• I could never tell him.

    He had been my friend since I was eight. Somewhere along the time between eight and seventeen, he became one of my close friends. And somewhere after the snow forts and games of tag, he became my absolute best friend.

    He was always there for me. He knew when I felt upset, even though sometimes I didn’t tell him what had happened. And sometimes, he didn’t need to know what had happened. He was just there for hugs and muttered “It’ll be okay”s.

    And other times, he knew it was a person who had hurt me. And then he would demand to know exactly what had happened so that he could go beat that person up for me. Because he knew that I would never even chew someone out after they had hurt me. I was too nice for my own good.

    Then there were the times where I wasn’t the one who was upset. But he didn’t simply settle for hugs and assurances like I did. He needed to rant to someone, and I was there to listen. I actually enjoyed listening to him rant. I didn’t like him being upset, but watching him pour so much passion and anger into one simple issue amazed me.

    Then there where times where he didn’t need to rant. Sometimes he needed to just think. He rarely seemed to want to think alone, even if he didn’t want to talk. And I was always willing to just sit, read my book, and keep him company until he sorted himself out.

    And every so often, he would get upset in an entirely different way. That was when he bore his heart out to me and would silently beg me to protect it, though he was too prideful to ever ask me out loud. Those were the days where he would come to me with tears in his eyes and bury his head against my shoulder. He rarely ever cried. And when he did, he always tried to hide it from me, but I always knew anyway. But I never told him I knew, even if he knew that I knew. It was our silent pact. We were never insulting of one another’s tears. If anything had to be said over crying, the most we would tell one another was that it’s okay to cry sometimes.

    The things he cried over were always serious. He cried over his family, mostly. He cried for times lost, for the regret he felt over what he could have done differently. I tried to tell him that it wasn’t always his fault when something bad happened, but he always brushed off my comments, wiped away his tears, and then put on his normal, determined look and went back to how he always was.

    He always wanted me to think of his as strong, brave, and fearless. He didn’t know that he was always stronger to me because of his tears rather than despite them.

    There were also the times where neither of us was upset, of course. We sat together at lunch all the time. Sometimes he talked science nonsense to me that was so over my head I had no idea what he was talking about, but he was always willing to start again from the beginning, but slower and with smaller words. He kept re-explaining his ideas to me until I actually understood. I think he just enjoyed having someone who didn’t simply nod and smile. I actually wanted to understand what he was talking about.

    Then I blew him away on the day when I started asking questions in response to his science rantings. He seemed overjoyed at the first question I asked, and when I started debating some of his ideas, he nearly exploded in delight. He later told me that the only one who talked about science like that with him was his brother. He seemed more excited than I thought was humanly possible to have a new science buddy.

    So in return for my conversation, he listened without a fuss to my talk about writing. He even helped me come up with ideas for stories. He was, in fact, the best inspiration I had around. Most of my other friends talked about writing with me for a little while before they grew bored and moved on. He was willing to spend an entire day brainstorming with me until we were both absolutely floored with the plot that had come out from our seemingly small ideas.

    He was both so human and so godlike at the same time. I did all these simple, everyday things with him, and yet I was amazed that he even wanted to hang out with me. He had been called a child prodigy when he was younger, an actual, real live, child prodigy. Some people even called him a genius. And that genius was sitting at my lunch table!

    And his appearance, well... He was ordinary enough when he was little, but by the time he reached his teen years, he blossomed. He had girls swooning wherever he went, though he never seemed to notice them. He even had me swooning most of the time, though I tried my hardest to hide it from him.

    Both fortunately and unfortunately, he never seemed to notice that I was a girl. He never seemed to notice any girls, in fact. Not unless they had something intelligent to add to the conversation.

    I say fortunately because I was terrified of him discovering just how much I had fallen for him. I had seen some other girls confess to him that they had a crush on him. And he had shot them down cold. He didn’t seem to even understand what it even meant to date.

    I say unfortunately because I desperately wanted him to notice that I had fallen in love with him somewhere between eight and seventeen.

    He was my confidant in anything that could come to my head and that I was willing to say to him. And he treated me the same. Therefore, the subject of love never came up. Neither of us wanted to mention it. He was a scientist, and he dealt in the world of facts and laws, not the world of maybes and feelings. And me, well, I was too scared and embarrassed to bring it up.

