He loved me.
I've spent a very long time thinking that I was never loved for who I was. This contributed to my feeling worthless and retarded, because I could never figure out why I had never met anyone who would want to love me.
Recently, I had a dream about a high school crush. I'll call him Stewart. We instantly hit it off and became best friends, and spent much of our time together in and out of school. Many afternoons at his house, in his bedroom.
I had a major crush on him. I think I was in love with him. But he was homophobic, and made several remarks about beating up a fag if he ever came across one.
Shortly after I graduated (and our friendship was over), our paths crossed again, briefly, and I, in a hazy fog of being stoned, chose to ignore the giant red flags waving in front of me as Stewart had taken on a the new 'gay lisp' - you know - that vocal inflection that very out gay young guys use in expressing themselves? Stewart had it.
I was still in the closet, and still too ashamed to ask Stewart, or tell Stewart my feelings for him. We lost touch. That was over 20 years ago.
This dream had me looking at the stuffed question that had burned in my mind back then - was stewart gay or closeted? Couldn't be. It would have been too painful to acknowledge that the boy I was in love with actually was gay (or at least bi and curious). It hurt too much to consider that I lost an amazing opportunity to love someone and be loved.
After reflecting on it for a few hours, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Stewart knew that I had some social issues, and disabilities I was grappling with. Stewart knew of my awkwardness in social situations. Stewart accepted me regardless. Stewart loved hanging out with me, laughing with me, teasing me, taunting me, and in retrospect, danced that curious and fearful dance of sexuality and sexual expression/repression that most teenage boys do. Stewart did all of that with me, but I was so filled with fear and shame that I couldn't see it.
There was a moment that Stewart and I shared together that I will never forget. We were on a high school ski trip in Tahoe. I had purchased a head band that I couldn't quite figure out how to wear properly. Stewart was trying to figure it out too. We were both on top of the mountain, a crystal clear blue sky surrounding us. And Stewart suddenly went "ah ha!" and took the head band and placed it over my head, positioning it over my ears.
I was surprised by his sudden movement, his sudden closeness. This act of sharing, and touch. We looked at each other, and a solid 3-4 seconds of silence must have passed as I tried to navigate the avalanche of confusing emotions I was experiencing. He had this look on his face that I couldn't understand then.
But I understand it now, 25 years later. If there was ever a moment for a monumental first kiss to happen, that would have been the moment. But because we were both teenage boys in the 80's, neither of us dared express the confusing and exciting revelation of our friendship.
I will always remember that day, because later that day, we were on a crowded chartered bus, getting ready to head back home. And someone had the portable TV, and the superbowl was on. The last 23 seconds of the game, with the 49ers down a few points, Montana threw a hail mary pass to Jerry Rice in the final seconds of the game, and the 49ers won the game.
It was the most upending, exciting confusing experience for all of us on that bus. High fiving and cheering, and chest bumping the cool kids on the bus that I always felt so disconnected from. The pure elation and surprise.
The same feeling I experienced with Stewart on that mountain top.
I don't regret not taking the risk of divulging my secret to him. I don't regret what never was. I have love and warmth in my heart - it is a very bittersweet memory. If either of us HAD taken the risk and took our friendship into a sexual direction, I know for a fact that I would have fallen apart and sabatoged anything that would have developed. Because I had done that very thing with many other boys since.
I'm very glad that Stewart and I never got sexual with each other, even though we both danced around it with great fear. I can consider that relationship I had with him to be my first boyfriend, now. Even though, understandably, we could never talk about our attraction to each other, much less recognize it. The time wasn't right, society wasn't ready for it, I certainly wasn't ready for it, and he wasn't ready for it - otherwise - it would have happened.
My take away from all of this? He loved me. He accepted me as I was, and he loved and supported me. We shared a locker together. We spent the night together. We took trips together. We loved each other as 16 and 17 year old scared boys would, but deeper. Both of our love was an unrequited love, and that was perfectly okay.
I've spent my entire life thinking I never had a boyfriend, and no boy ever loved me. Now I can see, clear as the blue sky above me, that Stewart loved me. And that's not all.
I start to look at all the other dysfunctional fucked up relationships I've had over my life, and can now see that even though I was dysfunctional, and often abusive, I had neglected to look at the intention of the other boy in my life.
The truth is - they ALL loved me. If they didn't, they would not have chosen to stick around as long as they did.
How lucky I have been. And how crookedly I have been looking at my own past, seeing only abandonment and despair, when I have been ignoring the obvious all this time - I have had many boys love me over the years. I just couldn't recognize it at the time.
Wow, what a walloper of a revelation.