You’ll never understand what you did for me that night.
We haven’t talked in years, but I still think about you. Mostly I think of that night, and a night a few months previously. It’s ok that we’re not friends now. We were never really good at being friends.
Junior year of high school was difficult for me. My brother’s sickness threw my family into an emotional hurricane, from which we’re still crawling out of.
The week of our semi formal dance was the week my brother was taken into the ICU. At my parents insistence, you dragged me out to dinner with our friends. You sat patiently with me while our friends ate dinner and got ready to go to the dance. You plopped a plate of pizza in front of me, and wouldn’t budge until I ate it. I was terrified because my parents had forced me to leave the hospital for the night, but you worked so hard to distract me.
You held my hand and danced with me all night. I kept sneaking away to check my phone for messages from my parents, but you would find me and sweetly lead me back to the dance floor. I don’t remember anything else that happened that night. I don’t remember our friends being there. I just remember you holding my hand.
Months later, my brother passed away. You couldn’t talk to me about it, and I couldn’t stop crying.
You kindly asked me to prom, and went out of your way to make sure it was perfect. You got spats to cover your shoes, and made sure your tie matched my gown perfectly. You planned dinner reservations with our friends, and sat patiently with my family while my mom stitched my dress back together before we left. Although our restaurant was mediocre, you were perfect.
You listened to me talk about my corset, and wearing thigh high stockings. I wanted a vintage look, right down to my undergarments. You humored my attempts at vintage style because you yourself were old fashioned.
It was my junior prom, but I didn’t want to be happy. I wanted to stay home and cry like I had been doing since January. You were so sweet, though, so thoughtful and distracting. Charming me onto the dance floor the entire night, and refusing to let me go for more than one song at a time. I needed it more than I realized.
The night flew by, and soon we were heading to the cabin for our group’s after-prom. Unlike the rest of the class, we were not going to be drinking. Our friends had planned a horror movie night. I was the first to change out of my dress, and you pulled me into your lap while everyone else put on pajamas. You held me tight around my waist. I sat awkwardly at first, but soon found myself sinking closer to you. You were so warm.
When you got up to leave for the night, you touched my hand, and held it for longer than usual. I followed you outside, but I was so awkward. I thanked you for taking me, and you said you’d be back in the morning to take me to breakfast. I knew I wanted to kiss you, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead I hugged you, longer and tighter than any hug we’ve ever exchanged. We stayed close for a minute, looking into each other’s eyes. I could feel the tears coming, and you leaning forward slightly, but we were suddenly interrupted by a friend yelling at me from the doorway to come back inside to watch the movie. You hastily waved goodbye and left. I stumbled back inside and sunk into the chair you’d been sitting in. I could still feel your warmth and smell your cologne. I wasn’t sure if it was love I was feeling, or just comfort. Either way, I hated myself for being so happy for one night.
Years later I learned that I was experiencing survivor’s guilt. It haunted me for more than seven years before I was finally able to deal with my brother’s death.
You and I haven’t spoken in at least three years. Sometimes I want to talk to you, to apologize for how terrible I was, and to thank you for taking care of me. I don’t know if you realized that you saved me that night.
I don’t think we’ll ever speak again, so it’s ok if I write this down. I loved you more that I could admit at the time, but the time for our love has passed. Now you’re just a boy I used to know, a handsome prom date in pictures tucked away in boxes at my parents house.
And that’s ok with me.