When I was 16, I had a sizable crush on a boy I went to school with and worked alongside at our neighborhood grocery store in Texas. He worked in the produce department shuffling tomatoes and I was in the floral department arranging the flowers. He was loud and goofy but, as teenage girls tend to do, I saw a different side to him. We talked and flirted and he took me to prom, but it never really evolved beyond friendship. I never quite understood why and was pretty hurt by it.
Then one day after graduation, he pranced into the store with his tiny girlfriend and her fluffy blonde hair. In my teenage eyes, he had paraded her in front of me to purposely hurting my feelings. He denied that was his intention.
Either way, I was crushed…and we weren’t so friendly after that. We fought over small things as the gulf between us grew along with of layers of animosity until I couldn’t stand the sight of him. Which worked out fine because he went to another store and my family moved back to Florida.
Fast forward 20 years to Facebook and the connecting of many friends from the past. We got in touch and he called me one night unexpectedly. I could tell right away he was calling for more than just a hello. He had something to unload.
He said how sorry he was for how he treated me and that he regretted decisions he had made. I told him we were just kids and that I didn’t hold any of it against him. He was very remorseful and I could tell he had thought about this more than once. I assured him everything was fine and we moved on.
We began speaking and texting after that and I even went back to visit friends in Texas, including him. It was a lot of fun. I felt 16 again and everyone else was just the same. There’s comfort in the presence of people who knew you when you were young. That, and the fact that I was on vacation, made the trips magical.
Over the next couple of years, we had many conversations about what-ifs and could-have-beens…us. These conversations become especially frequent if one of us was having a hard time, I noticed. We are an escape for one another. He imagines what would have been if he’d made a different choice and I think about what it would have been like if fluffy hair had never existed. We tend to think things would be better when, truthfully, they probably would be about the same.
We have stayed in touch and continue to get together from time to time, but I have to keep reminding myself it’s all a fantasy. And that’s why it’s so appealing.
“Let’s meet up in Hawaii next year with Mutual Friend,” he said the other night.
I sighed. “That is really fun to think about, but it’s never going to happen,” I replied. Just like that high school crush—a fun fantasy, but not to be.
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