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A Different Stare
How long is forever? Forever can be until the end of high school, until the end of college or to the end of life. Will I be in love with you forever? Will I still love you in twenty years? I have this plan where after we graduate I will tell you how I feel. I’ve imagined the moment in my head:
At some random moment, like after we get coffee or after a really good movie, I’ll say: “Guess what?”
You will look at me, smiling; because you think what I’m going to say is a joke. This is a ritual for us, this “guess what?” game. Usually it’s something petty or stupid, but today it will have meaning.
I will look at you, and then chicken out, because I am afraid to lose the great friendship we have. I am afraid to lose the friendship that has torn me to pieces yet saved me on numerous occasions. So instead I will say, “I’m not going to UF.” University of Florida was the school we were planning on going together. You me and her.
“What?” You pause. Your tone is different. This isn’t a joke anymore. You were counting on this. You were counting on me, and I just threw this away. We had our going away trip planned. You me and her. Together we were drive there, just the three of us. “Why?”
“I can’t,” I said, simply. In my head I always pictured myself crying because I thought it would be more romantic. More dramatic. Yet, in reality, I knew I wouldn’t cry. I was too strong to cry. I was too weak to cry.
“You can’t…” You are staring at me, trying to decipher my expression. You were never good at reading people. Actually, you were quite blind. If your eyes were open you could have seen this coming.
“I can’t take this anymore,” I say. “I have to get away.”
“Get away from what?” You’re smirking. I was wrong. You still think this is a joke. Our relationship was always a joke. The first time I asked you out, in eighth grade almost five years ago, you rejected me, and then I said it had been a joke, that I had been dared to ask you out.
“You,” I said. I pause. Try not to think of what I’m going to say next. Our relationship is at its epoch. I can’t think. I can’t breathe. This is it. This is the moment. I have to say it. This pain ends now. “I love you.”
Your breath catches. Your hands drop to your sides. This wasn’t what you were expecting. No. Not what you were expecting. You don’t know what to say. Words aren’t coming. You are staring at me. A different stare. You are in shock. You didn’t think you were that important. You didn’t think anyone could love you. No. No one could love you. Because you never loved anyone.
“Okay,” You say. You stare at the floor. “I think you should stay.”
I opened my mouth. I shouldn’t. I can’t. I’ve wasted too much time. I am growing older every day. I can’t waste anymore time. I shake my head. No. I shouldn’t. I can’t. I open my mouth to say no. Just say no.
“You have to stay,” You say, “You have to stay because… Because I love you.”
In my fantasy this is where it would end. You would kiss me. We would go off to college together. This is where it would end.
I shake my head again. “You don’t love me,” I say, half laughing because for some reason I find my pain funny. “You’re only saying this so I don’t leave.” My heart wrenches. I will lose you. I will lose you forever. Forever is a long time. Forever is forever. I laugh at my stupid cliché thought. How can anyone define forever? “Deny this,” I said, my voice strong, sturdy, betraying none of the inner turmoil that threatens to engulf me. “Tell me you love me for real, that if I left right now you would come after me.”
You say nothing. You open your mouth. This wasn’t what you were expecting. No. Not what you were expecting. Words aren’t coming. You don’t know what to say. You are staring at me. A different stare. You are scared. You are scared of losing me. You want me to stay. You didn’t think I would ever leave.
I leave. You don’t stop me. I figure this is the last time I will ever talk to you, unless I weaken and give in to the temptation to continue this awful, painful friendship, and forget this ever happened. No. I won’t. I am too strong. I am too weak.