I think I’ve been in love once before. I was so young, barely on the precipice of young adulthood, hardly more than a teenager. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized it might have been love. To be honest, I’m still not exactly sure what it was.
We could talk for hours. I remember the days spent sitting on her bedroom floor as the afternoon faded into evening, not bothering to look at the clock hanging on her pink wall. Five hours would pass without either of us even realizing it. Even then, we could keep talking. My mouth never dried out, my throat never got sore, our minds never stopped whirring. It was days like those when I thought we could simply talk forever, had the cool, humid breeze of summer never drawn us outside.
Her house did not have air conditioning, but that hardly mattered. I’d spend my summer days attached to her, singing Disney soundtracks at the top of our lungs or splayed out in her backyard fighting off mosquitos and sunburns. On rare occasions, we would take a dip in her pool. She never laughed at me for not being able to swim.
Once, on a particularly cold August night, we swam under the stars. The water was still warm, yet you could see our breaths. The steam dissipated off of the pool, her porch lights reflected in the water, and the chill of the night air seemed to steal the heat from my skin. That night, in particular, we had decided to pitch a tent and sleep in her backyard. I remember the cold shock of waking up as the first dregs of blue dawn crept over the horizon and checking my iPod touch to see that the temperature had dropped to 46 degrees overnight. There was frost on the grass outside.
I’d like to think we’d still laugh about that night to this day had things gone differently.
She convinced me to create a Facebook account so we could use Messenger to talk to each other. Prior to that, we used emails like text threads, exchanging photos, videos and virtually anything else we found exciting. Our friendship had been an accident, really. She’d sent an email thread to her friends about the trip to Disneyland she’d taken that week. I just happened to be included. And I just so happened to reply. After that, we never stopped replying.
Even when we were not physically together, we were inseparable. We had constantly evolving text threads on Facebook Messenger and iPod messaging apps. If we hadn’t seen each other for more than a few days, we would FaceTime. Those conversations often lasted until one of our parents told us to go to bed, but even then, the conversation never really ended. We’d still be texting each other until the small hours of the morning.
I wonder if my parents ever thought anything of it. I wonder if her parents thought anything of it.
I wonder if our ending was inevitable.
I believe in parallel universes and I would like to think there are infinite versions of all of us. A version where I stayed an English major. A version where I turned to religious studies. A version where I didn’t even make it to college. A version where I’m already married with a child, like my mother had been. A version where I can still eat gluten. Yet even with an infinite amount of possibilities, I do not believe there is a single timeline where she and I could have ended differently.
I remember the day her mom told me to call her by her first name. I remember the moments I became a part of their family, a safe haven from my own. I also remember when that connection was severed.
It was a messy separation, the two of us.
I talk about losing friends the way lots of people talk about losing partners. For me, platonic relationships have always been the most important kind of connection. They are more than just the people you can go to on stressful days. They are more than just people you drink cheap vodka with while watching “Moana” on a Saturday night. They are more than the people who the universe decided you belonged with. They are the people who know more secrets than we even know about ourselves. They are the people we choose. And severing that connection hurts more than I can articulate.
The French word for “breakup” is “la rupture,” which is something I think about often. We do not have a word in English, nor is there one in French that I’m aware of, for the ending of a friendship. In my experience, these endings are often the most painful. So while it wasn’t a breakup, per se, it was certainly a rupture.
I do not remember the first scrape between us. I remember that we fought often and fought hard. We were young and full of fire that hadn’t yet been dulled. One night, though, it culminated in a fracture. I accused her of cyberbullying, an accusation that may have been an overreaction but was most certainly tear-inducing and painful. It felt like my chest was being torn apart at the prospect of our relationship ending. It was a week before homecoming. I buried myself in my marching band music to forget.
We had not shattered, though, and we mended the crack in the months that followed. It wasn’t the same, but she was giving me a part of her, and that was enough for me. She invited me to a Bible study, which was where the fractures began again, this time slowly spidering out in all directions.
We did not speak when we passed each other in the halls. We did not spend weekends together talking until our voices wore out. We did not do everything we used to engage in together with ease.
In the end, the break was not dramatic. I Facebook messaged her mother to ask if she’d be interested in supporting me in a marching band fundraiser. It was very clear that she wanted no part of me, and her daughter eventually stopped talking to me altogether.
It has been seven years since our ending. Our entire relationship, from coincidental beginning to tumultuous end, only lasted two years — more than double the time has passed since our relationship ended than it lasted. And yet, I still think about her.
I still feel a gaping hole in my chest every time her name appears on my social media timelines. I still feel cold and hollow every time her face pops into my mind. I don’t know what I’d do if she ever reached out to me; I know I never would reach out to her.
I think, maybe, I was in love with her.
The Greeks had seven different words for love. I choose to treat everyone with agape love — unconditional or brotherly love — leaving mine and hers amongst the other six. To this day, I still don’t know which.
It has taken me all of these years to come to these thoughts. To write them clearly enough for someone else to read and for me to better understand. I have so many pieces of prose dedicated to her, all of which explore feelings that were previously incomprehensible to me. I do not think that it was an ordinary friendship.
My first heartbreak was not from someone I knew I was in love with. It was from a girl who might have been just as confused as me.
Statement Columnist Mackenzie Hubbard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.