When I saw you that night, I couldn’t help but think of the many nights that I spent literally pining over you.
Of course, that was almost ten (!!!) years ago now. You and I were both two young kids – you thought that faux-hawks were rad and I was in love with it. I had a regrettable hair cut that I wish I could reverse.
But seeing you after all this time was just like the very first time we laid eyes on one another – I could feel my heart beat. I could feel something rising within me. I could feel my neck burn.
Either I was getting an allergic reaction, or I had some kind of crush on you.
Ten years later, you still had that effect on me. It’s crazy, because my crush on you seemed like lifetimes ago. In between the time you and I had said our final good byes, I had gone on to find myself in a few different relationships and “fall in love” with a number of different guys. I let my heart get stomped on a couple of times, and to be fair, I broke a few hearts myself. Over time, you went from being the person that got away to just another picture hanging on the wall.
There came a time when I had to hang up your portrait and move on, because there was no chance that I would see you again. And even if I did, the chances of my feelings remaining the same would be slim.
Because, I told myself, I would grow up to be sophisticated, successful, and independent.
So our eyes met in a crowded room, ten years later.
It was pretty much what my 12-year-old self imagined that adulthood would be like.
For a good five minutes, I was trying to convince myself that it wasn’t you. And seeing that I was with an entirely new group of friends, no one knew the history that we shared. No one knew that there was one whole year where I had waited for you to open your eyes and realize that I was who you needed this entire time. No one knew that I had begged and prayed that you would realize that I was the love of your life… at 12 years old.
You were holding a glass of something (I later found out it was white wine) and I was trying to offset my red with some tap water. Once the recognition settled in both of our minds, the crowd seemed to part so as to allow us an easy path to each other.
When you addressed me by name, I was stunned.
I reached out to touch your arm to find that you were really who I thought you were.
There you were, all grown up. You still had the faux-hawk, which made me laugh. But your eyes still were friendly, your smile now sported braces, and you were still taller than me. Though I was taller than many of the guys in our class, I never outgrew you.
You probably looked at me with questions too. From the time I last saw you, you probably wondered if my hair ever grew. I had no more braces but now had glasses sitting on my face. I mastered the use of makeup to cover up all the preteen acne that plagued me. And yes, to your surprise, I probably grew maybe an inch or two, but was nowhere near your height.
We talked for a long time, reminiscing about who we were as children, where we had been, and where we looked to go with our lives. As we clinked our glasses filled with wine, it transported me back to when I was 12 years old, to a lunch hour where I shared my juice box with you because you had forgotten your lunch.
The boys made fun of me and the girls had their questions, but I wanted to share my juice with you.
Later that day, I would go on to share my true feelings for you. It was a landmark moment for me, a girl who had only admired people from afar.
You were the very first person that I had ever said “I think I like you” to out loud.
But I knew from the moment that those words jumped out of my mouth that it was a mistake. Your eyes quickly darted away from mine, your usually confident swagger suddenly withdrawn, your arms quickly crossed over your shoulders. I knew I should have waited until the summer, I thought to myself. Here I was, 4 months too early, three days before Valentine’s Day.
This was definitely a social disaster that I wasn’t anticipating.
You mumbled something along the lines of “I want us to just be friends”, and moved away quickly, leaving the juice box I gave you on your desk. And I look back and marvel at how society and pop culture had engrained that into our heads. The fact that at 12 years old, you knew that saying, and that I knew exactly what that meant for me.
I would spend the rest of the year avoiding you, and you would avoid me. It wouldn’t be until the last day of school, when I found out that you wouldn’t be going to the same high school as the rest of us, that I had hugged you and said that I would miss you.
The ironic thing? I didn’t miss you.
It was almost as if you were a figment of my imagination – you were in and out of my life so quickly – that as my life carried on, you had simply dissolved into oblivion.
And suddenly, you were back. All of my old feelings came rushing back. I could feel my 12-year-old self bursting for joy and telling everyone who didn’t believe in me “I told you so”.
But there was also something that changed within me, something that almost made me angry at you.
I realized that your return was a thing of the past. My 12-year-old self would have been elated. Don’t get me wrong, at 21 years old I was really happy to see you too. But it made me realize that I changed, and so did you. I grew up, and so did you.
If I could go back to tell my 12-year-old self that you were just a phase, I would. Because you probably don’t know this, but I lost a lot of sleep over you. And I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self that it’s not worth it. That pining and crying means nothing to the other person.
Despite all of this, something inside my 21-year-old self was jumping for joy too – at how happy you are, at how far you have come, and at how much you have changed. And for that, how can I be mad at you?
Across a crowded room, so many emotions collided in my mind. But all I could do in that moment was to have you hold me in your arms the way I had dreamed that you would do so many times before. There was familiarity, and yet there was also adventure. It might be too late for us now, and yet I am still happy. Happy that you’ve come this far, happy of the man you’ve become, and happy that I got to see you again after all this time.