subject line: dear you February 24, 2018 by Hannah Brencher San Francisco, California We were 14 when we met. Your dad was dating my best friends mom, who was like a second mother to me- so we instantly become a constant in each others lives, and even though we had been living 4 miles from each other for the length of our existence, we might as well have been from different worlds. We were 14, and you had big hair and tight jeans, a straight edge skateboarder with a quiet presence, and big brown eyes that were quick to find the floor if they ever came close to meeting mine. I was a loud girl in a polo shirt, dying to own a wardrobe from Abercrombie and Fitch, spending my afternoons on the lacrosse field and trying to figure out how I could walk the fine line of being a good responsible prep, while sneaking the mikes hard lemonade from the basement fridge before my parents caught on. You were good, and shy, and honest and innocent, and I was all those things too, but I was trying so hard not to be. I think you needed someone to hear you, and I wanted someone to need me. You and your circle of friends ran in a different orbit than mine, and for the majority of our high school experience, they didn’t intermingle, but somehow, in spite of that, we formed a friendship that bled from family hangouts to late AIM chats, and even later texting conversations.We went to different schools, on different sides of town- and I think we both let our minds wonder how the other felt, but we never said out loud that we could ever be anything more than friends. Still, you kept needing me, and I kept wanting to be needed. But we were 14, and my friends giggled about silly skateboarders and yours rolled their eyes about girls in Abercrombie that cared too much about what others thought. Then we were 16, and a constant in each other’s lives without trying to be. The stepbrother of my best friend, you were effortlessly around, and we shared family vacations and innocent, easy, late nights in hot tubs. Everyone would taper off to sleep, and you and I would sit outside in the dark, staring up at the stars, contemplating the universe and bigger things we couldn’t begin to understand. I loved those nights- but I was still in Abercrombie, and you with your skateboard. By 17 I think we were silently in love. I went from wanting to be needed by someone, to wanting only you, and we both knew- but my friends still giggled, and yours rolled their eyes, and I liked the chase a little too much. We were best friends and the texting never stopped and curfew was constantly broken. Somehow we still only let each other wonder –and you talked about the girls you might love and I wondered about other guys, and I know we were both aware that each of us meant something extraordinary to each other. And then one day you let me stop wondering and you told me how you felt. That you wanted more than, random broken curfews, and the casual I love you of a best friend that you only dared type in a text but never speak out loud. You told me and I froze. I hid behind that glowing computer screen one night and fed you some bullshit about how our families were close and what if it didn’t work out and I didn’t want to lose you; ….and you let me. You were good, and you needed someone, and I was afraid because my friends didn’t oooo and ahh at straight edge skateboarders with tight jeans and big hair, and soft brown eyes. So I said no, as gently as I could, and you let me. At 18 we were leaving for college, and you came to say goodbye with tears in your eyes and you kissed me on the cheek. I was frozen, and I was scared, and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. We walked through the dark together without speaking. We broke one last curfew, and then you left. But the texts were constant and the AIM was always open and waiting, and that first break home we picked up right where we left off. I would drive away from your house in the dark, watching my breath fill the cold November air, with “Love Song” playing on the radio, wondering what the hell I was doing and trying to work up the courage to tell you that I loved you. I never told you. And then slowly the texts were less, and I didn’t find you online. We weren’t dating, we weren’t in a relationship, and you didn’t owe me anything, but you had always been silently mine, and then suddenly you weren’t. You weren’t mine because you found her. It was my fault for never telling you.. And three years went by and there were occasional texts and aim chats, and a holiday hometown reunion that I could always count on. And then one day you and her ended- and you called me. And there we were again, you needing someone to hear you, and me wanting to be needed. And then when I knew that I loved you, you needed time. Life happened and we graduated college, and you stayed, and I moved thousands of miles away. Flash forward 4 years post graduation: We share occasional texts and happen to run into each other a few times a year when when we find ourselves visiting home. Last summer that best friends wedding found us on the same coast line, and it was like the reunion of a lifetime. There were so many people I couldn’t wait to see, and when I hopped on the plane, east coast and wedding bound, I instantly thought of you. You brought your new her, and I instantly fell in love with the way she was made for you. I couldn’t even pretend to be displeased at her presence, and chatting with the two of you was fun, and easy, and felt like we had all known each other for a lifetime. I want to be able to say, that’s where the story ends. That my choice to close my eyes to the idea of an us, ten years ago, was one that I had moved on from, and gotten over. And that it worked out, and that you were happy with someone new, and I was happy too. But as soon as I spied you through a crowd that first night at the rehearsal dinner, I found myself reliving those November nights. The ones with “Love song” playing in the car, and I tried to understand how I let all of that go. I think you’ll marry your new her. She’s fun, and smart and fearless, and I couldn’t have picked someone better for you if I tried. I think I know that you’ll marry her, and I’ll find someone else too. But I think I’ll always know that it would have been different with you. And i’ll always spy you through a crowd at some hometown reunion, and lose my breath for just one second, when I find those soft brown eyes.