Because It's Not Love, But It's Still A Feeling, No, It's Not Love, But My Body's Reeling, To Move Closer Next To You
I was only talking about the mundane details about my day--what had happened in school, the latest row my mother and I had gotten into, why I thought the latest pair of shoes I had bought would never go out of style--when I was pulled back into reality. Normally, there isn't a subject taboo enough for me not to put my two cents in. Normally, my mouth moves so fast that you'd have to hire help to catch it. But with one subject, up until that point, I had been coy, pretending not to notice his inquiries and concerns had all grown more persistent. I'd usually slipped past his questions with deft changing of subjects and the usual self-deprecating humor we had both shared. But that night, while talking to him on the phone, he snuck the question.
"So who was he, Breanne?"
"Who's who, sugar?"
"You know who I'm talking about."
Who he was talking about was the object of my affection from about the age of nine till I was about fourteen. Who he was talking about was the neighborhood boy who had done such a resplendent job at capturing my heart that I had had a real concern during those years that I may never get it back. Who he was talking about was the unnamed boy, that certain boy you soon outgrow but never quite forget.
The problem wasn't that I was shy to talk about him with other people. If that had been the end of the discussion then I would have divulged all my secrets gladly sooner rather than later. I've never been one for bottling my emotions whenever the occasion did not expressly call for it. I had too much practice doing that when it came to my mother. The problem was that I was too insecure to really explore about how I felt to myself. My rationale, if you could call it that, was that he really was a silly crush, nothing to be taken seriously. As long as I treated him that way, as long as I admitted to nothing, and maintined my tunnel vision regarding the subject, I could maintain some semblance of decency. The truth it was fun to be able to think I was totally in love with a person. It gave me something to do. It gave me something to write about. It gave me something to gripe about. The last thing I wanted to do was probe my feelings about the matter in an earnest discussion. I would sooner herd cats than get to the root of my infatuation.
"If you don't want to talk about him, that's fine. But don't insult my intelligence by pretending he doesn't matter to you. When you talk to me I want you to be able to talk to me like I'm right there with you. I want you to be able to talk about everything and everyone."
"I know that."
"Obviously, you don't, otherwise you would understand you could trust me."
An awkward silence followed. It was one of those moments where the two of us weren't quite mad with each other, however, one more word could tip the scales over. We proceeded to lay in silence over the next few moments--neither of us knowing what to say.
"I'm just going to hang up, Breanne. It's late, we're both tired, and I don't want to get into an argument with you. Okay? Is that fine?"
"Wait," I said quietly.
"What was that?" I heard him ask.
"Wait," I repeated, a little louder this time.
I hated being on the defensive. I hated feeling like I had done something wrong. I hated feeling like I was the bad guy for not wanting to talk about it all. I wanted to be stubborn, as stubborn as he was being. Yet I knew that wouldn't get us anywhere. If anything, it would only forestall the matter until it came back again like a stray puppy wanting to follow you home. I could have played the "it's nothing" card once more, but I was beginning to tire of the game truthfully. It'd been over a year since the two of us had been talking and he'd always been patient with me when it came to this particular subject. After a year, even I would have been curious as to why my best friend refused to relay any information about an obviously important portion of my life.
"Hell's bells, Eeyore, when you bite onto something, you really don't let go, do you?"
"In a word, no."
I told him. I told him everything. I told him how I had first seen him on my way home from school one afternoon. He had been outside his front door, sitting on the porch with two of his friends. At first, when I was walking by, I had thought they had been just shooting the shit, as it were, but, upon closer inspection, I saw that what they were doing was sneaking smokes. Up until that point I had never seen anyone but my daddy smoke. I asked my mother, who walked me home everyday in those days (because the exercise will do your legs wonders, honey), why they were smoking. She told me that it was only boys pretending to be men and never I mind them. She attempted to hurry me past the house, his house, and that's when I saw him wave at me.
I smiled and waved back.
