But I don’t love you that way

I had no clue. The signs were right in front of me and I saw them, but my brain didn’t do that 1+1=2 trick it’s supposed to do. I cannot believe how blind I was, but everything has fallen into place now.

Emma and I met at age 12 when we started Junior High. She was a bit of a tough chick, while I was more of a sweet girl. We had a blast together nonetheless and we became best friends. She was really funny. 8th grade was one of the best years of my life and I have to give her some credit for that. But she changed after a while. She became very moody and it started to be annoying. Soon her moodiness turned into a depression, and that was hard for the 14 year old me.

I would try to talk about it with her on MSN for hours and hours, and in the end she wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. She was forcing herself to be sad and moody, but she couldn’t suppress her happiness when she was with me. Because of this I thought things weren’t so bad. Whenever she realized she was having fun she would try to change her happy mood into a bad mood. That made me think she just wanted attention. A bad case of puberty, I thought. I didn’t even want to tell her my father had cancer, because I knew she had her own problems and I didn’t see how such a negative spirit could help me. Being around her was very draining, so I didn’t want to be her friend anymore.

But then things got real: she started harming herself. She even tried to cut her wrists, several times. Luckily she chickened out halfway through every time. I knew that if I left her, things would end very, very badly. I tried to get her to talk to adults and she finally agreed to talk to a teacher. I’m not sure it helped. It was still scary to me, but deep inside I knew she wouldn’t do it as long as I was around. I gave up trying to find out what was wrong. I tried to point out positive things, like the fun we still had sometimes. But as her depression increased, the fun decreased. I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck.

Things changed in 9th grade. We got new classmates and she became friends with them. It was the age of experimenting with alcohol and all that, so she felt more at home with the Dutch girls than with me. We slowly grew apart and I was more alone. My best friend – who’s still my best friend by the way –  was in a different class. I didn’t really care about not being part of a clique in my class. I didn’t like that they started partying, drinking, smoking and sleeping around. Besides, my father was dying so I didn’t want to be around teenagers complaining about how annoying their parents are.

I felt like Emma slowly started to hate me. Well, hate is a big word but I felt like she held some kind of grudge against me. But she seemed to be happy and I had other things on my mind, so I thought ”ok whatever”.

My father died that spring. When I came back to school Emma didn’t sit next to me or mention anything. It was like she forgot about my existence while I was gone. When my father died my best friend told them I wanted to have some time alone, so I get why Emma didn’t contact me, but it was still weird that she never did anything to show care. She really seemed to have something against me. Was it because I didn’t tell her? Maybe it made it worse, but I don’t think that was the reason, since I sensed that grudge before. I wasn’t mad though. My father had just died, so I was just glad I got rid of her without it being my bad.

A year later I heard she was a lesbian and had been together with a girl for like ten months. ‘’Lesbian? Not bi? She used to like boys.’’ ‘’Nope, she says she’s a lesbian,’’ her best friend told me. That explained everything; why she was depressed, why she didn’t tell me what was wrong and why she said everything at school was just an act (teasing girls with ‘’ew lesbo’’). This news should have shocked me, but it didn’t. It’s not that I saw it coming, but my father’s death made me put things in perspective, so I couldn’t care less about the things other people do.

Life went on. After six years at the same school people mature and grow over things. No more fights and it doesn’t matter where you sit. Sometimes Emma sat with my friends and we also had classes together, so we talked sometimes. She acted normally; I didn’t sense any grudge anymore. If it’s true that she had something against me, she had grown over it.

It wasn’t until our finals that it finally hit me, after all that time. I ran into her and we talked a little about our future plans. I  noticed she still looked at me in a unique way and then… my brain finally started working.

The signs

  • She never just looked at me; it was more like locked staring, with huge pupils. She never seemed to be 100% ‘present’. It was like everything she said to me always had a second delay. I don’t remember ever having seen her with small sized pupils. I once even commented on it. I jokingly said: ‘’Your pupils are so big. You either have a crush on me or you’re high! Which one is it?‘’ She turned very red and changed the subject. I noticed she felt awkward so I didn’t mention it again. Suspicious, but it just didn’t seem possible to me that she was attracted to me. I thought it had to do with her eye type or whatever.
  • One time she offered to warm my hands and didn’t want to let go. She stared at me while holding my hands and seemed to be dreaming in my eyes – like really dreaming. She needed like five seconds to progress my words ‘ok thanks, you can let go now’. Not noticing it was time to let go of my hands was one thing, but to need five seconds to progress my words? I felt awkward but I just couldn’t believe that a girl could have a romantic moment with me, so I didn’t want to think anything.
  • It explains why she just could NOT tell me what’s the matter. She knew I wouldn’t suddenly bully her if I found out she was gay, but she knew I would end our friendship if I found out she had feelings for me. She was afraid to lose me.
  • She always wanted to stay with me as long as possible. Sometimes she would even kind of ‘claim me’ from other girls.
  • She was mean to other friends sometimes but she was never mean to me (well, before she changed). I noticed I got some sort of special treatment.
  • It also explains why I sensed she had something against me. Perhaps she thought ‘’Why did I let her hurt me?’’ There’s a thin line between love and hate. I think she crossed that line. I think she connected me to her dark period and therefore wanted me out of her life.
  • Her girlfriend and I had the same body type, skin tone, eye color, hair color and hair type. It doesn’t have to mean anything, but seen this context…

If I only had the first sign, it would still be enough for me to think that she had feelings for me. I can’t even describe what her eyes expressed. It was like love was not an abstract thing anymore; it was in her eyes, screaming. The way she looked at me was more powerful than any guy has ever looked at me – and I know the Look. It was love, and I didn’t dare to think anything.

I have no idea how I would have responded if she told me the truth. I was young and experiencing one culture shock after another. I’m glad she didn’t tell me. I couldn’t have handled that shock, and she knew that.

I can’t feel the pain she felt, but I understand it was unbearable. Not only was she a lesbian; she was also in love with her straight best friend. Isn’t love the combination of friendship and romantic feelings? It must have hurt her being so close to me, yet so far away. She couldn’t be with me and she couldn’t be without me, meaning she couldn’t tell me anything, fearful of losing me. She was stuck, just like I was stuck in a draining friendship, fearful of losing her… to death.

Do you think it’s reasonable to think she was in love with me? And have you ever been in a similar situation?

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