I was a very romantic teenager. Like, obsessed with all things love and lust. I had so many crushes, fantasies and ‘what if’ moments. I would spend hours listening to the same pop punk ballads, gazing out every train window, sighing dramatically, staying up late with my phone under the covers, agonising over my wording of the simplest texts – then sending the most obscure ‘hey, what’s up?’, definitely expecting a lovelorn essay in return, and being
heartbroken when I only got a ‘nm, you?’ back, several hours later. UGHH. It was exhausting, having so many feelings about everything and everyone.
Most of these feelings were unrequited, of course. I think on some deranged level, I liked it that way. I wallowed in the pain and drama of it all. I can’t tell you how many friends I had who saw me as a confidante, someone they could go to for advice when they were sick with love. I’d happily listen, reply to all their texts (even if it used all £10 of my credit) and hog the family computer all evening to chat in mostly emoticons (remember those?) on MSN Messenger, when secretly, deep inside I’d be aching with sadness because all along, shockingly, I was in love with them. Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ was basically my life, for a few years. In fact, the whole ‘Fearless’ album was my soundtrack; I’d listen to it on my iPod classic as I walked to and
from school every day, picturing my crush of the moment and I dancing together or kissing in the rain or running through airports for each other. It was torturous… and exciting.
Then came the loves that were reciprocated. Oh yes, there were some of those! Who’d have thought? They were all pretty wild rides – emotionally speaking, that is. Intense and instant chemistry, a spark that anyone around us could see, secret kisses in cupboards, code names we gave each other, hands almost touching as we walked side by side, tension you could cut
through when our eyes met, flurries of texts one night and then silence for days. I got greedy,
sometimes. I couldn’t get enough. I lived for the most dramatic moments, I gorged on angst and would set fire to the quiet comforts so things would be more interesting, if only for a short while. I played with boundaries between friendship and something more, because that was my favourite story line in books, films and TV shows. I remember being surprised when it didn’t work out as well in real life as it did in works of fiction.
My first love was my best friend. They were the first of many best-friend-turned-loves – and one of the main reasons I started this online diary of sorts, actually. The day we met we felt something big, and mutually decided it must be romantic, so we went on a date the following weekend. We went to the cinema and saw perhaps the worst film to watch on a first date. It
became ‘our film’. But I turned out to be the misguided character in the end, who put too much of themselves into a fantasy. We had our first kiss at one train station, then decided to be Just Friends at another, a few hours later. And for a year or so after that, we were truly terrible at being Just Friends.
I remember when it all imploded, and I sat crying onto my computer keyboard, quietly screaming in pain. It felt like a physical loss. You were suddenly gone. Then a while later, I was in Waterloo Station, and you called me. You’d forgiven me. Then we both started uni, and you came to visit me a couple of times. The timing still wasn’t quite right, now I think back to it. I met you off the train one day, emotionally hungover and spiraling badly after a silly night spent with another ‘friend’. You were there, and ready. I wasn’t. Another time, we went for lunch at my favourite diner, and I told you over a shared portion of fries that I’d started seeing someone. Another Northerner, with the same name as you, curiously enough. You laughed, and shook your head. We went out that night dressed up as geeks, in dungarees and fake glasses, and a
few friends of mine asked if you were my long-distance partner. We got home at 2am and ate buttery crumpets, then literally fell into bed together. Nothing happened. Between these two occasions, we met in London. We’d kiss now and again, in cafes and museums and parks, never in a big moment, but because it just felt like the natural thing to do. It made sense. It’s so weird to think back to that now, because to this day I’ve never been like that with anyone else. It inspired me. I wrote a novel about two characters who loved each other deeply, and wanted each other so badly, but never crossed that line. I always thought that was it; we’d come together again someday and it would be like no time had passed. It would just click. I thought of you when I read ‘One Day’. You were my Dexter. You weren’t the one that got away, you were the one I never made a go of it with. I know that if I had, things would be very different now. Because it would have stuck, I’m sure of that. But then ‘The Versions of Us’ also reminded me of you, and made me wonder – we may have been perfect together back then, but would it have lasted? How would we have coped with the distance, our different university experiences, and my health scares?
The last time I saw you, in human form, we had lunch at one of my favourite restaurants in London. A small chain, a branch I’d never been to. You’d said as we walked there, ‘I think you’ll like this place’. You weren’t to know I’d been going to the one near me for years – on a lot of dates. I remember looking at you over my pots of dim sum and coconut rice, thinking
‘it’s still you and me, but it’s not the same us’. You told me a little about your work, and gave me updates on your family. I laughed at all the crazy stories, and briefly pondered on how I’d always wanted them to be my in-laws. I asked after your girlfriend, and you told me it was good, and you were working hard to keep it that way. I felt warm and happy for you. Since that day, we’ve called each other drunk a few times, and exchanged the odd message on social media platforms – we’re not Facebook friends anymore, though. That seems too intimate somehow.
Today I found out you got married. An old friend of yours, another who you had a love story with once upon a time, told me. We’re both sad not to have known, nor been invited to celebrate with you. I’m giving some time to my teenage self today; remembering what I felt, what we had, and how heartbroken sixteen-year-old me would be to hear that it never went where she expected it to. I’ve cried at my breakfast table, put Taylor’s latest album on full blast and
sung along in the shower – I’ve even asked David Nicholls for some wise words. I’ll say congratulations and move on tomorrow, but today I need to mourn for my old romantic self.
We were something, don’t you think so?
Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool,
and if my wishes came true,
it would have been you.