He wasn't more than twelve, maybe thirteen at the time, and he looked to be the bee's knees. Maybe it was the smoking, associating it so closely with what my father was, what my father represented it to me, or maybe it was the fact he smiled and waved to me so clear out of the blue. It wasn't like I had been staring obsessively. I hadn't even been stealing glances. I was what I was, a curious, little Breanne, trying to understand the scene before me.
Well, it wasn't too long before I started to see him appear everywhere. My mother and I would get to shopping one day and, wouldn't you know it, he'd be there with his mother and brothers, shopping as well. My father would take me to the diner for steak and eggs and there he'd be with his family for brunch. I'd be playing outside my house by myself and there he'd be, riding by on his brand-new bike. I chalked it up to fate when I really should have chalked it up to the simple fact we were practically neighbors.
"It isn't like I really like him. It's just that he makes me feel... better... whenever I see him."
"I understand. I have been there before, trust me."
"And it isn't like I don't know I'm being silly, please, thank you. I feel silly for even mentioning it to you. But you wanted the truth and now you have it, darling. Happy?"
The truth was I was rather happy as well. It'd been like trying to bottle a snake with my bare hands, trying to keep this from him. Now that he knew, I felt on better terms with him.
That's when the real discussion began.
"So you want to talk about it?"
"What's there to talk about? I like a boy. Woohoo. Call the reporters."
"I mean do you want to talk about why it is you think it's all silliness? I don't happen to think it's silly at all."
"You don't think it's silliness to fixate on someone who, until recently, barely even remembered my name?"
"Now ask yourself, is that his fault or is that yours?"
I guess I had been suffering from a strain of pedalitis. I had been so busy placing him up on this grand stage, far, far away from what I thought was attainable by me, that I had never bothered to reconcile if he was, indeed, human and approachable. I had been to wrapped up in not disappointing myself, that I had never ever tried pleasing myself. I didn't want to find out he was a nice, normal guy. I wanted him to be everything I had hoped him to be, the man of my dreams and more. To even consider muttering more than eleven words to him would have made me nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It was all silly. I was being silly.
"Mine, I guess. But that isn't the whole story. There's something else."
"Like the fact that it'll never work even if I could talk to him."
I felt like I shouldn't have had to spell it out for him. To me it was as clear as the summer sky. It would never work because he was far too old for me. My parents would never allow it. His parents would never allow it. There was no point in even trying it.
It had only been the previous summer that my daddy, of all people, sat me down to give me the talk on love and relationships. I had thought my mother would have been the one to go through it all with me, but, with my preferring my daddy's company over hers, it was decided he should be the one. We talked about a great many things that day. Some of it I kept and most of it I threw away. The one piece of advice that managed to linger on, though, was the idea that I had many years yet to grow into loving someone for real. He told me to give myself time to experience what it was like to be young and not to concentrate on things I would come to understand much deeper later on. I'd always been in a hurry to grow up. Both my parents understood that. That had been my father's way of encouraging me to slow down a bit for everyone's sake. Yet what I took from it was something else entirely. I took it to mean that my feelings, my silly, often wicked, feelings were nothing more than "kid" feelings. They weren't real. They were like baby teeth. He was telling me that I shouldn't get too attached to them because, in time, they'd be replaced by my real feelings, my "adult" feelings.
That's the way I took the whole subject matter of the unnamed boy. It didn't matter what I was feeling at the time. My feelings weren't real. They were illusionary and insubstantial.
"I think your feelings are perfectly valid, Breanne, and whoever told you they weren't should be shot."
"My daddy told me that, darling, and I hardly think he needs to be shot over that."
"At any rate, he should be severely tongue-lashed by you."
"I hardly think I'm in any position to tongue-lash my own daddy. I kind of still love him, you know?"
"So you're saying you don't agree with my daddy's position?"
I'd always noticed that when it came to matters dealing with my parents, he would always defer to their judgment as much as possible while still trying to remain on my side of the argument. This was the first time I'd ever heard him out-and-out disagreeing with one of them.
