Sometimes your past comes back to you in unexpected ways.
I found a letter from you yesterday. I was cleaning out boxes of stuff at my Mum’s, in preparation for selling the house, and found a box that was almost entirely letters and cards from high school. (Or at least, from the people that were high school friends.) And in that box, with no return address on it was a letter that turned out to be from you.
I’ll be honest I have no recollection of you writing me this letter, and only an extremely vague memory that the card you referred to me sending you was a 21st birthday card. But I’m really glad I took the time to search through the box for treasures, because your letter is one. It’s proof, you see. Proof that what we had was real, that you did love me. That it wasn’t all one sided.
And believing it to be one sided is something that can be all too easy to do from across a gulf of 20 years; since I have had cause to question so much of my reality in the years since.
Anyway, I found the letter and I have no idea if I ever replied, and if I did, what I said all the way back in 2005, about 6 months in to dating my now ex-husband. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin guessing at what that version of Nicole would have said. She was a completely different person. I can remember running into you on the bus sometimes, but it feels like someone else’s life. So do don’t know what I might have said then; But this is what I would say now.
If someone put me in a time machine on an endless loop of my life, there are a lot of things I would do differently.
But I would choose you and the brief, never official, doomed-to-failure-as-soon-as-your-parents-found-out, relationship that we had, every time. Every. single. time.
I would have dumped L sooner and told him how His cheating made me feel, (instead of it taking you questioning why I was still with him to say anything and even then not being strong enough to say “what you did was wrong and I’m not going to put up with it.”) I wouldn’t stay friends with C. And I’d have called her out on her part in the whole cheating saga much earlier too, Instead of letting it hang for a year until I just couldn’t summon the anger anymore. (I know people thought I was playing a long game, pretending to still be friends with her, but really, I was just avoiding confrontation.) I would stand up for A and not let the others treat her so badly. I’d encourage B to get help. I’d tell K and her minions to get fucked and stop sabotaging my dance marks by forcing me to always work with the uncoordinated kids just because she was jealous.
But I wouldn’t change us.
You never lead me on.
I want that to be very clear. I always knew that we could never really be together. I knew there was always an end date hanging over our heads, and whilst of course it hurt, I could never hate you or blame you.
I suspect that all the times you told me about your religion you had secret hopes you could convert me, (and if I’m honest, part of me was hoping to get you to see the flaws in your dogma). But mostly, I liked learning about it because it gave me insight into you. How you saw the world, how you thought and, of course the pressure you were under to conform.
I knew you were stuck, I knew no matter how much you wanted to be able to be with me, that it wasn’t worth risking your family, your friends, your entire belief system. That’s why I couldn’t even be mad at M for telling on us. My initial understanding was that he was just doing what he’d been taught to believe was right. When I heard he’d come out, I realised he was most likely trying to shift attention from himself and truths he wasn’t yet ready to confront since confronting them meant losing his family.
So I hurt, yes. But I never blamed you, and I never regretted loving you.
My only regret was not kissing you, just once, when I had the chance.
Now, as a feminist, in the era of the #metoo movement, and given what I remember reading about dating for JW’s, it has occurred to me that kissing you might not have been quite the romantic moment of star-crossed lovers that it was in my head. It might have actually left you feeling pretty messed up, grappling with the fight between something you (presumably) wanted to do but had been taught was a sin.
I’m glad I never put you in that position.
Regrets, that I never got to find out what kissing you was like.
I dreamt about you last night.
That might sound random, but it’s normal for me. I’ve had regular dreams of various stages of my life at least since high school, so dreaming of an ex is no more an event of note than dreaming about my ex-students, or an old friend or teacher. Primary school, high school, uni, the studio I danced at, studios I taught at, camp, uni again, schools I taught at; they’re all on endless loop in my dreams.
High school however has its own category. I also have anxiety dreams, and the most common is a dream where I am stuck unable to graduate. Sometimes it’s the whole cohort (the administration did seem to have it in for our year), often I’ve gone back to repeat yr 12 just “for fun” (idk why anyone would) and I’ve taken a very lassie faire attituide to classwork and attendance because I don’t actually need to finish, but suddenly at the end of the year I can’t graduate because I’ve missed so much, and no amount of arguing that I’ve already graduated and “I have a postgrad degree for fuck’s sake!” resolves anything.
