I’m using the names we picked for ourselves in French class all those years ago because technically I’m not even supposed to be thinking about you. It’s been nearly two decades after all, and I’m supposed to have grown up, moved on, and all that jazz. Well. I am married – happily, I promise. But I can’t deny what our few years together meant to me, and I’m only recently realizing that I don’t think I ever told you how much. What I’m trying to say is that you changed my life in a lot of ways, and I felt like you needed to know that.
I know things were complicated for us at the beginning – what teenage love triangle worthy of prime time TV isn’t? I truly thought that giving you up for her – my best friend, you remember – would make all three of us happy. But it only meant the end of my friendship with her and eventual heartbreak for you. Still, I guess the first lesson you taught me was that sometimes I have to put myself and my happiness first. But maybe seeing her cold heart and my sacrifice is what you needed to turn to me. Silver linings and all that.
Our relationship wasn’t typical, of course, least of all because I was the consolation prize. We were an item, that much was undeniable, but I always knew deep down that I wanted more than you could ever give. On top of that, there was the age difference, your overbearing mother, and your inability to open up.
Sorry. I know that’s harsh. But you were even younger than I was, and now I realize that a lot of our issues were because of your age. So I forgive you for the pain your emotional unavailability caused me. I really do. It may have taken me fifteen years, but when I finally realized what forgiveness meant, it was a huge weight off my shoulders. And even though you may have been out of my life by the time I learned how to forgive, I still credit you for teaching me that lesson.
Lots of people, during and after our relationship, questioned how I could love someone who couldn’t talk about their feelings and chose my best friend over me. Because despite everything, there I was – head over heels, crazy, outta my head, walking on clouds, slap happy in love. But I guess first loves are often like that—one sided. Or maybe unconditional sounds better. And I didn’t know I was capable of such a thing until you were in the picture.
So you taught me that there’s a time to be selfless and a time to be selfish, what it means to forgive, and about unconditional love. All heavy, serious stuff. But what about the good stuff—the silly, the fun? You made me laugh all the time over the stupidest things. I loved that about you—that we could be silly together. It was so freeing to realize I could be my weird, quirky self and show my true colors to someone I was in a romantic relationship with. And you taught me what it was like to feel beautiful, whether I was wearing a formal gown at Homecoming or a blue and gold senior rec t-shirt at a pep rally. You taught me to face my fears by dragging me on that “scary” roller coaster, and you were one of the first people to support my writing dreams. Sometimes I still read that yearbook entry where you promised to be first in line once I had my first “meet the author” signing. I’m still working on that (you’ve given me plenty of material). But even if it takes me until I’m eighty-seven, I need you to know I still expect you to be there.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far changed my life for the better, but I think the most important lesson you taught me is not to settle when it came to matters of the heart. To be clear, I was never settling with you. To stand by your side, hold your hand, kiss your face, play with your thick, brown hair, and be held in your long arms and snuggle against your tall frame while we danced was a dream come true. When we first met I only fantasized about doing those things. And after a long, difficult road, my dreams came true. The two years we spent together were some of the best of my life, and even though things ended before either of us were ready, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
The kind of love I felt for you wouldn’t resurface in my life until five long years later. But when I finally met my husband, it wasn’t long before I started having the same feelings for him as I did with you. The familiar sensation of falling in love made my heart sing again, and this time I knew I had to hold onto it.
One last thing you taught me—true love means wishing that person well. I want you to know that when I think about you now, I wish you nothing but happiness, whatever that means for you these days. I hope you’ve found it, or it’s found you, and I hope you’re as happy with our memories as I am. I hope you’ve found someone to spend your life with, and I hope she knows how lucky she is to call you her own.
Stacy Alderman is a life-long Pittsburgher who has recently had her writing published online by The Mighty and Hometown Odyssey. She has completed two correspondence courses with The Institute of Children’s Literature and self-published two novels in 2016. You can find her on Facebookand WordPress at Quirky, Confused, & Curvy.
When Stacy’s not writing, she’s probably reading. And if she’s not doing either of those two things, she’s probably watching Penguins hockey or (thinking about) traveling. She lives with her husband and fur kid just south of Pittsburgh, PA.