Summer of 2015 was the most difficult summer of my life because I’d come out to myself that spring, but not to anybody else. It was also the summer my paternal grandpa died. And although we weren’t close, his death was my first real experience with loss. A lot of bad feelings simmered throughout those three months. Isolation. Fear. Grief. Guilt. I had one thing that didn’t make me miserable.
Um, she’s not mine? I would kick myself for using possessives in my head. Slipping up like that was so easy. Talking to her was so easy. When was the last time I actually talked to someone like this? When did I last say something meaningful? Have I ever told someone these things before?
Learning about each other was like reading a book I’d read before, but I’d forgotten some of the details. Like hearing a song I haven’t listen to in years and she was shaking dust off the melody. Like we were reconnecting, not doing this for the first time.
After moving back to school in August for my second year of college, Jas and I quickly fell into a pattern, which was messaging each other all the time. For the first time in a long time–maybe in my whole life–I was truly vulnerable with someone. And it didn’t scare me.
Sometime that fall, we skyped for the first time. I was so nervous. I was definitely sweating. I thought this would be when the conversations ended. This was when I’d disappoint. This was when I wouldn’t be able to find the words fast enough. Where I’d trip, stumble, ramble, blank. I don’t remember what we talked about. But when she hit accept those worries vanished.
We fell into a new pattern, which was skyping each other all the time. I’d leave class, pick up dinner, and skype her when I got back. I talked about her a lot too, maybe too much. One day my roommate came home while I was skyping Jas, and she was chatting with us too. After laughing together she said, You must miss each other a lot. I think I nodded. We haven’t actually met before, I told her. At first, she didn’t believe us.
All of it felt so natural. Every conversation with Jas freed me. I would wake up and fall asleep with the same thoughts. She makes me smile again. She makes me excited to wake up in the morning. She makes me feel so normal, yet so different. She makes me myself. No, I would say. This is about me, not her. I would try again, making the thoughts be about myself.
I am smiling again (because of her). I am excited to wake up in the morning (because I get to talk to her). I am normal, yet different (I’ve never felt like this before). I am myself for the first time (because she showed me how).
I rationalized a lot. Feeling better overall doesn’t mean it’s about this girl. I begged sometimes too. I begged myself to not think about her dimples, her voice, the way her accent over-pronounced long “a” sounds, the way my heart shook in my ribcage when she actually said I was cute, or honestly, when she so much as breathed in my direction.
In the fall, she told me her favorite show was “Doctor Who.” I caught up on its eight seasons in three days. She rarely slept at night. I gave her a nickname and often called her a “little owl.” She sent me a letter. I treated the slip of paper with the value of a hundred-dollar bill. She lived in England. Suddenly, I filled my free time researching study abroad programs. All of which were, of course, completely normal, platonic, friendly things.
The reality check came when I bought too beanie babies: an owl and a koala. Jas and I had some friends who were dating at the time, one of them Jas had known since high school, and I had gotten to know that friend’s girlfriend over the past few months. I told her about my plan:
Me: I’m going to make a scrapbook with the beanie babies. Since we can’t be together right now, I’m going to take pictures of the beanie babies around different places here. Like my house, school, probably take them on my road trip. I can take pictures of them playing games or watching Netflix and listening to music. And then I can send her scrapbook of what it will be like when we are together.
Her: This is such a cute idea, but like, have you told her that you like her?
Her: I mean this is pretty….gay.
She was right. This was gay. Like, embarrassingly so. Wow, I like her.