When I was about fourteen, I developed the biggest crush of my life. I became infatuated with this boy- every time I was close enough to hear him speak, laugh, sigh or even cough, it was permanently etched in my mind and stored for a rainy day. And did I see many rainy days. I was a very unhappy teenager. I felt oppressed in high school and emotionally and creatively crippled, for reasons better saved to discuss another hour. So he, this boy, became my escape. He was the safe haven I would retreat to in effort to keep me from self-destructing. I would make him the hero in every scenario I’d created in my mind because even though I knew he was just a teenage boy, somehow he was also so much more than I’m sure his actual persona would have been able to lend any truth to. I would orchestrate romantic lines in a rendition of how I’d heard him speak. When I was inconsolable he would share my pain and every sigh I let out would be an echo of his own disappointment in his failure to protect me from all the ills of the world. What I would do with a cough, I don’t know.
Over the years, I’d forgotten him. As the walls that guard me have thickened and my ambition taken priority, curiosity about the man he might have actually become hasn’t preyed on my mind- until about a year ago. He has begun to enter the odd dream, but even so, this apparition hasn’t grown, and I haven’t grown, and so I know it’s a retreat into my safe haven- a way to shallowly heal septic wounds. My brokenness is finding a way to blame him for everything I have failed to become, as I ponder why he rejected me. My mind is finding a way to mark him as the inception of my low-self esteem and bitterness. He is the knife that has penetrated my back, though I only intended it to scratch a surface level itch. My escape, the alternate reality I needed, has become a way for me to derogate my progress because, once again, he has become an impossible goal. So why has he returned to me? I have a tough few weeks ahead; a lot of hard work I fear may be beyond the scope of my capabilities. I’m not in love, dating, or interested in dating, because at this stage of my life, my career goals take precedence over my personal desires. But life is scary, and I’m beginning to doubt myself and in so doing, regressing to old habits. Indeed he is an old habit. Only now, retreating to my safe haven doesn’t make me feel safe anymore. Just stupid. It makes me feel like a coward and it validates my feelings of inadequacy. All those years, I burdened a stranger who was unaware of the weight he was carrying. I don’t think it’s necessarily that I don’t want to burden him anymore, I think it’s that I want him to become aware of the weight and to be okay with its inconvenience. Of this I am ashamed. How can I still be running? Furthermore, how can I still be running to him?