In the Form of a Letter: My Memories of You
Virginia Summer 2008
Your family had moved again. It was like you guys were a ping pong ball, just waiting for the paddle to put you in a different spot.
My mom had cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 42. I was 14. We really didn’t know for a while if she was going to live or die. My dad sat me down in that back room and told me. He told me he didn’t know what was going to happen, but that we would deal with it as a family. It felt like she already was dying, seeing how the drugs affected her.
What most people don’t realize about chemotherapy is that it’s toxic. The treatment for cancer is literally putting something toxic into your body. The doctors told her that they were going to bring her as close to death as possible, and then bring her back. No joke. I couldn’t be around her or help when she threw up because if I somehow ingested the chemo, I could get really sick.
So as you can imagine, those six months were the worst of my life. I was so angry, all the time. My faith was shattered and I found myself not praying, but yelling at God. As a girl who went to Catholic school all her life, this was devastating. And honestly, it’s never really come back from that.
So while my dad was working, taking care of my mom, never missing a single chemo appointment, and taking care of my brother and me, he insisted that we try to keep things as normal as possible. Therefore, my summer was filled with softball trips, as per usual.
One tournament was in Virginia, not too far from where your parents were living at the time. The whole family showed up for a night game, the sky black but the field lights blazing.
In the midst of pure hell, you were there. And so was the feeling of this undeniable, overwhelming magnetism between us. I don’t really remember anything that was said, I just remember that same feeling that I still get when I see you. This unexplainable, delicious tension overtakes my body. My breath is gone. I can’t think of anything at all. It’s complete and utter madness.
But it happened. It always happens. This is nothing new, and I probably should have been more prepared. But for some reason, this time I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
Buffalo, New York October 24, 2006
You know how songs can you take you back to a time or a place? I have a whole list that make me think of you. For various reasons, of course. They’ve changed over the years. Some make me nostalgic for the bike rides through the small town sidewalks. Some talk about the chemistry between two people. And some are about New York City and the glittering lights of the concrete jungle.
Taylor Swift released her song “Stay Beautiful” on this day: October 24, 2006. Not too long after your family picked up and moved to Florida and all the “what if” questions started whirring about in my mind. I don’t honestly remember when I first heard it. But this may just be the ultimate song that makes me think of you. If I had to pick only one song to represent you in my life, I think this would be it.
For those of you who haven’t heard it, go on YouTube or Spotify or however you listen to music and enjoy. Even if you’ve heard it but haven’t listened in a while, take a minute and go do that.
To me, it’s about a girl watching a boy from afar. And although nothing has really happened between them yet, she admires him and just sings about how he’s a great guy. But more than anything, the whole point is that no matter what happens between them, even if it’s nothing, she still wants the best for him. She still wants him to continue on with his life and continue being this wonderful person that she knows.
And if I can’t identify with that, then I don’t know what song would ever pull on my heart.
So I hope this song will now make you think of me. I hope it will remind you of this letter and of how I see you through my eyes. You already are someone incredible. And I really do hope you find absolutely everything you ever look for. And sure, I want you to end up on my front door, “but if you don’t, stay beautiful.”
Sometime when we were young Summer
Most of my early childhood summers were spent on a beach near Lake Ontario. My mom, brother, and I would move up there and spend the long, sunny days in the sand. My dad would come on the weekends, speeding the boat around trying to get us to fly off the tubes trailing our old boat.
Upon my arrival back to my hometown one year, after a long, hot summer, you had a gift for me. I later found out that you had spent a significant amount of time on it. A gift that any man spends a lot of time on means a lot, let alone the 8 or 9-year-old boy that you were then.
It was a stick, about a foot long, with the end whittled down to a point. You had made the whole thing smooth. On one side it had my initials, and on the other, yours. Your 9-year-old self had whittled the stick and carved our initials into it.
Alex, I still have that stick. That, and some other notes passed from hand to hand through an elementary school hallway. It resided under my bed at my parents’ house for years. Now, it’s in Pittsburgh, in my apartment, with me. I know I’ll never get rid of that stick.
Just before school began Summer of 2000
So I don’t quite remember this story, but apparently you do. And although I probably should be more embarrassed by it, I can’t help but laugh every time you tell it. 1) Because it’s so who I was at that time in my life and 2) because I love that you remember it and always laugh telling it.
