“I don’t really think what we had counts as real love anyway.”
I’m not going to be naïve and try to claim that Shane did not mean that. I’m pretty sure he did. I’m pretty sure he also hoped it would wound me. He had his reasons. And he aimed well.
Shane and I were sort of doomed from the start. We were dating on the Internet before Internet dating was even a thing. And we were fifteen. Nothing good was going to come of it.
We wrote impassioned letters. We flirted in real-time chat rooms. We emailed daily. But we didn’t even meet for months. And, when we did, we weren’t sure how much of our online game-playing should or could actually transfer into the real world. It was awkward to say the least, complete with a strange kiss that missed the mark, I mean, literally. He went for my cheek and got my ear, and that was our lone taste of physical passion—a poorly-aimed peck.
And it was high school. I chafed at anything that was difficult to explain or that made me seem abnormal. Shane was both of those things. My friends wanted to know about him, but I couldn’t say and still maintain my cool. Every time I mentioned “boyfriend” and “Internet” in the same phrase, I turned beet red and felt the need to disappear. While I was pretending to be some kind of flaming-haired, kick-ass, girl-hero with Shane, in my real life I was a shy fifteen-year-old whose only wish was to (please, dear God) at least sort of fit in for once.
And so, when Shane brought up in an email that things were maybe not quite working out and that maybe we should talk about it, I felt a huge sense of relief. No more trying to explain him. No more embarrassing out-of-the-norm stuff to think about. I could be normal, and I desperately wanted to be normal. I didn’t stop to think whether I wanted to be normal more than I wanted to love this boy. I don’t think I realized that was the choice. The relief was so overwhelming that I didn’t even have room for guilt.
I was surprised when he wanted nothing to do with me after that, but I let him go. Years later, I got back in touch with him, to his reluctance, I think. And that’s when he told me he didn’t think our love really counted anyway.
And maybe that’s when I realized that I’d made the wrong choice.
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