AN UN-LOVE STORY

  1. In high school, I flipped over a guy named Max.
  2. I was fresh out of homeschool, with a long red ponytail down my back. My narrow confidence came from my longtime friends I grew up with, not from the clothes I wore or the things I said.
  3. Basically my high school street cred was zero.
  4. Max was... Seth Cohen, a freshman philosopher, a musician. Confusing. Irritating. Arrogant. Adorable. Charming AF. Sweet.
  5. I can still see him, freshman year, when we met, welcoming me to Spanish class every day by sitting in my seat and saying, "Hola, Merche!"
  6. With his curly brown hair and a smile full of braces.
  7. He did it to make me blush, and it did. Every time.
  8. He wrote music and played guitar and sang in a ska band, which was weird and made him special, but it wasn't why I liked him.
  9. He was very smart, a gifted writer, and you could never quite tell what he was really thinking. Which is partly why I liked him.
  10. I was just drawn to him. All I wanted was to understand him...
  11. To know if he ever said what he meant or meant what he said
  12. To know the language of his sense of humor.
  13. And he liked me too
  14. Only not as obviously as I would have liked.
  15. Although it's much clearer to me now, I suspected that he liked me back then because he was always sitting in my seat. In whatever class we had together. It was infuriating.
  16. But when I broke my ankle, he carried my bag to my seat, and moved things out of the way for me and my crutches. He said, "I'm going to take care of you."
  17. Later, he started calling me "Red."
  18. And there were flickers of moments - when he comforted me after I didn't make show choir, when I said something self-deprecating and he corrected me, when he saw me at homecoming and he said, "You're here?!" and I found out he was going to ask me but thought I didn't want to go - that I could tell that he really cared for me.
  19. Also we would talk
  20. About God and ethics and family and music and writing and goals
  21. I believed in God, and he didn't. Well, I think he did, but he said he didn't. So I would pray for him, like a fool.
  22. Not that praying is foolish, but I was praying that he would change his mind about God
  23. Because it would have been such a relief to let myself be in love with him
  24. But I wouldn't date him because he wasn't a Christian.
  25. And because he made me so angry with his teasing and embarrassing me, and his acting smarter than me and his not being an open book.
  26. Also because I didn't date
  27. ...Until the middle of my senior year, when my best guy friend asked me out
  28. And suddenly I was dating Ryan.
  29. Then Max started dating someone.
  30. And that was good, because it meant that all those semi- unspoken feelings could just go away and we could just relax and be friends. Which we did.
  31. Fast forward one year.
  32. We are at separate colleges.
  33. He is single, I am still dating Ryan, and Max and I maintain a level of friendship through Facebook.
  34. We talk about adjusting to college and the plans we're making and paths were taking, and "oh yeah wasn't it funny how we liked each other in high school but never did anything about it?" we vaguely reference.
  35. Ryan breaks up with me right before the start of sophomore year
  36. I am sad and adjusting to an eighteen month relationship that no longer exists.
  37. Max and are still long-distance friends
  38. Who occasionally like to make each other blush.
  39. He would joke about his crush on me, making me wonder if it was all ever real...
  40. Because he knew why I wouldn't date him, and why I refused to acknowledge my feelings for him. And he knew my reasons weren't going to change.
  41. One of Max and I's jokes was that he would always try to get me to cuddle with him
  42. He called it losing my C-card
  43. Which I didn't understand
  44. Which he probably thought was adorable
  45. We were almost an even match, but he was always just a bit smarter and quicker than me.
  46. Our conversations were short and sweet and full of subtext. They were hilarious. They were little surprises waiting in my inbox.
  47. Even when we were dating, Ryan said once that he thought Max and I were perfect for each other
  48. But my head had overruled my heart back then.
  49. And before I ever saw Max again after the breakup, I fell in love
  50. With Brett
  51. My husband.
  52. (That's another long story.)
  53. As soon as Brett appeared in one of my profile pictures, about a month after we started dating, Max said,
  54. "Who's this Brett guy? Does he get cuddle time? What is this?!?!?!"
  55. And I said, "I'm sorry, Max, if this upsets you. Brett is my boyfriend. He is a good cuddler."
  56. Max: "Oh, that's just disgusting!!!!"
  57. Me: "? 😕"
  58. Max: "I don't need all the graphic details, Red. The idea alone breaks my heart enough."
  59. He was teasing.
  60. But a week later, he said, "You break my heart, Red."
  61. And I said, "And you mine."
  62. And in those three words, I meant to let him know. That way back then, I knew I hadn't followed my heart. That I had chosen faith, shared belief, and comfort over something that would have been wonderful and terrible and scary, but wonderful because it was terrible and scary.
  63. That all those times - all those millions of little moments that I could have let myself fall in love with him - it was a struggle. And I changed my mind over and over because it was hard.
  64. Our relationship would have been a ticking time bomb. Full of fighting and frustration. But we would have made each other better. Smarter, sweeter, bolder.
  65. I meant to let him know that he had been hard to lose... Again.
  66. Because of my own decision.
  67. Those three small words, out there for everyone to see, with all that subtext because that's how we talked, and I just hoped he would know all they meant.
  68. I believe that these little love stories deserve to be told
  69. Even if they're not THE love story.
  70. They're the little love stories that get you ready for the big one
  71. And sometimes they linger a little... Reminding you that you're a human and that love can be fragile
  72. And that love has everything to do with our decisions.
  73. It can be an awkward thing to get off my chest
  74. Because I will worry that you think I have regrets. But it's not that simple.
  75. I'm in love with my husband.
  76. And marrying Brett was a GREAT decision. Best one I ever made.
  77. But you know when you have those moments where you're so aware that you are the same person you've always been?
  78. And it feels like you can go back in time
  79. And you realize that all that's changed you between now and then was determined by tiny little variables - where you were, what they did, what they didn't say...
  80. In those moments, when I feel like I've barely changed on the inside, I can rewind and change my mind.
  81. But I don't know what happens next.