So, Since you were a big part of high school it’s pretty common for me to have dreams with you in them.
This dream was a bit different. Thankfully it wasn’t an anxiety dream, and unlike my normal more generalised high school dreams it was focused on one specific event and person. You.
Anyway, here’s what happened.
We’d been in English, (which for some reason was in the art building and we had the dance teacher but, whatever) and we were studying some text that your parents weren’t happy about because they felt it was blasphemous. So your dad came in to talk to the teacher. You were not impressed and were highly embarrassed. I was keeping you company outside the classroom (and explaining the alternative schooling hub I’m working on developing in real life).
When your dad came out you were pissed and we’re walking in front of him and challenging him quite a bit; including to a running race that was happening at the front of the school, by holding my hand and mostly ignoring him. On our way to the front of the school we walked past some fruit trees. I reached up to pick a pear to eat, but then I spotted the apple tree. And very very deliberately, I looked at your dad, smirked, reached out and picked an apple, and sweetly offered it to you, challenging him with my eyes the whole time.
It was very out of character for all of us really.
I certainly wouldn’t have been that bold, Purposely painting myself into the Eve role I knew your parents were painting me as just because of your feelings for me.
I never saw you challenge your parents like that, and given the guilty way you reacted to your mum finding you talking to me and Ness on your driveway at the end of year 10, openly flaunting your attraction to me to one of your parents was likely unthinkable!
And then there’s the fact that my impression was always that your dad was more accepting of your feelings for me than your mum.
But the dream was quite reflective of what a small part of me always hoped.
That with enough nudging you would challenge your parents, and your religion in general.
logically I knew it wouldn’t happen.
Logically I knew that if it ever did happen, you’d need much higher stakes than just your feelings for me to challenge everything you’d been taught to believe. Especially when it meant the very real risk of excommunication from your family and entire support system.
We weren’t Romeo and Juliet or some Draco/Hermione alt-universe fanfic.
But still, part of me hoped.
yes I hoped because then we could have properly been together, but primarily, I hoped that you would meet your potential for critical thinking and make decisions about what you did or did not believe for yourself.
Back in grade 11 when we did 1984 for English, I had multiple conversations with Cat about how frustrating it was to watch you. Because in class you were clearly able to deconstruct the ways that the government in Orwell’s world were constantly changing and updating the “truth”, yet we’d see you with these Watchtower documents announcing a change to the bible; mandates claiming that all old copies were now out of date, that only the new version was correct, and you wouldn’t even blink. You’d just accept that as expected. Normal. Nothing to see here.
Maybe you question it did in your head, but it felt too scary and real if you said it out loud. Maybe you didn’t question at all. Maybe you’ve questioned since, maybe you haven’t. I’ll probably never know.
Maybe there’s parallel universes where you did question, and maybe in some of those I was the catalyst. (And maybe I’ll write an autobiographical Dramonie one-shot or Drabble series based on my dream. That could be good)
Maybe if we met up now we’d have absolutely nothing in common besides our history. With you having become more and more radicalised to ultra conservative Christianity and me becoming more and more radicalised to “extreme” fringe left-wing progressiveness. (“Extreme” In the context of human rights and climate change being seen as extremists views in our political landscape).
Then again, maybe we would have everything in common- both transitioning from teenagers who never rebelled and generally followed the status quo to adults who challenge everything and always question.
Maybe I’d find out that you have weird kinks now, forever tarnishing my memories of you, like what happened with G…..*
I’ll probably never know.
*(If you have weird kinks, please don’t tell me!!!!! And if you ever discover my fanfic, please know they’re not representative of what i like!)
I’ll just be forever haunted in my dreams by the echoes of my past, wondering how our lives would have differed if we had been able to truly be together.
Ah well, At least we didn’t end up like Romeo and Juliet.
Hi I'm Nicole