I’ve always believed that what distinguishes you from my friends is that you love me unconditionally. You always knew the details I was too embarrassed to admit, like when I got my eyebrows waxed in sixth grade or when I came sobbing to your bedroom that one evening after seeing the fresh spots of red in my underwear for the first time. As I’ve gotten older and the physical distance between us has grown, I’ve come to realize how much I actually enjoy talking to you. Whether we’re discussing books or politics or little idiosyncrasies of human nature, your anecdotes are so different from my own, yet the underlying values from which your anecdotes develop are mine exactly. We approach our conversations from the same level, and therefore waste no time or effort catching each other up. I promise the nature of our conversations is no trivial experience. Even when we disagree, our arguments have a way of accentuating each other like puzzle pieces so that the conversation is richer as a result.
So I’m left wondering if there is anything left for me to tell you, someone who has already, supposedly, heard it all.
As of right now, there is nothing I’d like to tell you. I’m content with our relationship, and I can only assume that you are too. There are, however, stories you haven’t heard and will not hear for many years, if at all. You don’t know where I was those summer nights when you thought I went to the football game or to Allison’s house. You don’t know that I, at least momentarily, fell in love with someone. And you really don’t know that we had sex when I was fifteen. It hurt. It wasn’t romantic. It was quick and exceptionally experimental, in the back of his Subaru parked in a cornfield, and it didn’t exceed any of my expectations … other than rendering me unable to walk or urinate without pain for a few days afterwards.
Looking back, I think that maybe you did know, or at least had an idea as to what was going on. The atmosphere changed when I came back after those summer nights in the cornfield, with me sitting on my bed and you in the study room across the black hallway, working at your computer that emitted the only pixelated light into the darkness. How could you be immune to the tension in that silence? But then again, perhaps that tension was only my suppressed guilt. It left a tight, hollow place in my gut that could not be filled until I went to sleep and woke up with the rays of a new sun replacing the shadows that had kept me awake a few hours prior. You know I’ve always liked mornings.
Then there was that one uncomfortable night you found a list of detailed, hand-written sex tips in my room. Kiara was the friend who had done everything four years before everyone else, and she had spent the previous night passing down some of this wisdom to me, and I took notes. My approach to solving problems, from equations in physics class to cleaning my room, has always been very organized and sequential. So it should be no surprise that I approached sex with the same mentality. That night, the list was folded twice between your fingers. You called me in to that study room. You tried confronting me, but those little tears in your eyes got in the way of your words. But I promise you that those little tears told me what words never could have. Maybe you were in denial; maybe you wanted to evade the conversation as much as I did; but it was easy to blow off the list as Kiara’s. The topic was never brought up again, so thank you for that. Perhaps the guilt has never left me; perhaps distance simply makes it bearable and it’s waiting for me in the shadows of my bedroom, across the hall from the study room where you’re likely still sitting, staring into the pixelated light of your computer.
For now, there is nothing I’d like to tell you. I’m keeping these and similar details to myself because I’d never risk repeating the mortification of that night. Your ignorance is bliss for both of us. But it’s a precarious bliss, one that demands I keep a significant part of my life from you. I’m unsure what you’re afraid of, besides the discomfort. Even the casual mention of an argument I’ve had with a friend, let alone a lover, is enough to worry you excessively. I’m young, malleable; let me hurt a bit. And besides, I’ve learned that any meaningful investment of the heart requires some emotional vulnerability, and that experiencing the good demands embracing the bad too. Love isn’t always pretty enough for a filter and a cute caption; stop convincing yourself that it’ll always be peachy for me.
For now, I don’t feel guilty for lying to you. For now, I don’t even feel guilty for not feeling guilty.