Dear John

The first time I saw you, I fell in love.

I fell in love with the tall, funny boy who insisted on walking me to my car, or paying for my ice-cream. I loved the way you would wrestle me out of the way at the cash window. I loved that you were my first kiss, and you taught me the language of kissing. The ins and outs and different applications. I loved that you would kiss me while I was on the phone with my parents; trying to make me laugh or make me embarrassed. I loved the way you would hold me while we watched a movie. How your embrace gave me butterflies while making me feel secure. I loved having someone to look forward to seeing. I loved the way you made me feel like I was special.

But you were not your ideal.

In real life, you were just as scared as I was, you were just better at hiding it. In real life, there were awkward stretches of silence that I didn’t know how to fill. In real life, you made me doubt myself.

I think you used your charm and confidence as a shield to hide behind. You never fully let me in. You were stunted with doubt. You still saw the chubby middle-schooler in the mirror. And I was too intimidated and awestruck by the dreamy exterior to pierce your walls.

Because you were scared, everything became my fault. When our teeth knocked together when we kissed, when the conversation lulled, when plans fell through, I took the fall. You saved face by showing me how awkward I was. How much I messed up. And I believed you.

So I pretended. I pretended to be unworried by being awkward. I pretended to not like romantic gestures. I pretended to like sex. Anything to raise me in your estimation. Every word or move I made was calculated and analyzed. All tailored for your approval.

Yet at the same time, it was all done so slyly as to not be solicitous. I didn’t want you to know how much your opinion mattered to me. How much you mattered.

Because it was hard to be with you. Intimidating. You were so cool and smart and worldly. The stories you told were beyond my experience. I hadn’t drank or smoked or travelled Europe, how could my conversation compete with yours? And how could I compete with your friends? They were all older, gorgeous, funny, and wild.

So I made myself just as cool and disinterested. I acted like I didn’t care if I saw you or not, that your absence didn’t hurt, that your criticism didn’t sting. I wonder if that is what you were doing, too. If my feigned distance incited doubt in you.

Making plans was a dance of disinterest and busyness. Neither of us wanted to admit to missing the other. Sometimes it felt like our whole relationship was a competition to see who could care the least. Who could be the least attached.

You won. You made me doubt myself.

Afraid of being the one at fault, mistake were laid at my feet. Scared of reverting to a chubby outcast, you bragged about your workouts and critiqued my diet. Terrified of being hurt, you kept me at arms length. You did what you had to to protect yourself.

That is not to say that you were mean or our relationship was bad. In many ways it was perfect. Lying next to you on the beach, just looking out over the water and talking about our dreams for the future. It was the happiest I had ever been. I have never been so comfortable and so scared with someone at the same time.

There were good times. It is the memories of those that haunt me the most. The tickle fights and the star gazing. The time you asked me to prom on the beach. Those memories still plague my dreams. Every guy I meet is measured against the idealized version I had of you. Whether or not he can make me laugh like you did, or give me butterflies overtime I see him like you did. Whether he would introduce me to his family like you did. It makes it impossible to move on, because I still remember the way it felt when you looked at me. How warm and desired I felt lying in your arms. It was the best summer of my life, knowing you were mine, and the saddest, knowing I had to let you go. Saying goodbye to you was just as mixed.

I didn’t know that when I kissed you that sunny afternoon in the park, it would be the last time. That you would cut yourself off from me to prepare for your departure. It makes sense. Of course that’s how it had to end. But some naive part of me still thought we would see each other again. That naive part of me still hopes so.

The last time I saw you, I knew I would never be able to love anyone as much as I loved the idea of you.