[A note: I found this letter in my archives on Tumblr. I wrote it in November.]
I’ve thought about you every day since that night at the park, and even more so in the last couple of weeks, first because you have a new girlfriend and then because your dad died. Ever since I heard about your dad, I’ve been keeping my phone next to me or in my pocket, hoping that you will reach out to me and let me be there for you. Things between us have always been complicated, in part because sometimes if I don’t feel like I can say what I really mean, I’d rather say nothing. So here’s some things I’ve never said to you: When you’re not in a relationship, you don’t always treat women well. You think that if a woman isn’t your girlfriend officially, you don’t owe her anything, and that’s wrong. Just because someone isn’t your girlfriend doesn’t mean you should be dishonest with her, or not disclose information that could affect her decisions about what to do with you. For example, while we were seeing each other before you deployed, I knew you weren’t my boyfriend, okay? I was well aware that I occupied some tenuous space in your life between being just friends and being your girlfriend, and that was weird and difficult enough for me because I was already falling for you. If I had known that you were seeing other people, I probably would have stopped seeing you. And also, I deserved to learn that from you, not from the girl’s mother. Even if someone isn’t your girlfriend, she still deserves honesty and respect, and if you think she doesn’t, you shouldn’t be seeing her.
In fact, I was appalled that night when that woman was texting you and you were telling her you only wanted sex from her, but you were doing it in terms that were deliberately difficult to understand and then making fun of her for being “stupid.” It showed an appalling lack of respect for her, first, that you would do that at all, and second, that you would read it to me. Later that night, when you complained that you felt like you were wasting your time because all you’d done all summer was hang out at starbucks and play video games, I wanted so badly to tell you that that wasn’t a waste of your time. But spending time with someone you clearly did not like or respect was.
I didn’t mean to fall in love with you. I knew enough about your past and the situation where you fell for one of your other best friends to know that it was likely that you would break my heart, but I fell for you in spite of myself. And I fell hard. You make me feel things no one else ever has. You make me giddy and incredibly happy when things aren’t awkward and weird. You make me feel safe.
But you also make me nervous because I know what you can do to me. You’ve broken my heart before, so it’s difficult to be vulnerable with you unless you’re willing to risk as much as I do. You know the details of a couple of the most painful experiences of my life, and you constantly want to talk about one of them. I wouldn’t have told you about them if I didn’t want you to know, but I can’t forget that the next time I heard from you after telling you the details of the abusive relationship I was in (at your request, remember?), you told me that I was fucked up and you didn’t want to hear from me again. I know that wasn’t how you phrased it, but that’s what you meant. And sometimes I wonder if that’s what you really think of me, and it makes me extremely reluctant to answer your questions about it, no matter how well-meaning you may be. I always wonder: if I let you in again, will you use what I confide in you as a weapon? And I don’t think I can overcome that until and unless you confide something equally powerful in me. Unless you’re going to be vulnerable with me, I can’t risk that again. It hurt too much.
When you’re trying to pretend you don’t feel anything for me, you have a tendency to try to push me into dating any man who seems interested in me. I wish you wouldn’t do this. I know I told you several months ago that I thought I was just bad at dating, but I’ve realized since then that I’m not. I simply don’t function the way that most people do. For me, an emotional connection has to come before any physical intimacy (I mean things as innocent as kissing here; it’s why I couldn’t kiss you unless I knew that you meant it.). So when I try to date someone I barely know, even though they may be decent guys and I may get along with them, they will inevitably want and expect physical things before I’m ready for them because it takes me substantially longer to be attracted to people than most people. I become attracted to someone on the basis of their personality, not their physical characteristics. So dating random men just because they seem okay and they think I’m pretty is a waste of their time and mine. Which is basically what you want me to do.
I wonder if the reason that you push me to date other people is because you think that if I date someone else, I will get over you. The problem with this is that… well, I already know how I want to feel when I date someone, and I only feel that way with you. So I go out on these dates with these random guys I barely know and sometimes they’re pleasant dates and sometimes they suck. But even when they’re not bad dates, I’m there looking for what I already feel for you, so it’s already doomed. And that’s being dishonest with them and dishonest with myself.
With me, you are like a boomerang. No matter how far away you go, you always come back. But the problem is that in between times, I convince myself that I’m over you. I thought I didn’t have romantic feelings for you anymore first because I was so incredibly angry at you for implying that I was fucked up after I confided in you about my ex, and then because it was so awkward to be around you because I didn’t know how to talk to you anymore. And then that night in the park happened, and it was nearly perfect. Even then, I was convinced that I just had a crush on you again and it didn’t have to be a big deal. I thought that we would have a chance to figure out if it was real or not during Christmas break because you led me to believe that you were so busy you wouldn’t even be able to hang out with anyone until then. And then I found out you had a new girlfriend and I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I knew that I was in love with you and had never really stopped.
So here’s the thing. I think you do have feelings for me, strong feelings even, because you always come back to me. I don’t think you would bother with trying to build emotional intimacy with me if you didn’t. But I’ve got to be better at saying the things I don’t say ‘cause I think it’ll make things awkward, ‘cause I don’t say them and then it gets awkward. And you have to be willing to open up to me as much as you want me to open up to you. And the next time you try this, we have to really see if this could work.