Well, it's not a secret that I don't believe in love.
No, I'm not bitter. I'm not heartbroken. I'm not cynical.
I'm just realistic.
So, on that happy note, instead I'm going to write about the first boy I thought I loved.
His name was Andrew Phillip Crane. I used to be able to tell you his exact age, birthday, and the number of days older than me he was - but that was a long time ago. He was roughly 3 1/2 years my senior, with brown hair, dark eyes, and glasses. He was ridiculously smart, motivated, and selfless. He was a 4.0 student, a bookworm, and drove an old beat up Pinto. He was very much NOT my type. (It's funny to me that I had a type at 14, but he was most definitely not it). He was passionate and funny and strong and pretty much just amazing.
He was a devout Christian - not in the "I read the Bible and show up at church" way, but in the seriously committed to Christ way.
That's actually where we met... at church.
We were in the same youth group. We'd actually attended the same church for years, but he was part of the "churchy" group and I, well, wasn't, so our paths had never really crossed.
Until one of his best friends played with my heart and left me a) devasted and b) looking like a whore in front of the entire church. (This is a story for another day, trust me)
He was one of the few who didn't jump on the 'let's hate Bri' bandwagon, and was actually concerned for how I felt. We became friends, and over the course of the next few months, including a youth mission trip to Arizona, I was pretty convinced that I was in love.
Apparently, somewhere along the line, he felt the same.
We never dated. We never kissed. Not once.
Not because I didn't want to - because trust me, I did - but because he didn't believe in it. He was one of those "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" guys who believed in the ideas of courtship and dating leading to marriage and a lot of other things. At the time, I didn't understand it at all - I just wanted him to kiss me and love me and be my boyfriend. I was 15 and convinced I was going to marry this boy.
And we talked about it. Yes, although we never dated, we discussed marriage - a lot. His favorite words for it were "the autumn side of forever".
We spent hours on the phone every week, spent large amounts of time together, and even said "I love you". But he still wouldn't date me. He wouldn't date at all.
We would take early morning hikes up to Horsetooth and watch the sunrise together. We had our own special spot up there. We would sit and talk for hours about everything. He was the smartest person that I knew. He was a challenge, and I couldn't seem to find the key to making him mine.
So, I decided to make Andy jealous. I would bring other boys with me to church. I would have numerous boyfriends hanging around, clamoring for my attention, and making me feel special. The idea was to make him realize what he was missing, but it never seemed to work out that way. He would simply tell me he cared about my heart, and hoped that I did too. I never saw anger from him - only sadness for the flippant ways I was acting.
A year passed, and my parents decided to move an hour away... I thought that was it for Andy and I. But we still talked constantly, saw each other whenever possible, and discussed the ideas of forever. He wanted me to be patient, to wait, to grow up a little - but I wouldn't.
I dated other guys. I found one I thought I really liked. And I slept with him.
I told Andy about it the next day. (I put that boy through a lot, but the one thing I never did was lie to him - I guess I thought I at least owed him the truth) He was clearly hurt, but mostly concerned for me. He said he still loved me, and wanted me to be happy. Wow.
It was the relationship with that particular guy that set into motion all the really bad things that happened from there - running away with truckers, going to jail, and ending up locked up for the better part of 2 years.
During those 2 years, Andy wrote to me at LEAST 2 times a week. Letters full of love, compassion, understanding, and hope. Letters about God and love and philosophy and dreams and ideas and wishes. Letters that I was allowed to read, but not respond to. So he wrote me without ever getting a letter in return.
I lived for those letters, and the few brief visits that we got when I was home on visits.
In fact, during one visit, he was leaving for Marine boot camp the next day. He drove all the way up to my house (an hour north) just to say goodbye, and stayed with me all night talking until he had to leave to make the 2 hour drive to Denver to make his flight.
When I was finally released from lockup, I was just shy of 18. He was 21 and in college. And still very much "in love" with me. But things had changed. I had changed. Jail will do that to you.
I will never ever forget the day I met him at a park because I had something I had to tell him.
He cried. The light in his eyes went out that day. I knew that I had probably just lost him forever. And of course I regretted that, but clearly not enough that I had chosen to wait for him.
We went to Prom together my senior year. I was 3 months pregnant. We had an amazing time, and watched the sunrise the next morning together. That was when he told me he had started dating someone - for the first time ever. Her name was Laura.
Over the next year we drifted apart. We still talked often, but I had a new baby and a new boyfriend, and he was finishing college and starting his career. And yes, he was still dating the same girl (who hated me, by the way).
When I got engaged, I couldn't bring myself to tell him. So instead, I sent a wedding invitation to his family. And he came.
He cornered me at my wedding, looked me in the eyes, and told me that all he ever cared about was my heart, and that he wanted me to be happy. I assured him that I was.
A month passed, and he called me to wish me a Happy Birthday. It was the first time we had spoken since my wedding. We talked for a few minutes, and then he once again asked me if I was sure about my decision and if I was truly happy. And again, I told that I was. He acted very strange as we hung up.
I found out a few days after that later that same afternoon (yes, on my birthday) he took his girlfriend up to Horsetooth Rock, to our spot, and proposed to her.
He refused to talk to me about the pending marriage. We still talked on the phone a couple times a week about anything and everything, but that one subject was completely off limits.
I thought that I would at least receive a wedding invitation, but I found out his fiance had demanded that I not be invited.
On the day before his wedding, he called me. He seemed so conflicted and worried. It was the first time that he talked about his upcoming marriage with me at all. He said he had started down this path and had no choice but to follow through. I told him that if it wasn't what he wanted, that he shouldn't get married. His only response to me was 'We both knew when we started down this path that it would end one of two ways - either you would walk with me to the autumn side of forever, or we would eventually go our own ways'. I told him it didn't have to be like that, that we would always be friends.
The next day, his wedding day, I decided I needed to just get away from everything and clear my head, so I spent the day in the mountains with my family. When I returned home that evening, I had an e-mail from Andy, written just minutes before he was supposed to get married. It was a goodbye. And a last 'I love you'. He told me that he had committed to what he was about to do, and would do it 100%. But that he would always have a place in his heart for me.
That was the last time I heard from him. That was 7 years ago.
I saw him once, at a store, with his wife. But she recognized me and dragged him away before I could really even say hello. Not that I'm entirely sure he would have spoken to me anyway.
Mutual friends of ours have told me he is an entirely different person now. That he works all the time. That he doesn't smile much. That he really won't even spend time with them at all.
That's not the person I knew at all. I knew a passionate, strong, amazing person. A man full of life. A man with more character than anyone else I've ever known. Ever. A man who made me feel like more than just my body mattered. That my heart mattered.
I've made a LOT of mistakes in my life... I've done a lot that I would love to take back.
But if I could only take back one of them, it would be hurting him the way that I did. I put that boy through absolute hell for 5 years. I gave him front row seats to watch me jump from one unfulfilling relationship to another, and then threw it in his face. I tried to show him what he was missing - when in reality I was the one who was lost and completely missing the point.
But it's not about me. My point isn't that I wish I could have saved us and lived happily ever after. I was never ever worthy of him. Ever. He was a better person than I could ever hope to be.
I just wish that I could take back the pain I caused him. The hundreds of time I broke his heart. The things I did to him that took away that spirit and passion and intensity that he had.
Because I "loved" him so much, and still destroyed him.
If a person can do that to the person they "love", then there is no way that love can really exist.
I just wish I hadn't used him to learn that lesson.