This story is one from my own life. My heart was completely spoken for by one guy all through my teenage years – a third of my life, at the time. Of course, I moved far away for college and my world opened up, showing me how not right he was for me, and he got married and had a family. All these years later, however, I still see the fingerprints of our relationship all over the way I see the world. *Names have of course been changed.*
Ben and I actually started as a short-lived romance, or whatever thirteen-year-olds imagine romance to be, but it was our close friendship that lasted. Girlfriends came and went in his life, and I went on some dates myself, but I never truly wanted anyone except him in all that time. Here’s the tricky thing about Ben, though. He knew exactly how I felt, from day one, and yet we were still close. We even discussed it sometimes. That’s pretty intense for two teenagers, and I realize that more the older I get. We talked about EVERYTHING – things we didn’t verbalize with anyone else. Somehow, because we were in a situation even most adults would run from, and chose to make the best of it, it propelled us to show each other a lot of grace. We didn’t have to always be sure of ourselves, and that is a great gift in a friend at any age.
However, high school years are cruel, as we all know, and there are simply too many emotions that are too big and powerful for our awkward, gawky bodies and minds. Surely no one in the history of the world has ever felt what we felt those days! Ben and I hurt each other a lot, I think, over the decade we spent in each other’s lives. He knew that I cared for him loyally, and there were times he took advantage of that. I wasn’t the girl he wanted to love him, but that didn’t make him any less greedy about it. He took pains to keep me never too close, but just close enough to feel my adoration. Similarly, I took much more from him than I should have, hungrily feeding on every bit of extraordinary kindness he showed me, knowing it was only platonic but getting carried away nonetheless. It was a vicious cycle – he was affectionate to my loyalty and I was loyal to his affection – but as I sit here now, twice the age I was then, I am so grateful for our friendship. Near the end, he said, “You’ve given me a lot of confidence. I know you’d do anything for me, unconditionally, and that is an incredible feeling. It makes me feel very safe.” Almost everything I wanted to hear from him. Almost. We learned a lot from each other, and I think we’re both better people for it. He learned (though he often forgot to practice) to be patient and gentle with the heart of a girl whose feelings he couldn’t reciprocate. For my part, I learned (and yes, also often forgot) how to draw my desires in as just part of my whole self, rather than letting them demand satisfaction, damning the consequences.
Of course, eventually, life sent us in different directions, and without the daily practice of understanding of each other, the bond broke and sadly our relationship burned out in a rather negative way. I believe that can happen when there is a true chemistry between two people. Sometimes there’s just too much history to go quietly.