I can’t remember when we met. I can guess; in year three, which I think was the first time we were in the same class. Not that I really knew you – I had my best friend & you had yours. At some point I remember spending the odd day hanging out; a trip to the ford seems to be a part of a hazy memory. Our brothers were friends, and you lived just up the road, so, by default I suppose, so were we.
What I can remember, though, is the day we truly became friends. It was year six, we’d just found out we were going to be in the same form (I think I’d put you down on that list we had to do because I was friends with Phil, and he wanted to put you down, so I thought it might increase my chances). We had spent a fair share of playtimes on things like 40-40 In, Stuck In The Mud and so on. But I don’t feel like I ever really knew you. Anyway, we were playing with those electric circuits, just dossing around because we had basically finished for the year. We’d built a fan, I’m not even sure why you & I were paired together, but we were. Chris J. had suggested doing one, and I’d turned to you and said “Oh, how original”. Looking back it still makes me smile, and we must have laughed for ages at the time. It was then, I knew, that we were supposed to be friends. Proper friends. Up until then you’d been “the cool one” and I was the “nice, if a little weird, one”.
Then there was that summer between Junior School & Robert M. We were together a lot. Sure, there were embarrassing moments (I wasn’t what you’d call a social expert, but to be fair, I hadn’t had a close friend since James C.), like Lauren W. & Becky P. (ugh, what were we thinking?), but I remember it being such an amazing few weeks. It’s funny; you were partly responsible for James & I falling out. It was that time we walked home (me, you, Matt M. & James), you wanted me to touch James’ bum on a dare, I was afraid too, then you started calling me Chu-bay (I have no idea how you spell it). I ran home crying. I think it started to break down then. God knows why I ever trusted you again, haha. But I obviously did, and that summer was awesome. It’s all a bit blurry, so it may or may not have been the summer of the trolley we found & painted, I can’t remember really. We’d become close friends just in time for you to move further away, that much I do remember.
Moving forward, year seven was an interesting year. I think back then we were both nerds. Undeniably you were the cooler one, the one I looked up to, wanted to be like. I’m not proud of it, and upon reflection I’d like to tell myself that I didn’t need a role model – that I was just fine being me, but that was how things were. We literally spent all the time together. I’ve never met anyone so much on the same page, and back then it was even more apparent. Same interests, same ideas, same sense of humour. Who knew just how deep our similarities ran, eh? It must have been year seven you told me your big secret (well, one of them anyway, you’ll remember which one I mean). We were sat in Wellworth Park, on those swings; we spent so much time there. So much time just spent talking. And you told me you had a big secret you wanted to share. I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone. You were obviously nervous, there was a lot of preamble, and I remember being surprised, but understanding. I mean, I could relate. I know it’s not the same, but you’ve got to admit there’s a sort of bond when you both share something you have no control over, something that sets you apart from everyone else. You might be able to hide yours, but I don’t think that makes it any easier (if anything I think you’ve got it harder, although I know you wouldn’t want pity, so know that I don’t, though I do empathise). I think that was the day I realised, at least subconsciously, that there was something between us. I’m not going to use the word love because it’s not the right one, but I’m hoping you know what I mean. Perhaps that’s just a euphemism for I hope I didn’t imagine it, I’m not really sure anymore. The ball’s in your court, really. It was a grey, cloudy, afternoon. Things didn’t change, at least not short term.
Year seven was an interesting year for another reason too: sexuality. You had your flings. I had Claire. Placing my feelings from so long ago is difficult, but the best way I’ve found to describe it at that point was that I hadn’t really reached that stage, and that girls were who I was supposed to like, and so I did. Year eight was what brought the sexual revolution. It was the year you came out. That shocked me. I think I may have very initially doubted it, but it was a concept that at the time fascinated me. Not so much you personally, but the idea of being gay. Now I understand why, but at the time I was anything but sure. I mean, I had known what being gay or lesbian was from the playground, but it had never crossed my mind that I might be.
But, as I did reach that stage, my mind was clearly orientated towards other men. I’ve never found girls attractive physically, though I think in the past few years I have been emotionally attracted to a couple. That is, deep down I knew they were just close friends, but I wasn’t ready to accept myself, and so those close feelings of friendships manifested themselves as “crushes”. Besides, that was the year you & I were together. Don’t worry, I’m not going to over-romanticise this bit. I remember it being a time of a lot of fun (the Italy trip, that night we pushed the beds together and “pretended”, I still remember it vividly, and that scout camp, where I chickened out), but in hindsight I was also very clingy. You were the guy I wanted to be like, the coolest person there was, and you liked me. It was difficult for me to come to terms with (I was used to be rejected by girls, and so to go from that to you for me was a big leap). It’s not like we did much, or even that it lasted a long time. But I think that might have been my fault. I flipped, constantly, from gay, to bi, to straight, and everything in between. Truth was, I wanted to accept myself, but I was afraid. I went to church; I knew it was “wrong” though I couldn’t understand why. So I retreated back into the closet, and you continued on your path.
