It’s been three thousand six hundred and fifty two days.
Do you remember how we would ride our bikes to the store on the corner when we were kids? The ninety four days of summer vacation were always the best with you around.
I would always get the same cola with a green straw and you would always make sure to get something you hadn’t had before. Once, you tried a bag of spicy crickets. You tried to get me to eat one, but as soon as it touched my tongue I vomited. You just laughed at me.
Mr. Delgato, the shop owner, always acted like he hated us. He would always roll his eyes whenever we came into his store. I know he liked us. He would groan and moan but somehow, whenever we were short on change, he was having a sale. Or someone happened to drop a dollar bill on the ground. Or it was “about to go bad”.
Do you remember the time I almost got hit by that truck? It was six days into summer vacation. I wasn’t looking as we rode away from Mr. Delgato’s shop. I pulled out right in front of them. If it hadn’t been for you grabbing my shirt, I probably would’ve died. You saved my life.
We saved each other a lot. When you forgot your homework, I would always let you copy mine. When I failed my drivers test for the third time, you would give me a ride to school. When we both got signed up for baseball in the third grade, you told me to pretend I hurt my arm so that I never had to play in a real game.
You were always so good at baseball. Of course, your dad forced you to play for the first few years, but eventually you grew to love it. I wasn’t any good and I didn’t like to play, but I came to every one of your games.
Do you remember the first time you lost? It was one thousand, one hundred and fifty six days after you started playing. You missed a catch and the other team won by a single home run. You beat yourself up for days about it. I cheered you up by writing you a letter telling you all the things I admired about you. Then you wouldn’t feel so bad about losing your game.
Your dad found the letter and for one thousand, seven hundred and forty one days you weren’t allowed to play with me. You could play with other friends, but you were only allowed to talk to me at school.
Your dad didn’t like me. He thought that I was strange. He didn’t like that I always looked at his boots while talking. He didn’t like that I encouraged your storytelling. He didn’t think it was very masculine to imagine the way life ought to be instead of dealing with the way life is.
Do you remember when your dad left? It was one thousand, seven hundred and forty one days after you weren’t allowed to see me anymore. You came to school in tears. Your dad left behind his old truck and you spent your time after school trying to fix it.
Do you remember that party we went to? It was ninety four days before we started our senior year of high school. It was in the mountains. We both got really drunk. We were too drunk to drive so we stayed until everyone else had gone. The woods were dark and the fire was starting to die.
We were in the bed of your truck looking at the stars when you asked me what my future plans were.
I told you about an Ivy League college, followed by a high paying job at this new government facility called NASA.
You asked me what they did and I told you that they study the stars. You asked me to tell you about them and I did. I was so boring compared to you.
When I ran out of stuff to say, I asked you to tell me a story. I always loved the way you told stories. For hours and hours I listened to your stories about people from other planets and discovering new galaxies. You wove intricate tales about people sailing through the stars. Eventually, you had to stop because your voice grew hoarse, but I could’ve listened to you forever.
We laid there in silence, each of us drinking a beer. I started to shiver next to you. You pulled off your letterman jacket and laid it across me. Then, you wrapped your arms around me. I stiffened for a moment, then rested my head against your chest. It felt perfect, sitting there with you. No one to bother us or to ask us what we were doing.
Your heartbeat was strong in my ears and I still kept shivering, but no longer with cold. You laughed and told me I must’ve been freezing if I was still shivering. I looked up at you. I will never forget the way your eyelashes caught the moonlight.
Before either of us knew it we were kissing. Your lips were soft and gentle.
And we kept kissing. I could taste the alcohol on your tongue and I’m sure you could taste it on mine. We didn’t stop. You migrated your kisses until your lips weren’t anywhere near my mouth and the next thing I knew, my mouth wasn’t anywhere near yours either.
When we were both finished, we stayed there, holding each other close until the morning. You had one hand on my thigh the entire drive home. You pulled into my driveway and gave me a long, lingering kiss.
That morning I left for astronomy camp. I spent the next ninety three days of summer vacation there.
When I came back just in time for school, I was heartbroken. You had someone else on your arm. The head cheerleader Jessica.
I had spent my entire ninety three days writing letters to you and thinking about how much I missed you. You spent all of those ninety three days falling for someone else.
You spent two hundred and seventy seven days acting as if nothing had happened between us. Jessica had suddenly taken my place as your best friend. I looked for you in the hallways, but as soon as we made eye contact you would turn away and kiss Jessica.
Do you remember the second to last baseball game of senior year? It had been two hundred and seventy eight days since you stopped talking to me. You slid into home base as the catcher from first closed in. He landed on you and I watched your knee bend backwards. Your future plans including scholarships and professional baseball were gone when the doctor said you’d never walk again without a cane.
The next game you were sullen and hated sitting in the dugout. You came to sit with me in the bleachers because all of your friends were on the team.
We started talking and it was like you had never left me. I hated that I still liked you so much after you left me for Jessica.
During the last inning, we snuck under the bleachers and made out. Suddenly, your hand was down my pants and I finished at the same time as the game did. You left and before I even had my belt done you were on the field kissing Jessica, celebrating our school's win of the championship.
We kept meeting in secret. You would always put the moves on me, but you wouldn't let me reciprocate.
We laid on my bed, holding each other the day before graduation. You asked me how long before I left for school. It was eighty three days away. I told you I was nervous. I said I wanted you to come with me. I told you that I loved you.
As soon as the words left my lips, you got up. You hurried and put on your shirt. I was confused. You started yelling at me.
“We aren’t allowed to love each other,” you said. “It’s unnatural. Besides, I have a girlfriend. I’m supposed to love her, not you.”
Then you threw open the door and left.
I tried to see you all summer. But every time I went to your house, your mom told me you were busy with Jessica or working in the local mechanic shop to help pay the bills. I didn’t get to see you again before I left for school.
I went to an Ivy League college, like I said, and I was gone for two thousand, one hundred and ninety one days. I wrote to you every day for the first fifteen hundred days. Then, as time went on without a response, I wrote less until I was only writing to you once a month.
Do you remember the next time we saw each other? After two thousand, one hundred and ninety one days of hard work without any friends, I got a little piece of paper in the mail. A wedding invitation. For you and Jessica. I was heartbroken, but I decided to go. I needed to see you again.
I showed up an hour early. I knocked on the door of the room you were getting ready in. Your face lit up to see me. You were so handsome in your tuxedo. We hugged and spent the next twenty minutes catching up. You apologized for not answering my letters and I think I understood. How could love like ours be accepted by everyone? As the time ticked closer and closer to your wedding, you started to sweat.
Even after two thousand, two hundred and fifty seven days apart, there was still a spark. You kissed me as soon as we were alone. We snuck into the bathroom and had one last good time. I begged you to not get married. We could run away together. I could support us with my job as an astronomer. But you told me no. You needed to love jessica. So I watched you leave. I should’ve stopped you. I should’ve interrupted the wedding and confessed my love for you. I left instead.
Twenty-four hours later, you and Jessica were arguing on a road trip. She had found the letters you had written to me but never sent. You were telling her that you loved me ever since we were children. You told her you wanted to run away and start a life with me. But that’s just what I imagine. No one really knows what distracted you so much that you didn’t see the train coming.
It's been three thousand six hundred and fifty two days since I told you I love you. But if I’m completely honest, I’ve loved you since day one.