17. A Broken Heart and the One Who Did It

I was in high school. Up to this point I had only had crushes from afar. My crushes were never on boys within reach. They were always on the ones I knew I’d never be with.
The redheaded grandson of a creepy pastor who I only saw a handful of times while I attended a small private school located in the basement of a church. He was redheaded like me with a great smile and pretty eyes.
Then there was Jack who was REALLY far from reach. Sandy blonde hair, average height, at least 4 years older than me, and little nerdy looking. He was someone I saw during youth group and I secretly crushed on him for a year or so. This youth group was large enough that I never actually spoke to him, although I did spend a few minutes with his sister one night and later found out my sister had known him from several years earlier.
The next crush was almost within reach. He had olive skin, big brown eyes, and, at the time, seemed to me like everything expected from “tall, dark, and handsome”. (Although looking back he did have quite the unibrow going.) He was Italian with a nice disposition and a decent enough family. I actually spent some time with him during two different trips to summer camp and later attended his sister’s open house with a friend who happened to know his family well.
I never for a second thought I’d ever date any of the three, especially since my parents had strict rules on dating and I was still too young.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a strict Christian home. I was homeschooled the majority of elementary (except the few years I spent at the private school). The only boys that I had real interaction and friendships with were my cousins.
Finally I was the first of my siblings to attend public school. It was my 9th grade year and I did surprisingly well socially for a homeschooled kid. The first 2 years were fairly rough as I tried to adapt to so many different personalities and lifestyles, but by the summer before my junior year I was adapted and had become a “popular” kid.
Sebastian had chocolate brown skin, brown eyes, the start of facial hair, and was one of only a handful of African-American kids in our small country school. He was a year younger than me and as my junior year approached, we started hanging out. We were always in a group. There were 7-10 of us that would get together to play games on our Xboxes.
At first there was nothing, just friends hanging out. I was considered one of the guys. They didn’t see me the same way they saw the other girls in school. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I didn’t plaster make up on my face. I wore jogging pants and t-shirts most of the time. I played video games and never let then push me around.
I wrestled with them too. They would tease me, I’d punch them and we’d end up pinning each other on the ground. I didn’t think much of it at first. It was just fun to hang out with them. We had a blast together.
As my junior year took off I started to develop a different view of Sebastian. He wasn’t as hard on me as the other guys. When we wrestled it was different. I couldn’t even tell you exactly when it changed, one day it was just different.
At prom that year I ended up ditching my date (who I’d only taken because he was one year too young to go – nothing romantic) to dance with Sebastian. For the first time in my life I was interested in someone within reach.
We kept getting closer. With each month, each day we spent together, I became more and more attracted to him. We would talk, actually have conversations about life, something I didn’t do too often with the others. Every time our group was getting together and he didn’t show, I was secretly disappointed.
It wasn’t too long before the other guys started figuring it out. Soon they were teasing us about it. But even when he knew, our relationship didn’t change. We still got closer. We would even flirt. He’d rub my shoulders and I’d rub his. We went to homecoming together my senior year and when I was injured in a car accident, he brought himself even closer to me.
We went to prom together this time even though I was still in a wheelchair. It could have been a really rough night for me but my friends were great, he was great.
Shortly after graduation was when he started breaking my heart. I started to get frustrated. He flirted with me, I knew he cared about me. I also knew that I wasn’t the prettiest, skinniest, or most girlie girl around, but was that all that mattered? Didn’t a solid relationship built on trust and friendship mean more than that? He would lead me on just to leave me with nothing. It was wearing me out.
Even though it seemed as though we were closer than ever and starting to really develop a relationship, he got a girlfriend. A young girl who had started going to our school after I graduated asked him out and he accepted. I had refused to ask him out based on the principle that the girl should not have to ask the guy out – if he really wanted to date me he’d ask me. He didn’t.
I played it off like it didn’t affect me as much as it did. It got less hard to do so when he still flirted with me. His girlfriend never hung out with our group and I’m not sure I ever actually talked to her, but she hated me. Some of the younger students who I stayed in contact with told me that the girlfriend made comments and this gave me some satisfaction. Still, when I attended homecoming to watch my friends walk for court, my heart collapsed on itself when I saw him dancing with her. I know I mentioned going to dances with him, but even then he had only danced with me a handful of times. I laughed it off when someone mentioned it, but I left within a few minutes of seeing and cried as I drove aimlessly around town before going to a friend’s party and getting drunk.
Sebastian was still in school and I was working full time which meant we started seeing less of each other, but we still spoke on the phone often. In fact we talked more then than when we had been when seeing each other every day. Maybe it had to do with the pressure of our friends being taken out of the equation or maybe we were both just maturing. We went to see a movie together (as friends) and one night after work he took me for a ride in his new (old) car. I was still aching for a relationship that deep down I knew would never happen.
Although he may have caused me heartache during those two years, I finally got my closure one night when I called him and worked up the courage to ask one question – why her and not me? He gave the answer like he had thought about it and worked it out for himself before I’d even thought the question. He’d be moving soon and I’d be off to college. We’d be going in two different directions. He was right.
At the time I thought this answer meant we could have had something if we had been traveling in the same direction, that he did like me but was not willing to go deeper because that would also mean saying good bye at some point. This was good enough for me. Now I see it most likely was just a way to let me down easy.
Our lives slowly drifted apart. Our relationship took a particular dive off when I started dating my, now, husband. I haven’t seen Sebastian face to face in probably 5 years or so. I keep up with him through social media and he’s now married with a son.
Those old feelings are gone, replaced by nostalgia. It makes me somewhat sad that we don’t see each other since he really was a good friend, but there are many people from high school that I feel this way about.
I’m just grateful I stuck to my guns and waited for the one who wanted me enough to make the first move. The one who took the broken, insecure, and apprehensive bits of my heart and slowly, with patience and perseverance, put them back together. He was well worth the wait.

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