"I'm saying that there's no such thing as an incorrect feeling. There's no wrong or right about them; they just are. I just don't agree with him telling you to discount something he doesn't have first-hand knowledge about."
"If there is one thing I've learned it's that I speak about things I don't quite understand completely all the time. Even you say that I tend to leap before I look. In this case, I don't see that he's that far off."
I didn't want to be saying that. I didn't want my daddy to be right. I wanted to say that I had the courage to act on my impulses. But I didn't. I simply didn't think what I was experiencing was anything more than your average, common schoolgirl crush. I didn't want to put any stock into it because the letdown would have been tremendous. I'd been told by my mother for such a long time that I could have the stars as long as I reached for them everyday and that, if I ever slipped up even once, I wouldn't just fall, I'd fall all the way back down to Earth with the other underachievers, that I didn't want to place myself in another position to be disappointed. I convinced myself what I was doing, stifling myself from acting, was for the best.
"Do you love the guy?"
"Of course not."
"But you do have feelings for him? You can admit that much, right?"
I had to think about it for a second, but I had to agree I did feel something.
"I do, I do, I do."
"Then start there. It is a feeling. Even if it isn't love, it's where most of us start out anyway."
"It's funny. I always thought that that was how it was going to be, with my instantly falling in love with someone. I always thought the long, drawn-out relationships were the ones who had gotten it all wrong. I was going to be one of the lucky ones, Eeyore. I was going to be the girl who got it right the first time. I was going to be the girl who would meet Prince Charming right off the bat and never have to settle for anyone else. And, because I thought that, I thought this couldn't be it, this unnamed boy couldn't be the one. He couldn't be the one because it wasn't instantaneous and it wasn't complete. The mere fact I couldn't say hello to him, the mere fact he didn't instantly ask me to spend the rest of his life with me, only reinforced the fact that it wasn't love.
"I was safe in that knowledge. I was safe, knowing that whatever I felt could be dismissed to the foolishness of youth."
"But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I not only deserve these feelings, but there do have some truth to them that I always mistook for hopeful wishing. Maybe my instincts were right all along, sugar."
"See? Now that's more like the Breanne I know."
I love my parents and I'll probably go on for the rest of my life only learning to love them more. They've only ever done what they thought was best for me. They've provided for me, cared for me, put up with a lot of foolishness, and had to rescue me from my own wickedness on more occasions than I could ever count. But, in this instance, I know they were wrong. They spent a lot of my youth trying to convince me that not only did they know what was best, which most parents do. But then they took the extra step of trying to convince me that everything I thought, everything I felt, was somehow faulty for the simple reason I was younger than them. I think that is wrong on so many levels. It was like telling a river to go left instead of right because right is where you'd go and right is what's best for everyone concerned. Then you spend all this time and effort preventing the river from going left, wasting all this time trying to bend it to your will, when it could have been better spent seeing the benefits of it just being allowed to go left all along.
Sometimes you simply can't turn back the river.
Sometimes this river is going to go exactly where she pleases.
Perhaps, at the time, what I was feeling wasn't love. Perhaps my daddy was right in thinking that it'd be a few more years before I really understood what love was. But, that night I learned to trust myself a bit more. What I was feeling had depth to it, even if it wasn't love. I didn't just pick his name out of a hat. From what I could see he was nice, always respectful of his family, and he looked good. Perhaps that isn't enough to get hitched and start a family with him over, but it was worth something. At the very least it was worth greeting him in the morning. It was worth exploring whatever may happen to its full potential. He would always be on a pedestal for me. He was the first, after all. But it was that night, talking with my greatest friend, that I realized that there was some room to put myself on a pedestal as well.
I was smart enough, mature enough, and wise enough to handle myself in most things. As much as my parents wished to keep me small and controllable, place my curls in pretty, little bows, I was growing. I was growing up to be someone who yearned to be independent and full of cheer. That would never happen if I always doubted myself and who I was. The only way that would happen is if I learned to believe I knew what was best for me.
"Yes, Miss Breanne?"
"I think tomorrow I may say hello to my neighbor as I just so happen to be walking by."