The Road Not Traveled

I spent some time on Saturday with my old high school friend B. - she was in town because another high school friend of ours was getting married.

My relationship with B. was probably the most important relationship I had in high school. She was confrontational and rebellious, she was effortlessly brilliant in school, she drank, smoke, did drugs, and had lots of sex, with boys and girls. She was everything I wasn't, and I was in love with her.

Her mother was the first person I ever met who I thought of as evil. She told B. repeatedly that she was worthless. She was occasionally physically abusive. But worst of all was the simple fact that she just didn't care what happened to B. My mother welcomed B. when she first met her, but when she saw how B.s mother treated B., my mom told me she didn't want me to hang around with B. anymore. I didn't listen to my mom. B. and I did cut back on the time we spent together, but I would occasionally sneak out of the house to go to the movies or a show with her.

Much of the time, when B. and I hung around together, we were like pretty much any other pair of best friends. We listened to music, we talked about boys, we did each other's hair (although not in braids - she would Dippity-do and Aqua-Net my mohawk and I would help her dye her hair purple.) When she was with me, there was no smoking, or drinking, or drugs, although she did occasionally dump me in favor of a sexual liasion. But there were other times when she would drag me along on her ill-advised and often illegal adventures - shoplifting, lots of drinking, and I'm fairly certain that sometimes she was exchanging sexual favors for money and/or drugs. I never did any of these things, but I was there and I never stopped her.

I'm sure I was so attracted to her because of our differences, because the areas where I was most terrified were the same areas where she was absolutely fearless. She was always full of bravado, and I was a meek little mouse who followed her around.

One day, midway through our senior year, I wrote her a letter confessing to her how much I loved her. She told me she loved me too. But I was still too afraid to do anything about it. For the next 4 months, every minute we spent together was charged with sexual possibility, but my fear held me back. Not only was I afraid of the possibility of being a dyke (which I feared because an out and proud lesbian classmate got beat up on a daily basis), there was also the pragmatic concern about sexually transmitted diseases - she had been sexually active with probably well over 100 people by that time.

One day, shortly after we graduated but before she went away to college, we met, secretly, of course, in the parking lot of the school. I had decided that tonight was the night, I was just going to jump in with both feet, and I was going to make love to this woman I had ached for all year. I kissed B., and it was wonderful, sweet and soft and gentle, and terribly exciting. And then I looked at her and saw the pain and self-loathing under the bravado, and changed my mind about jumping in, said good-bye and walked home.

I have had occasion to wonder "what if" about that decision over the years. And when B. showed up at my front door, I realized that saying good-bye to B. was the right thing to do. I will probably never stop second guessing my choices, but this time I know I made the right decision.

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