With each of my stories, though, comes a background. With this, perhaps, I can understand why I did what I did.
For those who don't know, I grew up in a small, predominantly white town in Georgia. It was one of those towns with a church on every corner, and "What church do you go to?" and "Will you come to Sunday school with me?" were just as common on the playground as "Tag, you're it!" and "Teacher, he was teasing me!" As a result, I was raised in this tradition, more because my grandmother and my next-door neighbors of about ten years were rather devout Christians than because my parents bothered. And because I was raised in the South... well, let's just say that some stereotypes are based in truth.
Robert and I met during my first year of high school (2001). He was a junior, a friend of Alison's, someone I had recently met from geometry and Academic Bowl. Robert then introduced me to Dee, a senior friend of his, and the three of us became the best of friends. By no means were we the 'cool kids', but we enjoyed each other's company, which is what really matters.
Toward the end of my first year of high school (May 2002), Robert and I were spending even more time together, and quite a few people in the school started to think we like liked each other (as opposed to like each other--silly distinctions). So finally someone told us in the lunch line that we should go out. Neither of us said anything. That night over the phone we finally decided to give it a try.
And I'm not going to lie--it was a fantastic summer. It was one of those summers where you wonder if it can get any better. But then reality began to sink in, as it likes to do. When school started again, Robert and I were just fine around other people, but he began to act distantly toward me. Being the concerned friend and girlfriend that I was, I let this behavior persist until I realized that he wasn't just feeling bad for a few days, and then I asked him about this. He brushed me off, but finally I realized it wasn't me, and we broke things off around September.
No, this isn't it. We're getting to it, really.
At the homecoming dance that year, the DJ played "I Will Survive", to which I actually went up to Robert and said, "I will survive." It was very cathartic. For some reason, playing that song at Black Cat Saturday reminded me of this. But this isn't it, either. After this, we did become friends again, and I did warn him when his new girlfriend (who was in fact an ex-girlfriend) started to eye other guys. But that's another story altogether.
Then Christmas came. I don't remember what I got Robert now, but he gave me this really nice Spongebob candle (the Spongebob thing was an in-joke with our group of friends--I still have it, too). I wound up staying at Dee's on Christmas night, and a phone conversation with Robert revealed that Robert liked her. Well, she has always liked him, so this left them in a bit of a tussle, especially with me in the loop. They announced their coupledom two weeks later, which happened to be my sixteenth birthday. (Read this f-locked stage of the saga here.)
A few days later, I had my sixteenth birthday party, which is supposed to be a happy occasion. Of course, this was marred by the coupledom of my two best friends. Only Dee showed up, and according to what we had heard, Robert had disappeared. We started a search party, calling around, even trying to hack into his email, but with no luck on the latter. He did eventually return, just not to my "party". It turned out that he was on a camping trip.
He and Dee did break up in March, and I found out everything. The camping trip was with a boyfriend. Robert was gay.
And what did I do?
I turned him away. Just when he could really use support and friendship. When he started skipping school more often (it was his senior year, too, and he needed some of those classes to graduate), I didn't make an effort to call him or even care. I didn't know if even he cared, and I never bothered to find out. I never bothered to let him know that I cared about him, despite this revelation--in fact, I acted as if I didn't, which is one of the worst things possible.
After he left and moved on with his life, we ran into each other once or twice in the next year or two, both before I graduated. And both times I turned him away. I haven't seen or heard from him since. And it was all my fault.
Can I change this? I hope so. I think so. Even if our friendship isn't restored to what it was, I hope I can at least apologize for what I did, and maybe turn this into the Regret That Wasn't.
Even if it isn't possible, I can at least make sure it doesn't happen again.