Year nine was a real low point for me. It was awful. Our friendship became a caricature. I often felt like the loser, with you kicking me whilst I was down. I don’t think you meant it maliciously, and it might not have even been intentional. I’m not delusional; I used to be a very, very touchy child. I got upset easily, and I suppose you were patient. We were still friends at the end of it, after all. Year ten, well, for one of the most recent parts of this it is the most difficult to write about. I don’t want to go over it in detail, I know I have spent too many thoughts dwelling on it, and maybe you have too? At the end of the day, it happened, and things haven’t been the same since. It shook me, down to the core at the time, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. We had been drifting apart for a long time, and it was only a matter of time before our friendship hit its first real hitch. And yet, for all the damage that was done (that was the year you didn’t invite me to your party, and I just didn’t really have one because I was embarrassed) I can’t help but feel that something is still there. Again, I’m not naïve enough to call it love, but it’s something, something I can’t begin to put into words.
Year eleven was an extension of year ten; we were still friends but no longer close. It was a difficult year for many reasons, GCSEs, Henry D., getting used to group dynamics and so on (sometimes I still don’t feel fully adjusted, if I’m honest). We’d reached an impasse, and whilst it worked I’d never felt really on board with it, there was something… wrong with it, almost. I feel at this point I should perhaps mention Fi, though I am loathe to. She too, was a case of emotional closeness, but it was also coupled with insecurity. For years I had told myself I had feelings for girls, whilst physically acting upon other ideas (and being more than a little interested in being gay). I decided it was do or die time, I needed to see if I could ever feel about a girl the way I’d felt about boys. She was someone I’d just met – I wouldn’t have to worry about getting friendship confused with attraction as had been the past problem. Ultimately it boiled down to what it was – just a friendship. I had fun, but I never really felt anything for her. I know it wasn’t right for me to treat her that way, and it’ll always be something to regret, but that is the honest truth and it’s not something I can change.
The last year. Wow. A lot has happened. I’ve finally been able to put to rest the demons awoken in year eight. I’ve felt all kinds of emotions. And I feel we’ve only drifted further. I don’t think anyone’s to blame (I know I’ve made misjudgments, some of them recent, and I can only apologise), as easy as that might seem. For all our distance, though, I can still feel that thing beneath the surface. At first I thought you couldn’t – I mean, I was just being overdramatic and cliché, it was something that would pass with time. And then I’d catch you looking in my direction occasionally, or I’d meet your eye. It still happens even now. We’ll share a smile, or a joke, or maybe even just brush hands. Like the history lecture? Our legs were touching for most of it, and whilst I’m sure I was more aware of it than you I think you at least noticed at points. Your hand brushed my leg, too, and it made me sit up straight. Luckily the lights were off, I blushed. It felt like electric. That is what we’ve always shared. A comfortable, friendly atmosphere created by being on the same page at the same time as that electricity underneath. At this point I don’t know if it is just me. You’ve obviously done a better job of moving on than I have. Not that I begrudge you that, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting, but the distance softened the blow for sure. And moving on can only be a good thing. I don’t want you to think I haven’t at all, but, like I said, you’ve achieved more than I have in that department. The more I think of these moments; the smiles, the glances, the more confused I become. I guess that’s why I’m writing this in the first place, to try and make sense of it all.
I also wanted to explain things to you. Every time I see you I have wanted to tell you all this. To clear the air. Hell, it might not change anything, but the silence is worse. I need to know. I need your side. Even if it is just “we were friends, now we’re not as good friends”. You’re not good at sharing your feelings, I understand that. But that’s not completely true. The truth is, you want to, but you’re afraid. A few years ago you weren’t afraid to talk to me. Recently you said “things change”. It had lead off from a conversation about you & Charlie. We were pretending we weren’t talking about us, but we were. And you’re right; things do change. You’ve changed. I’ve changed. We’ve changed. But that doesn’t mean everything has changed. That feeling, at least for me, hasn’t changed at its core. It isn’t exactly the same, it’s grown, matured, but it is still there. I think, in the grand scheme of things, the change has been for the better, don’t you? And the change hasn’t finished, either. I’m not sure it ever will.
I don’t mind if you share this with other people. Obviously I think it’s something between you & I, otherwise I’d have written it somewhere public. I don’t think they’d get the full picture anyway. It would just be words on a page. Funny, perhaps, I honestly don’t know. I only know what those words mean for me, and I have only the vague beginnings of what they could mean for you. If you do share it, though, I would like you to show the whole thing. Out of context this letter could like many things that it isn’t. A “love letter” for example. I’d understand if that’s how you saw it, but I’m saying it here & now – it’s not. I’m not professing feelings for you. I’m simply telling you my side of the story. I would like to hear yours – however you feel like telling me. But I have to know. Can you (have you) felt that thing between us before? The comfortable? The electricity? I don’t think we can be friends like we were before, I don’t even think I want to. But I do want us to be friends. Friends who don’t have to feel awkward around each other. I do want you to be honest with me, and not use those half-truths that you normally do. I want you to tell me everything. It’s a big ask, I know. And I understand you might not want to – even a little of the truth would do. Enough distance we’ve drifted aimlessly.
I’m not even sure how to end this. Reading back it’s everything I didn’t want it to be: over-dramatic, cliché, arguably even immature. I might be articulate, but I’ve never struggled to put something into words this much. I guess this is why you like quotes, right? Unfortunately I don’t know if there’s a quote that could sum up this three page piece into a couple of lines. I certainly can’t think of any off the top of my head. Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough. Even if you can’t tell me what I’ve asked for, please write back, or talk to me about it in person. I would have done if I thought I’d have gotten the chance.
Just don’t leave me hanging, OK?