A High School Love Not Forgotten

A High School Love Not Forgotten

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

A High School Love Not Forgotten

When they saw him walking across our high school campus, most students couldn’t help but notice Bruce. Tall and lanky, he was a thinner replica of James Dean, his hair flipped back above his forehead, and his eyebrows always cocked upward when he was in deep conversation. He was tender, thoughtful and profound. He would never hurt anyone.

I was scared of him.

I was just breaking up with my not-so-smart boyfriend, the one you stayed with and went back to 30 times out of bad habit, when Bruce headed me off at a campus pass one morning to walk with me. He helped me carry my books and made me laugh a dozen times with giddiness. I liked him. I really liked him.

He scared me because he was brilliant. But in the end, I realized I was more scared of myself than of him.

We started to walk together more at school. I would peer up at him from my stuffed locker, my heart beating rapidly, wondering if he would ever kiss me. We’d been seeing each other for several weeks and he still hadn’t tried to kiss me.

Instead, he’d hold my hand, put his arm around me and send me off with one of my books to class. When I opened it, a handwritten note in his highly stylized writing would be there, speaking of love and passion in a deeper sense than I could understand at 17.

He would send me books, cards, notes, and would sit with me at my house for hours listening to music. He especially liked me to listen to the song, “You Brought Some Joy Inside My Tears,” by Stevie Wonder.

At work one day I received a card from him that said, “I miss you when I’m sad. I miss you when I’m lonely. But most of all, I miss you when I’m happy.”

I remember walking down the street of our small village, cars honking, the warm lights from stores beckoning strollers to come in from the cold, and all I could think about was, “Bruce misses me most when he’s happy. What a strange thing.”

I felt deeply uncomfortable to have such a romantic spirit by my side, a boy—really a man at 17—who thought his words out wisely, listened to every side of an argument, read poetry deep into the night and weighed his decisions carefully. I sensed a deep sadness in him but couldn’t understand it. Looking back, I now think the sadness stemmed from being a person who really didn’t fit into the high school plan.

Our relationship was so different from the one I’d had with my prior boyfriend. Our lives had been mostly movies and popcorn and gossip. We broke up routinely and dated other people. At times, it seemed like the whole campus was focused on the drama of our breakups, which were always intense and grand entertainment for our friends to discuss. A good soap opera.

I talked to Bruce about these things and with each story, he’d respond by putting his arm around me and telling me he’d wait while I sorted things out. And then he would read to me. He gave me the book The Little Prince, with the words underlined, “It’s only in thy mind’s eye that one can see rightly.”

In response—the only way I knew how—I wrote passionate letters of love and poetry to him with an intensity I never knew before. But still I kept my walls up, keeping him at bay because I was always afraid that he’d discover I was fake, not nearly as intelligent or as deep a thinker as I found him to be.

I wanted the old habits of popcorn, movies and gossip back. It was so much easier. I remember well the day when Bruce and I stood outside in the cold and I told him I was going back to my old boyfriend. “He needs me more,” I said in my girlish voice. “Old habits die hard.”

Bruce looked at me with sadness, more for me than himself. He knew, and I knew then, I was making a mistake.

Years went by. Bruce went off to college first; then I did. Every time I came home for Christmas, I looked him up and went over for a visit with him and his family. I always loved his family—the warm greetings they gave me when they ushered me into their house, always happy to see me. I knew just by the way his family behaved that Bruce had forgiven me for my mistake.

One Christmas, Bruce said to me: “You were always a good writer. You were so good.”

“Yes.” His mother nodded in agreement. “You wrote beautifully. I hope you’ll never give up your writing.”

“But how do you know my writing?” I asked his mom.

“Oh, Bruce shared all the letters you wrote him with me,” she said. “He and I could never get over how beautifully you wrote.”

Then I saw his father’s head nod, too. I sank back in my chair and blushed deeply. What exactly had I written in those letters?

I never knew Bruce had admired my writing as much as I had his intelligence.

Over the years, we lost touch. The last I heard from his father, Bruce had gone off to San Francisco and was thinking about becoming a chef. I went through dozens of bad relationships until I finally married a wonderful man— also very smart. I was more mature by then and could handle my husband’s intelligence—especially when he’d remind me I had my own.

There’s not one other boyfriend I ever think about with any interest, except for Bruce. Most of all, I hope he is happy. He deserves it. In many ways, I think he helped shape me, helped me learn how to accept the side of myself I refused to see amid movies, popcorn and gossip. He taught me how to see my spirit and my writer inside.

Diana L. Chapman

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