I weigh the letter in my hands. It’s not heavy. What I had to say fit on one page.
Graduation starts in an hour, and I really need to get going, but I am still standing here. I promised myself I’d give you this letter today, but now I am not so sure. I don’t know why this won’t go away. It’s been over a year, but something keeps bringing it back. You have moved on, and so have I, but I can’t shake the pain.
The letter is not an angry one. I don’t want to hurt you or upset you. I want to tell you what I once felt for you. You were the first person who made me that happy. I want to tell you that I remember the day I first kissed you and held your hand better than I remember whole months.
The letter says other things, though. I remember the arguments, the times when I did nothing wrong but ended up apologizing anyway. You hurt me more than I will ever be able to describe, and I need you to understand that.
Today may be the last time I ever see you in person. There is no reason not to give it to you. If I don’t, these things will go unsaid. There is nothing in it that I don’t want you to know.
Well, one thing.
I drop the letter onto the passenger seat on top of my cap and gown, pull out of the driveway, and open the window. It’s a warm, sunny June day. I breathe in the air and smile. As I park in the school lot, I see your car pull in just ahead of me. The bumper stickers always give you away.
My heart starts beating faster, just like it always does when I see you. I reach for the letter; this is my chance. I open the car door – but at that moment one of your friends gets out. You walk together, talking happily.
I stand by my car for a moment, unsure what to do. I take my blue graduation gown and hat, leaving the letter on the seat for a moment. But I can’t walk away without it. Finally, I tuck it into the folds of my gown and start for the school doors.
The dull roar of voices grows louder as I approach the hallway where the class of 2014 will enter the auditorium for commencement. It’s a sea of blue gowns and yellow tassels. I head toward the back of the line and the end of the alphabet, taking my place just five spots behind you. I can hear you talking to your friends, and the sound of your voice causes an ache in my chest.
As I wait with the rest of my class, my eyes keep flitting to you. When I see you standing alone I take the letter from my pocket and start to move forward, but at that moment there is a call for attention. I slip it back in, heart beating fast once again.
The ceremony runs the usual course: speakers telling us of the promise of our class and the coming challenges; fellow students telling us the challenges they have overcome. After the last student has crossed the stage and we’ve thrown our caps in the air, I again look for you in the crowd.
I can’t find you, and I begin to fear I won’t. Then I feel a tap on the shoulder. I turn, and my breath catches. We smile at each other awkwardly. Neither of us speaks for a moment.
“I just wanted to say good luck and congratulations,” you say, extending your hand.
I take it gingerly. The moment we touch, the memory of the day I first held your hand comes flooding back. The softness, that gentle touch, it hasn’t changed.
The smell of your perfume overwhelms me. It brings back memories: watching movies, laughing together, bike rides through the deserted school campus. That wonderful summer. I can almost feel that last hug and smell the sweet scent of your hair. I remember it all. If I had only known that was going to be the last time. You shattered me less than a month later.
I can see your parents waiting by the door, ready to go.
“Thanks … I just wanted to give you …” I say, my fingers closing around the envelope in my pocket.
I can’t say it. The truth is, part of my heart, no matter how small, will always be yours. This is what I can never admit. I never will.
You’ve noticed that I’m reaching for something, and I can see the puzzlement in your eyes. My hand drops from the pocket to my side, empty.
“I just wanted to give you my congratulations.” I force a smile.
Slowly you turn away.
I will move on, and I will be happy, but a part of you will never leave me. The mention of girls’ tennis, select choir, even just a few bars of music from “West Side Story” or “Damn Yankees” will forever remind me of our time together. That tiny hole in my heart will seem to grow bigger for a moment, and I will pause and wonder where you are and whether you think of me from time to time. I doubt you will, but I’ll still wonder. Then the moment will pass.
You disappear from my sight. I remove the letter from my pocket and look at your name inked across the envelope in my small, untidy scrawl.
I tear the letter in half, right through the center of your name, and let it drop to the floor.
I step carefully over the letter and walk toward the doors and my family. They are taking pictures and smiling widely at me. I grin and wave my diploma in triumph.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.