    So I started trying to drop him hints without telling him outright. I kept hoping that maybe he would pick up on the idea and approach me about it. The thing was, I was far too shy and nervous to approach him about him myself. He was everything I wanted in a boyfriend (and even just a normal friend), and I didn’t want to lose that simply because I had made everything awkward with one simple confession. I had known him for... forever, it felt like. And I was too attached to him to be willing to let him go.

    All my stories started turning into romance stories. My main characters started mimicking me and him. I started asking him more and more to help me figure out the plot by acting out the scenes with me. And he started getting more nervous around me. He started stuttering in the middle of his rants, and blushing when we touched. I started wondering if he had realized I liked him and was nervous because he was scared of rejecting a close friend.

    So I started getting even more nervous. And I had even more trouble when I thought of trying to tell him that I felt a flutter in my stomach when our hands touched, not a sinking feeling like he seemed to get. At least, it seemed like that was sort of feeling he got from the way he began to react to me.

    As more days passed, I pulled my feelings deeper and deeper into myself. I began to feel as if I would explode whenever I saw a mere picture of him. Hanging out with him became both wonderful and horrible at the same time. I was ecstatic for any time I got to spend with him, but also constantly trying to figure out how to tell him my feelings, which led to a writhing, nervous knot in the pit of my stomach.

    And then, one day, it finally happened.

    It started out as me watching him while he chatted online to one of my friends. At some point, I ended up falling asleep for who knows how long. The next thing I knew, he was shaking me awake and telling me I had to read over the conversation he’d had online. His eyes were red, and he was shaking. I knew something had upset him. I tried asking what was wrong, but he refused to answer me, continuing to insist that I read the chat.

    So I began reading. I could remember reading the early portion of the chat over his shoulder. It was mostly silly chit chat and goofing around between two friends. I had no idea what was so important about the conversation, even though it was amusing to read.

    And then, somewhere in the middle of the conversation, things began to take a turn that made my stomach flutter. My absolute best friend in the world had started getting nervous and confessing online to funny feelings around me. And he kept up with that nervous questioning until my other friend told him point blank that he was in love with me. He had stayed silent after that, even after he was prompted a few times to say something.

    And the sentence he had finally typed out?

    “...Yeah, you’re right. I just... never thought of it like... that.”

    After that, my mind went numb. I’m not sure how I managed to read through the rest of the conversation without turning to him and hugging the life out him, but there was also a small part of me that wondered if he would reject the idea later in the conversation.

    But he never rejected that he loved me. He stammered and even cried through the course of the conversation, but he never said that he didn’t think he actually loved me. In fact, by the end of the conversation, he had been talked into telling me that he loved me. Even if all he could manage was ask me to read the conversation.

    After I finished reading, he began stammering how I didn’t have to love him back, and nonsense about how if I wanted him to leave, he would, and so on.

    At that moment, I wasn’t sure if I could love him any more than I did right then. Because, as stammery and nervous he was, he loved me. And he was himself.

    I think that was what made so many people besides me like him. He was always himself, and he didn’t really care what people thought if he sat at lunch babbling about different things you can do with helium, or running around school yelling that the toasters were invading because he thought it was funny. Sometimes people thought he was ridiculous or too loud, but he was still always himself. He had trouble with acting like anything or anyone he wasn’t.

    And when he acted like himself, he spent time with me. He talked with me about things he loved, he got passionate, and he enjoyed my contributions to the conversation. He even showed me his weak side when he cried. He, as himself, loved me. He wasn't faking or lying about his love, and I knew it.

    And there was something wonderful to the fact that he, as himself, loved me. Even if he wasn’t perfect and he stammered and blushed and cried. In fact, it was wonderful because he wasn’t perfect. It was hard to explain, but I loved his flaws, even if he didn’t.

    So I stopped him in the middle of his stammering and told him that I loved him too. He seemed shocked that I could say such a thing. I didn’t know it, but he had seen me as the same perfect-but-human being I had seen him as. Flawed and absolutely wonderful.

    I thought I could never tell him. Really, it’s another thing that I admire in him today. He recognized that the truth had to come out eventually, even if he was scared to death of truth coming out. I had wanted to just try to ignore that I had feelings for him, even if it made me explode. He tells me that he wanted to do the same until he was pushed into making a decision.

    Really, I guess one could say that it’s funny that we both felt the same way about one another and both avoided it in the same way. I was never able to tell him. And he was never able to tell me. And yet, we ended up getting out our feelings anyway without being able to breathe a word to the other. Sometimes love simply refuses to let you run away forever.