ago.”
I want someone to clap a hand over my mouth, but the words just came
out. I looked at him and it just gushed out and I wasn’t able to
stop. I guess that’s what happens when you bottle up strong
emotions for two years. I clamp my mouth shut into a tight hard line
before more absurdity comes out. I want to ask for his forgiveness; I
want to keep explaining myself, but it wouldn’t do any good. I have
already said too much. All I really needed to do was apologize
because my actions were still wrong, regardless of my reason.
I have said my piece. It’s his turn to speak now. But he just
stands there with his mouth hanging slightly open. Whatever he was
going to say is now forgotten. My words either shocked him, negated
the point he was bringing up, or both. And it’s killing me not
knowing what he’s thinking, but I don’t trust myself to open my
mouth again. Who knows what else will come out.
“So you really did like me in high school.”
My breath catches. I’m not sure if he’s making a statement or
asking a question, but it makes my heart jump higher in my throat.
He’d wondered about it. About whether I liked him. I bite my lip
and look back to my shoes. Out of everything I’d said, why is that
what he focuses on?
“Wish I’d known that. You know, I almost asked you out?” I
look up expecting him to be joking, but his voice is serious, and his
face gives no indication of humor. “Would that have changed how you
reacted when I left?”
“I can’t say. It was in the past, and I was a different person
then.” The silence that follows my words speaks volumes. He didn’t
want that raw and honest of an answer. “I like to think that it
would’ve,” I tack onto the end. Is that the answer he’s looking
“So,” he drags out the conjunction – no doubt choosing his
next words cautiously. “I made the right decision not asking you
“I can be proud of who I am now. Who I became without dating you.”
I take a breath. “I don’t want to go back and change the past –
that doesn’t make anything I did right. I’m tired of looking
“Then what do you see in the future?”
I can’t answer him. I open my mouth but no words come out. I can
see so many futures. There are too many choices and most of them are
“Sorry, that was a pretty vague question,” he apologizes. “I
mean, you look good. Would you want to try dating now?”
I want to break down and cry. How many years had I waited for this
question? How many ages had I wished for this? Looking at him, I know
that I love him. I can’t say no to him, but something from high
school has changed. When I think about my future and all of my
opportunities – all of my perfect lives – I notice they have a
common thread. None of the futures that I imagine involve him. He is
nowhere in my life. No matter how much I love him, when he cut me
off, I also cut him out off my life. And now I cannot see one with
My mouth moves quicker than my thoughts. And I back track by adding,
“yes, about that. We should talk about that.”
“It’s a yes or no question.”
“I suppose,” I say quietly. He really doesn’t understand
everything I went through does he? “But you were right to ask me
what I saw in my future, because I don’t see you. So I don’t
think we should date.”
“Do you not like me anymore?”
I feel my eyebrows scrunch together because this is a loaded
question. “I-I think I still like you.” The stutter returns with
my heart beat picking up. At least my heart is back in my chest now.
“But I can’t see you in my future. And if I can’t imagine a
future with you, what is the point in dating you, and getting hurt
“Ah,” his voice sounds disappointed. I can only imagine what
he’d been hoping for, but I find myself not caring. It is enough
that I don’t have to imagine this conversation, I don’t have to
imagine his voice still speaking soft and low, saying, “that makes
sense. So your answer is no?”
“Yeah it is.” I say quietly, not quite believing it myself.
“Ok,” he nods his head and looks around. It’s like he’s just
now realizing that people have been walking past us this entire time,
as we stood here in the middle of the campus path way. He begins to
walk down the path again – continuing on to his dorm room. “We’re
just friends then. I’ll see you around.”
“No.” Confidence creeps into my voice, and he turns back around.
It’s his turn to scrunch his eyebrows together as he processes my
words. “We don’t need to be friends. I’ve said everything that
I need to say to you. We went two years without talking – why do we
need to start talking again? I’m alright going back to how it was
before this.” My hand gestures to imply that “this” is our
conversation, but what surprises me more is that I whole heartedly
mean what I said. I don’t need to keep him as a friend. I think it
would break me too much, and what I need now is to live without him –
completely without him.
I shoulder my back pack and smile. “Goodbye love. Have a good rest
of your life.”
I walk past him without looking back, and for once I don’t want to
look back. All of that anger and hurt isn’t there anymore. I know
that he liked me in high school just like I had liked him. I know
that he is living a good life, and now I have gotten to apologize for
all of the things that I regretted doing. I really have nothing more
to say to him.
I know in my heart that I still love him, and I always will. My
scars will remind me of him, but they won’t hurt. I have the
closure that I so longed for. There will always be a corner of my
heart reserved for that boy that I’m walking away from, but now I
have control of my heart. I can lock up that part, and just let it be
there; it won’t run my life anymore.
I close my eyes as I write down the last word – imagining how it
would feel in real life. I shut the book and hold it to my chest.
Then I take a moment to look at myself in the mirror before turning
off the light and going to sleep.