subject line: to the boy who wrote to me


in the mountains

You were 16 when we met. I was 14 and didn’t have a clue. You were brilliant and sweet. I had words that needed a home.

I don’t remember how the emails started. I just know they did - I just know that for two blissful years I had you in my inbox every day. You’re the only person who has ever given me a nickname. You knew my every dream. You knew my every fear. I could write to you like I could never write anywhere else. You made me a writer. And I have spent more than a decade looking for another pen pal, another friend, like you. For another boy who understood my words, and layered them so beautifully with his own that we could have been the same brain, the same heart, the same soul. The way we were.

It was never love with us - it was this deep, abiding, lasting friendship that I didn’t know what to do with. I thought if you wrote to me as you did, you had to love me. Isn’t that how the movies said it would happen? I wanted to love you so badly, but I didn’t. You didn’t either.

I was 16 when your father died, and you needed a hand to hold. You chose mine. You’re the first boy who’d ever reached for my hand and held on.
I had no idea what I was doing.

I can’t remember why you left, I just remember that the letters (for they were never just emails) stopped, and that you stopped them on purpose.
You told me we had to stop writing to each other. That I was someone you had to learn to live without. I blamed your grief, I blamed myself, I blamed the world, but really, I think we just had to grow up. We couldn’t be what the other needed. It was time for both of us to leave home.

It’s been 12 years since then, and my grandfather, the man who raised me as much as my father has, and who has taught me
more than I’ll ever be able to remember, died three weeks ago, and my entire world has crumbled around me. I’ve never known such grief.

And there you were; one Instagram message, and you were back in my life. You’re a man now. You don’t call me my silly nickname anymore, but your words still layer so beautifully around mine I wonder if you aren’t just something I made up in my head - a part of my heart that appears in human form every 14 years. It’s been two days of text messages that make me feel like I may, someday, be happy again. I’m so grateful that you came back to me, and I’ve been honest with you in ways I can’t be honest with others - except for two things. Two questions I’m too afraid to ask.

1. Will you write to me again?
2. Can we love each other this time?