From break ups to make ups and everything in between, “Love U” captures the nuances of college students’ relationships. “Love U” runs in DeeTs on Mondays.
It was the tail end of my senior year of high school. It was the time when the future felt closer than the present. I was bored with my surroundings and ready to leave.
I’m normally not one for nostalgia. I knew there would be friends I wouldn’t talk with much after graduation and friends I would, but I was open to the change.
Then he showed up — figuratively, of course. He had always been there, but he was always just my friend. He was one of the few constants throughout my high school experience. He was kind and witty and was always the first to assure me it was going to be OK, even when I was sure it wasn’t.
I always knew what we were; we were comfortable. We were friends, and there was never any confusion or blurred lines.
Then came our last week of senior year. I was ready to move on. My classmates were crying in the halls on their last days of finals, hugging each other, telling themselves they would keep in touch. I felt the jitters and the excitement, but I could never quite get to the level of sentimental reminiscence of my peers.
The weekend before the last week, he and I and some friends went to a private beach at 2 a.m., contemplating our future while we lay on our backs, stared at the stars and listened to the waves crash on the shore.
It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything, but all of a sudden I felt it. He was lying just inches from me. I could hear his steady breathing. I could smell the salt of the sea, the smell of his cologne. And then, in an instant, I didn’t know who he was anymore.
Was he my friend? This didn’t feel like just a friendship.
We went along like this for the last week of senior year. He felt like more than a friend. To me, he was. But what was I to him?
To a generation so obsessed with labels, I didn’t have a label for us. We had been friends for so long, and we were in this death march toward the uncertainty of graduation. We knew it was coming, but we ignored it.
How do I classify something I didn’t understand myself? In an age validated by being Facebook official, I struggled to make my feelings official to myself, let alone him.
He left the day after graduation. He didn’t say goodbye. We ended our fleeting relationship like we started it — by ignoring what it was. Like if we both ignored it or didn’t say it, it wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have to confront our changing relationship or cope with the realization that nothing would ever be the same.
For a girl so ready to move on from high school, who felt nothing as early as a week prior, he came in and out of my life like a whirlwind and left me feeling more broken than I ever had.
I thought about him the whole summer though we barely spoke. I wondered if I had misinterpreted him and me. After all, we never gave labels, we never even tried. I tried to rationalize in my head what had happened. We were friends, and then we were more, and now we’re nothing. We were in purgatory, and I was lost.
I left for college in the fall, ready for a new start. A little bit of me still clung onto him. I tried to explain to my new friends at school what he was and struggled. I normally settled on the very millennial phrase “we had a thing.” But what is a “thing?” “Thing” didn’t seem substantive enough. A “thing” couldn’t leave me as broken and empty as this left me. A “thing” couldn’t come into my stable, pragmatic life and throw it off balance.
A “thing” wasn’t valid. We weren’t a mistake. We weren’t a rash decision. We weren’t just a “thing.” At least not to me.
We picked up again over text when I left for school. We talked late into the night ,and again I was confused, but we were at different schools in different cities and we each had our own lives. It was uncomplicated in the most complicated sense.
Then spring break came. For the first time since graduation, we would both be in the same city for a week. I was nearly done with my freshman year at this point, and I no longer felt anything. I wasn’t confused, and I wasn’t disillusioned.
Then he showed up. He wanted to see me, he missed me, he wanted things to be like they used to be. And all of a sudden, I felt tiny. Just like coming home and driving the streets around my house felt all too familiar in a sickening way that reminded me I don’t belong to them anymore, I felt myself slipping back into his convoluted grasp. I was confused. I thought I had moved on, I thought I didn’t care but here I was again, in my childhood bedroom, sitting on my floor and wondering what we were.
That was the problem with him and me. We never were, but we never weren’t. We were friends for a third of my life, and then he was more than a friend, and now he’s nothing. We’re nothing.
We’re nothing because I learned that he and I can’t be anything else. We weren’t good at being friends, we weren’t good at being more. We were in a constant fluctuation between the two, and the oscillations always left me breathless and dizzy.
I miss him. I miss how we were lying on the beach, before everything changed. When our friendship was as constant as the waves kissing the shore.
We never were, we never weren’t. But now I know, we never can be.