You were new to town, I was going into first grade and you were going into second. The elementary school principal had introduced our parents because he thought mine would be able to help welcome yours. Plus, we lived so close to each other, so it was natural we would become friends. Little did he know, that introduction would lead to years of epic hide-and-go-seek games throughout your “mansion” of a house, pizza party Friday nights, and bike rides to school as soon as the snow melted.
Anyway, while our parents were chatting, I had allegedly climbed the tallest slide on the playground and was not-so-patiently waiting for you to slide down it.
“Move it, buster,” were the words that came out of my mouth. My sassy 7-year-old self couldn’t be nice to the new kid, not when he was so slow to go down the silver slide. Who could have known that “buster” would become such an important figure in my life?
Albany, New York November 2018
We walked into your parents’ new place with bags in tow. It was gorgeous: long hallways with authentic hardwood floors, high ceilings with a curved staircase, and a wine rack in the kitchen that anyone would be jealous of. But it already felt familiar, because you all were there.
Both of our siblings were unable to come home for the holiday, so it was just the parents, you, and me. I have to admit, that’s part of the reason I was so excited for this. We had convinced the parents that staying over was a good idea (so no one had to worry about driving after drinking), so to me, this could have been the perfect opportunity to stay up late talking and seeing how we would be, just the two of us.
The last time I had seen you was in New York. You had pushed for us to stay over, and seemed excited to see us. But as the night went on, that enthusiasm seemed to have vanished in the short couple weeks that had passed. I tried flirting, I tried to make sure to spend some time just talking to you, I even tried to hang back in the kitchen at the end of the night to see if you wanted to stay up, too. But you didn’t bite. At anything. One could say that you were not picking up what I was putting down.
I accepted it. I was disappointed, for sure, but I told myself that it may be for the best. If you didn’t want to see where this could go, then we shouldn’t. It was as simple as that.
I want someone who is willing to put in the effort. When I’m in, I’m all in. And I want to be with someone who is willing to do the same for me. So if you’re not all in, I’m actually thankful that you subtly told me that.
I still don’t know if you were just having a bad night. Maybe you ran into your ex the day before you flew up and were questioning everything. Maybe you found a new girl in that couple week time frame. Maybe you just realized you didn’t want anything more with me. I still don’t know. But whatever it was, despite you clearly not being interested, you were still fun, kind, and courteous as ever. And that will never go unnoticed.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Present Day
There are countless other memories that I can recall: feeling like a million bucks because I was the only girl invited to your birthday sleepover (probably around age 8?), and at that sleepover, falling asleep holding your hand. Kissing you on the cheek in the back of my dad’s minivan. You coming to visit after you moved to Florida, sitting on my couch and my body burned from the inside out wanting more than anything to get you alone. Calling dibs before you went to school in Scotland, which clearly didn’t work very well.
More than any of these specific memories, I remember the feeling. That magnetic feeling of the crazy, electric chemistry that has built up between us and has never dulled for me.
I think you will always be my “what if?” The man in the back of my mind that just stays there. You’re the one that I wonder about. What would have happened if you had never moved to Florida? What if you weren’t dating her when we were in Scotland together? What if I wasn’t dating him at my brother’s wedding? What if we were ever in the same city at the same time? What if?
I’ll be honest, I was really hoping that this would be our time to find out. That I would finally get some kind of answer since by some small miracle, we were both single at the same time. But, at least for now, you’re still my “what if?”
You might be dating someone else. I might meet the love of my life tomorrow. But I want to say this: I do still wonder. I would love to finally feed my curiosity that has eaten away at me for 18 years and find out if this magnetism we feel is for a reason. I really hope that we do get to find out. Someday, if the timing is finally right, maybe we will.
I’m always rooting for you. Your friendship means more to me than I could ever put down on paper, and I would never compromise it. That is why I don’t expect a response, or anything at all really. Just that you will keep being my friend. And that should you find yourself wondering about me and this “undeniable chemistry,” I hope you reach out.
At the very least, you can look at this when you’re having a bad day or when you need a pick-me-up and know that I am your biggest fan. You gave me a detailed, artistic stick. The least I could do was try to put 18 years down on paper in return.
So at the end of all this, all I can really hope for is that like my memory of the school dance, this is at least one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for you.
Always wishing you the best,