He Taught Me How

May 21, 2008
By Maghan Smith, Pauline, SC

For over five years a certain boy has held me captive in a web called friendship. A web that’s strung with laughter, passion, tears, hugs, and even the occasional bite mark (on my part of course). Sure, there have been other boys in my life, but this one was always there, steady and unfailingly loyal, even when I didn’t deserve it. He is always there in the back of my mind, commanding my attention even when he’s not here in person. I’ve asked myself on several occasions why my thoughts are always filled with images of him, and the answer is one I have just recently stumbled upon. I love him. That’s as simply as I can state it. I’m unconditionally, irrevocably, head over heels in love with him.

When I fist came across this realization, I denied it. I told myself that it was just infatuation, or in my words, it was just L-U-V, not
L-O-V-E. I’m the girl who reads the sleazy romance novels and wants so badly to be the heroine, but when reality boldly slaps me in the face with my own romance novel love, I deny it; I’m too scared to face it and be a big girl about it. I told myself that I didn’t believe it, that I didn’t actually love him, but what’s the point in lying to yourself when you know in your heart of hearts that it’s true? What’s the point in trying to make yourself believe the lie when your mind, body and soul are screaming at you, telling you to grow up and admit it?

My life changed in many ways when sixth grade rolled around. I had left elementary school, no longer allowed to be a child, I’d gotten over a crush that lasted way too long, I’d made new friends that had taken the place of the old… and I met him. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal back then, but how was I to see the future that was laid out before us? How was I to know what would come of a chance meeting in Mrs. Angeli’s English class?

But that’s what it was, just a chance meeting. Mrs. Angeli made out the seating chart, but I like to think that fate had a hand in placing us near each other. Like God had destined us to be together and this was his way of carrying out his plans. To this day, I still don’t recall our first words, no matter how far back in my memory I search. All I know is that one day we started talking and we haven’t stopped yet.

The days of sixth grade passed me by in a haze. I spent my time daydreaming during classes and waiting for the bell to ring so I could get to eighth period to see him. I willed the clock hands to spin faster, faster, but they always seemed to slow, as if they were telling me to calm down and be patient. Patience has never been one of my strong suits, so believe me, this waiting wasn’t easy. But then the bell would ring, right when I least expected it, and the daydreams would leave me for a while, only to come back as I walked down the hall to my next class.

Some days we would talk, and some days we wouldn’t, but just being in the class and being able to see him was enough. There was only one problem, he had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be around him.

He told me once a while ago how much he had liked me in sixth grade. I was stunned. Emotions were whirling and swirling around in my head so fast that I couldn’t pick one. First confusion, “He’d liked me?” Then happiness, “He’d liked me!” Next anger, “Why didn’t he tell me then?” And finally sadness, “We could have shared so many great moments.”

Seventh grade came and went, and because we didn’t have any classes together, it seemed as if I had forgotten him completely, but I hadn’t. I would pass him in the hallways and all the old feelings would be conjured up once again. And in eighth grade, fate decided to shine on me in the form of a question, “Will you go out with me?” They were words I had longed to hear. So many times I had imagined him saying them, but nevertheless, it still surprised me when they were truly asked. I immediately accepted… only to break it off the following day. I told him that I just wanted to be friends, but that wasn’t true. I told him that us dating would ruin our friendship, but that wasn’t true either. What was true but what I didn’t tell him was that I was scared. It must have been an irrational fear, because I still can’t figure out what I was afraid of, I just know that it didn’t feel right at the time. When I look back on it now, I realize that it was one of the most foolish things I have ever done. He must think so too, because he playfully never lets me forget that if it hadn’t been for me and my silly irrational terror, we would still be dating, and we wouldn’t have all these missed memories.

In ninth grade, she arrived, and I got my first real taste of jealousy. It had an awful bitter taste that never really went away, and seeing them together was like tasting it all over again. It’s funny how you want something so badly for 3 years and when you finally get it you throw it out the window on a whim. Oh how I regretted it now, how I wished I would take it back and make him see that I was still here. But he had eyes only for her, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

Our sophomore year of high school brought us closer than we have ever been, and ironically, this is when all the trouble began. Spending too much time together, constantly talking on the phone, sharing secrets, sharing life… there was but one thing wrong, she…was still around. We were treading in dangerous waters and the sharks were swimming closer and closer. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t feel guilty. It felt as if there was a black cloud hanging over my head, trying to spoil my time with him. No matter how hard I tried to ignore the cloud, it always found a way to resurface back into my thoughts.

