I wanted you to be my other half: the person I could always turn to when I faced adversity or sought affirmation, the one whose house could become my second home. Someone that I would feel no shame around.
But, I moved away from you when I was eight years old, and I don’t even remember if I said goodbye. It’s not until now that I realize what I was missing.
When I was struggling with my identity, I felt like I had no one to confide in. Even though I had known I was gay for years, saying it to anyone else made it real. By coming to terms with my identity, I was officially letting go of that future I had been raised to desire.
By watching movies and television, I had developed this imaginary vision that felt so real, as if it were a memory that just hadn't happened yet. My wife, with her long, brown hair tied back in a tight ponytail, carries in the barbecue I grilled for the neighbors while wearing this yellow dress covered by an apron. After setting down the platter, she takes her seat next to me and gives me a reassuring smile. Our kids are still playing in the backyard, and we are too happy in the moment to interrupt them. So we let them play and start passing the plates.
This, of course, will never happen. This is not my future. But, I let that idea of a cookie cutter life consume me because I felt like I had no one to whom I could safely tell these things. So I waited until everyone else made their assumptions before coming out.
It is easier to confirm than confound.
I didn’t have anyone there for me when I started to look at myself differently, so I learned to internalize my insecurities and take out my frustrations on my relationship with food. I felt like I had to fix myself for others because I was too weak to be comfortable in my solitude.
I would go on to trade one type of hunger for another. I craved validation, so I began to show potential friends different versions of myself. I wasted so much time building a wall, brick by brick because I thought I would feel safer hiding behind a front.
Even when that wall begins to fall, I won’t share pieces of myself with anyone because I selfishly fear that their responses will not be good enough. How can someone neatly condense all my thoughts and memories into a few words? It’s impossible to articulate a human being. It’s not fair to tell them my feelings because then I will grow to resent how they react to it. But how am I supposed to make real friends when I can’t be vulnerable?
Now, I’m not blaming you for all the damage that has been done to my mental health and social life. You’re probably dealing with your own assortment of overwhelming situations. I don’t even know if we would’ve stayed friends. But, I do know that the idea of you is infuriatingly out of reach, and it hurts.
I have a memory of us that will never happen, too: I’m behind the wheel in my mom’s old minivan. You’re riding shotgun, windows rolled down. We’re driving to Holden Beach for the weekend to stay in our families’ shared beach house. You prop your head against the seat belt and study the street signs as we pass them one by one. I look over and I realize that I feel completely in the moment. I don’t worry about the occasional silences because I’m enough for you.
Drives with you are a platonic paradise.
The funny thing is, I don’t know what you look like anymore. Who knows if I really miss you? I may just miss the future I will never have with you.
Jack Michie is a 16 year old from Charlotte, North Carolina.