I was 16 the fall I fell in love with you.
I don’t know what made me sign up to do cross country, but I think it was the proximity of that four hundred meter track to the boy’s soccer field and the fact that I had the biggest crush on a boy with two middle names, a boy I had been in like with since kindergarten.
When I started running I wasn’t sure if I was running from, or towards something, but the sound of my feet hitting the pavement and the sense of relief in the exhaustion afterward made me want to run forever, that’s when I ran right into you, meeting you felt a lot like finding myself, I could tell you things I hadn’t told anyone, I could be myself and not worry about if you’d still like me, you liked me more than I liked you at first and there was so much comfort in that. I thought it meant I wouldn’t get hurt, but I was wrong about that.
As with all good love stories, there was a first kiss, a kiss in a cafeteria after practice that led to lots more kisses and a lot more firsts.
We went on vacations to Cape Cod and sat beside one another in pre calc, and I thought back then that math problems were the hard ones to solve.
It was 5 days after Valentine’s Day, I wore a blue cable knit sweater, as we walked in the winter sunshine and talked about our past, present, and future. Somehow, when I think about that day, it seems oddly romantic, it didn’t feel like you were breaking up with me, it felt like you were promising me we’d be together forever. I felt closure afterward, until I texted you the next day and you didn’t want to talk to me. You changed your relationship status faster than I could change out of that tear stained cable knit sweater and I started to wonder if I would ever feel better. It was only a few weeks later when I ran into you at the mall and never in my life did I feel so sad, mad, and small, as you seeing me and turning the other way.
I would sit in class and write poems in my notebooks about Shakespeare’s Ophelia, I was like her, I got drowned by our love.
For months, I held on to moments like movie scenes: that one night in the beginning, when we were still falling in love and talking about loving each other for the first time, I asked you “what would you do if I got pregnant? Would you marry me?” You smiled a nervous smile and assured me, “I’m going to marry you no matter what.” I remember sitting in the back seat one night when your dad let you drive home from dinner and you kept locking eyes with me in the rear view mirror. I remember that day we went to that family party and your sister had too much to drink and said again and again how lucky you were to have me, that you better not walk away from me, maybe it was foreshadowing because you did.
I was so mad at you and the thing I was maddest at you for was for making me mean and mad at all, because before you left me I wasn’t those things, but you made me feel crazy, you called me crazy. You would call me late at night from parties I didn’t know you were going to, I would ask where you were and what the noise in the background was, then I would see you in the background of someone else’s picture on social media the next day, but by then I’d already hated you and loved you again and forgiven you anyway.
I knew it was over that day in your jeep. We had picked up your friend and went to the mall and I can’t remember why, but I think we went to Best Buy, and on the way there I noticed on the window of your car where your ex had written with her finger that you loved her not me, she signed her name in a heart, and my heart sank because you told me you didn’t hang out with her anymore, but this time the universe gave you away, because there was her name on the fogged over window on that late summer day.
I think back now about how scared I was to lose you, because I didn’t scream at you right then and there, I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable, so I went to the mall with you and your friend and didn’t bring it up until we dropped him off home, and then, you were caught, but I still didn’t leave or scream, instead I looked for validation, begged and pleaded for you to still love me.
There were the months after we broke up when you would show up at my house in the middle of the night, and we would sit outside under the starry sky and both cry, you cried for hurting me, and for being confused, and I’d cry, still feeling used; then you went off to school.
You promised, no matter what, we’d see each other that Thanksgiving, but you never showed up, and then that winter I met someone.
You called me that January, on my birthday and left a voicemail, and I thought I heard you crying when I listened to it for the 100th time, but I never called back because I knew if I did, I’d never close the door on my past. So, I deleted your message, deleted your number, and decided to fall in love with Max – except I did it the way I wished I did it with you, when I realized he didn’t know my worth, I broke up with him in his driveway, screaming and crying and yelling at him that I knew what I deserved. I could never hate you for all we went through because through it all, I grew. As I stood in that driveway screaming, I couldn’t help but think of you, not that I wanted to scream at you too, but wishing I had said thank you.