When I think back to it, he really was best friend. I would never admit it out loud, but since seventh grade and until now, I've been so closely connected with him that we almost knew each other inside and out.
I was cold to him at first - he was a scrawny, skinny, short sort of kid with glasses and braces. On the first day of school, I was paired up with him and I silently hoped he wouldn't think I would be friendly enough for him to interact with. It's been a social mistake that I've made so many times. I never thought that I would be such close friends with that strange kid with an unusual name.
I thought love was a petty thing and that everything that went on between couples in high school was ridiculous. I cringed when my friends held hands or blew each other kisses - even when it was platonic or jokingly. I had trouble saying "I love you too!" to one of my friends or even my own little brother sometimes. I was just not one of those girls who craved romantic connection. I had my closest friend with whom I was almost twins with, I had a group of peers to eat lunch with, and I most certainly did not need a boyfriend.
He was a romantic - a hopeless one, of course.
His name would often pop up at the bottom of my computer screen. I would sigh inwardly and snicker, though I always enjoyed his company.
<<Do you think she likes me?>>
<<Do you think I should ask her out?>>
<<Do you think that I'm being too intrusive?>>
He asked questions that I could never answer. He asked questions that seem so blindingly obvious. He asked questions about her, about me, about himself. The next day, he asked her, my closest female friend, the one with whom I'm joined at the hip with, to be his girlfriend. I was horrified - but only because I was worried that all this male attention would distant me from her. Or at least, that was the excuse I made for myself.
She smiled awkwardly and rejected him on the spot. Relief hit me like a wave.
Later that day, he poured his feelings out to me. I only pretended to listen to his laments. By the end of the year I had gotten used to him and we were prepared to move on. High school was the wrong place to breed a relationship. Nobody gets out still holding hands with each other.
The next year, he was placed in my class again. It's escaped my mind how many times I've worked with him yet I never seemed to notice how his presence is almost imminent. Ths time, he's fallen in love (or so he claims) with a new girl - and this time, she says yes. They hold hands and murmur sweet nothings to each other.
She sent me the letters that he wrote her, adding on how he's so sweet and such a gentleman. He chatted with me online and worried that if he did't act perfect, she would leave him. I only laughed - I've been doing so all this time, after all. Over spring vacation, he told me he missed her dearly, yet when we returned to school, the couple stopped speaking.
They broke up up soon after. I was relieved, because I finally get my friend back.
That evening, he chatted me and rambled well into the early hours of morning about how their relationship should not have ended that way. I laugh behind the screen of the computer, but in return, I spilled my own worries to him: the peer pressure in my circle of friends, the slowly declining grades on my report card, and the social and fillial stigma of getting accepted into Ivy League. He comforts me, though I bet that on the other side of that computer, he's laughing too. It was always like that - a mutual sort of false pity and sharing of secrets.
This year, he's ended up in every single one of my classes again. Now he's gotten contacts and he towers over me - he still has braces but he's gotten more streamlined and strong. When two years ago, he would've shuffled his feet around the school, he now strides with an admirable confidence. He's past that stage of childish awkwardness and wears button-downs instead of t-shirts. The worst part of this change is that he talks to me less often, but that's likely because many other girls are pining for his attention. I laugh and turn away, shaking my head. It seems that my work here is done - but of course, that's never how the story ends.
I guess I've changed too. The girl who had her growth spurt much too early, the one who wore battered sneakers and kept her hair in a messy ponytail, was gone. She was replaced by a different girl who carefully plans her clothes and spends much too long in front of the mirror, who wears too much eyeliner and hides skirts in her bookbag to change into at school. The girl who thought love was a petty thing was now hopelessly trying to get her closest friend to notice her. There was a time when we could finish each other's sentences. Now we hardly talk.
One day, he suddenly decides to communicate with me again. Another girl, I think, another girl that will break up with him and another spilling of secrets into the keyboard and onto the screen. This time, I feel my stomach flutter and my heart race. I blamed it on the stupidity of what he said.
<<Who do you like?>>
It's a ridiculous question. I'm wondering why he thinks of this - but then again, it's freshman year. Relationships are the only thing that matters, even in a school where academics and good grades are everything. I avoid the subject and we talk about various things - sports, the Hurricane, schoolwork. He logs off much too early for my liking so as he logs off I stop thinking and type:
<<I have an answer to your first question.>>
Then I log off and groan into my hands, because I'm not so sure what I've gotten myself into. Five minutes later, I check my email and realized that he responded instantly.
<<I know how you feel,>> he starts, and rambles in the way he always does, with parenthesis of inner thought and little anecdotes scattered about, <<but I think we should stay great friends.>> My heart sinks - I'm completely out of the ballgame.
<<We'll do the same things, but with less pressure to be perfect.>>
It's what he worried about when he dated that girl in eighth grade. It's what I worry about when I look in the mirror and realize that a bad hair day was bound to be coming. It seems as if both of us has kept secrets when even when we tell each other things we wouldn't tell our best friends. We know each other much too well for this to happen.
We return to school and we don't mention it at all. Instead, I watch as my closest friend starts staring at him more, and now, I have to keep more secrets. I cringe every time he turns to the girl (far prettier than I) next to him and chats up a storm. He's telling her things that he used to tell me. His eyes are hazel with specks of green - two years ago, I would not have known that, or just classified them as brown. I've crashed and burned as an aloof person. Perhaps it wasn't he who was the romantic, but me, who's never looked at a boy and hoped he thought I was pretty. It might be my own craving for connection, a yearning for the friendship that I had brought up with him, that made me believe I had fallen for my best friend.