But the end of our first semester, we were drowning. We were in over our heads, and we had made a huge mess of things. He was the first to say “I Love You.” I had argued with him the way I had argued with myself, telling him he had no idea with love was, and that we were too young to comprehend it. That was one of the reasons I wouldn’t say it back, because I felt too young. I’ve seen girls my age saying that they love someone, but I can tell that they don’t really understand the weight those three words hold. They end up making fools of themselves, and I didn’t want to be like that. But who’s to say that I’m not one of their fellow fools?

But then I turned the tables around and asked myself, “Do I know what love is?” “Do I understand it better than the other girls?” I’ve thought about it and here is my honest answer. Love is being able to tell him things that I don’t even tell my two best girlfriends, love is smiling whenever I think about him and feeling terribly sick when I don’t get to see him. It’s never getting tired of hearing his voice call me May May. It’s the flowers on my desk, a kiss on the palm, and an everlasting promise that he’ll be here tomorrow. Love is being able to feel safe in his arms and at home in his eyes. Its millions of inside jokes, being able to cry in front of him, the quirky way I hold his hand and the sound of my heartbeat when he is near me. Love is having him know me inside and out, being able to discuss Shakespeare without feeling like a dork, and the smile on his face. Love is a sound, a feeling, a color, and a soft breeze. If love is all of these things, then surely I love him. And the next time he said “I Love You,” I said it back, because I now believed it.

But no mater how much I loved him, and no matter how happy he made me, I couldn’t deny the fact that he was still hers. Seeing them together was still heartbreaking for me, but I learned to live with it, or rather, to avoid it. We went on the same as we always had, talking at least twice a day, and saying “I Love You” whenever we saw each other, but we were never able to completely erase her from our thoughts.

I just kept telling myself that one day we would be together, but I had no hope that that day would come soon. I vowed that I would never make or even ask him to break up with her, that was something he had to do alone with no help from me. I even tried to make it easier by staying away and trying not talking to him, but in the end, it was much too hard. Trying to ignore his phone calls and making my sister lie and tell him that I wasn’t home, was something that I hope I never have to do again. Every time I ignored a call, I felt like he was slipping farther and farther away from me. Not speaking to him was an unbearable task and I couldn’t handle it.

He’d been unhappy for awhile so I kept asking myself why he didn’t just get it over with and come to me so that he could be happy again, but I never got an answer to that question. I had talked to him every night that week, and every time we talked, I cried. I didn’t mean to and I didn’t want to, but the tears weren’t something I could control. It was to the point now, to where I just wanted him to be happy, even if that meant that he found happiness with someone other than me.

He did finally break up with her, and I felt the black cloud slowly dissolve. That night, I told him that I wanted him to be happy, and that if he ever wanted to date her again, I wouldn’t stop him, I wouldn’t even make it hard for him. And I meant it. But what a hard promise I had made. The next day, I saw them walking out of school together, holding hands. That blow was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I was strong enough to make it to the car, but as soon as I got there, my defenses fell. I’d told him that I wouldn’t make it hard for him, but I never said it wouldn’t be hard for me.

My sister turned around, plainly looked at me, and said, “Well, I guess he doesn’t love you like he said he does.” I hated her for saying that, but it made me wonder. Did he really love me, or was he just saying it? I cried and cried, and when I wasn’t crying on the outside, I was sobbing on the inside. I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t worth it, no boy was worth this many tears, but HE was, and that’s what hurt the most. I also tried to convince myself that I hated her. What had she done to make him come back and why had she stolen him away from me? I tried, believe me I tried to hate her, but I couldn’t because I knew how she felt when he left.

I continued to talk to him every night, but I no longer said “I Love You.” It was true, I still loved him, but he had lost a part of me that he wasn’t going to get back anytime soon. I had put all my faith in him, and he had betrayed it. That was something I thought he would never be able to do, lose my trust. I don’t regret giving him all my faith, and even though it hurt, I don’t regret him losing it. Everybody gets their heart broken, and they’re telling the truth when they say it makes you stronger.

About a week and a half later he broke it off with her, for good this time. I welcomed him with open arms because it was MY turn to be happy. And I am. He makes me completely and totally happy. We’re dating now…FINALLY! Took us long enough didn’t it? And guess what? I say “I Love You” again. We’re striving for the future and not looking back. We’re going to make up for all those missed memories.

He’s taught me so much and I’ve learned so many things from this whole experience with him: I can now pump gas, he taught me how. I can now say that I’ve had my heart broken, he did that for me. I can now accept a compliment, he persisted until I learned. I can have my happy ending, as long as it’s with him. And most important of all? I can now love, he taught me how.

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