two-twelve-ninety nine

I didn’t love him but I wanted to.

I wanted to because he was older than me. Because he was tall and cool and goddamn was he beautiful.

I wanted to because he reminded me of endless days of freedom, fighting the boredom of a lazy, too-small town. He reminded me of summers spent at the beach and the smell of sunscreen and salt and sweat and cheap beer. When our skin was red and freckled. When emo music was the soundtrack to our effortless lives. When everything was easy. Every hot and humid day the same, yet somehow held the excitement of new adventures.

I wanted to because for a long time, I couldn’t remember wanting anything else.

I thought about him incessantly. Insatiably. I daydreamed about holding his hand, smelling his shirts, clasping my fingers together behind his neck. Entire weeks, months, years spent just, wondering. What would it be like if he kissed me? Touched me? Felt about me the way I felt about him? I knew he’d always cared for me, but it wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t enough for me.

I was young, younger than I am today. Still inexperienced and ignorant about most things, love especially. All I knew was that it was a foreign emotion, one I barely believed was real. But I wanted it to be. I suppose maybe we both did. But it wasn’t, not for us. It never was.

Much later, when my romantic daydreams had ceased to exist, his were just beginning. He’d finally come to feel for me the way I’d always hoped he one day might, but now it was me who didn’t -- who couldn’t and wouldn’t -- reciprocate. I cared about him, but it wasn’t quite the same. And it certainly wasn’t enough for him.

He didn’t make me laugh and he found the things I liked and thought funny to be stupid, which drove me insane. We had a few things in common but it wasn’t enough (is anything ever)? We did a lot of Nothing together and shared sporadic and bad sex that was devoid of any real connection (or orgasms).

Still, we both kept trudging in place, naively thinking it was forward.

I was careless and crass when it came to his feelings, a sort of unintentional emotional terrorist. I felt burdened by his affection that I’d once longed for, but was now suffocating me.

We just didn’t fit and most importantly, we didn’t have a future.

I didn’t love him, but I’d wanted to for so long that when the opportunity to be with him was finally in front me, I convinced myself that I still wanted the same things. But I didn’t. Not anymore. Still, I believed my own deceptions, and I’d made my decision.

I grabbed at the chance to feel something big and magical and held onto it too tightly and for too long. Playing games I didn’t really understand the rules to and refusing to let go of this thing that had become a chore. This person who I thought, at one point in my life, meant everything to me. A person who used to be the object of my desires and the star of my fantasies. But someone who has here, now, in front of me. Real flesh and bone and perfect teeth and hair. Still so tall and still so goddamn beautiful.

And still I didn’t want him.

I am older now. Older than I was then. Still inexperienced and ignorant about some things, love included, but not especially. All I know is that it’s an intense emotion, one that I have been fortunate enough to experience and find out for myself that yes, it is thrilling and terrifying and wonderful and heartbreaking and that most importantly, it does exist.

Love is real, but he and I never were.