“This’ll be our place, right?”
The rain pelted down, saturated the ground outside our place, the small cavern made by a small tree down by the Hunter river. The world was wet, but we sat smiling, dry as we revelled in the smell of ozone as we watched it rush down the bank. This was us and in this moment I realised I loved her more than anyone else in my young life.
I never told her that.
I simply resented her more and more as the years went by and she grew up without me. She kissed a boy years before I did, though I made up a story to convince her that there’d been a boy. A boy I’d loved before her, before I realised that being left handed, smart and good at art were all you needed for an epic love story. She drank, she smoked, she was sexual in a way that I’m still not completely comfortable with, and I watched all this with awe and despair.
As if this inevitable cavern was opening up between us, never to be crossed.
She grew taller than me, she got a boyfriend, she put her drunk mother to bed and helped her little brother with homework. I barely did the few things my parents asked of me. She drank too much, never called and I always came running. We were orbiting planets, only occasionally to meet in our travels.
I told her everything before anyone else, I was her afterthought. I cherished everything we were and she outgrew me. Saw me as the naive child that she’d been friends with for so long that there was a familiarity and a stability there she didn’t have otherwise.
We bathed together, and still many years later, I’m not as comfortable being naked with anyone else. I’m not used to the touch, and I’m shy, in a way I forgot then. But that was before there was a boyfriend, and instead of us sleeping in the same bed, he got my spot. He got to look at her in a way I wish I’d been brave enough to. If I’d truly known what I was feeling in that moment.
For a time, she made me the bravest version of myself I’d ever known. She taught me things I couldn’t truly understand and after leaving her behind, when I got to an age that I no longer looked for her anymore, when I found other people to fill that hole in my life.
When I fell in love with someone else.
Occasionally I do sit and wonder. Wonder if it was the right call, to leave it all behind, and then I remember how my heart ached when I knew that I’d never be as important to her as she was to me. So I gave up wondering, stopped thinking and just every now and then.
Very, very, infrequently.
I check in. See what her life ended up like and if she achieved all of the things she’d always hoped that she would. For loving her was a defining moment of my childhood and leaving her behind, meant leaving that naivety and precociousness there as well. I don’t bring her up often and when I do, it’s always passing. Something small that’s relevant to the conversation. Her tall stature, her golden hair, or chocolate eyes.
I’ve only been back to the tree once.
I was with someone else, and I stood looking at it, but when asked, I spoke about the river, the flow of it washing my memories away. The tree to be forgotten.