When I was in middle school, I fell in love with a boy. I’m pretty sure he liked me back.
That’s a pretty simple narrative, right? The kind of thing that happens to kids all the time. But it took me a long time to figure out that’s what happened, because it was the ’90s and that wasn’t okay.
We didn’t date, of course. We just became close friends very quickly. We didn’t talk about love or feelings; we talked about the next-closest thing we could: trust. We talked about trusting each other and tested our trust in each other repeatedly. Never in a harmful way, just curious and always kind. I felt truly seen by another person for probably the first time in my life. I wrote a poem about him.
Then one day, he ran away from me. He later confessed he didn’t even know why, but the consequence was stark. He decided he didn’t want to talk to me and we avoided each other for over a year. It took me a long time to figure out why that hurt me so much, because I ran away too. We were both terrified of our feelings, and squashed them before we even understood them.
It would be a decade before I admitted to myself I was gay. Years longer until I realized I’d been in love. It was yesterday that I finally pieced together he probably liked me back and was just as scared. It might’ve been the scariest thing he ever felt. Now I wonder what it would’ve been like to have a healthy relationship with the first boy I fell for, and it makes me angry about the world I grew up in.
But I’m deeply thankful for the short time he trusted me.