Michael stood in the last row on the very end in my kindergarten class picture with the biggest teddy bear. He had chocolate brown eyes, black hair that never seemed to be in place with his cow’s lick and a proverbial runny nose courtesy of his all season allergies.
He was this paradox in my life from the time I was five until I was 24 years old. He was a constant in my life. Being with Michael was always fun, especially on P.D. days. I learned how gross boys could be, but I chalked it up to boys just being weird, always dirty and entertaining. He didn’t like it when I was sick, and he would attempt to kiss me when I was feeling better. Even though I would pretend indifference as he attempted to kiss me when I felt better. I would never admit it ,but I liked that he missed me. I could just look at him, and that would send me into fits of laughter
In high school, we kept in touch mostly by calling each other once a week, and I think I believed everything would stay the same. But it was then that I saw changes taking place in him. Nothing concrete, but like bread crumbs being laid down, I saw, heard and sensed the confusion that slowly developed in him.
The entire time I was friends with Michael, I wanted him to notice me, but I was always in conflict with myself because I didn’t know where I stood with him. I had this bad habit of mixing his name up with my Dad’s name, and I would call my Dad; Michael. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know I was looking at Michael for what I really needed from my Dad. I knew psychology would probably explain why I kept mixing the names up. Communicating well was not in my vocabulary at this time. I kept everything locked up tight inside my head. I was quiet, shy and very observant but Michael was able to see beyond that. He would always remember me.
It wasn’t until he moved away for University that I began seeing a side of him emerge that I had never met before. He had purposely chosen a program that would take him away from home. The home was not the oasis that most would assume about his family. His parents were both teachers, and while it made for great appearance sake, things were fraying at the edges in his family.
I remember one year when Michael had come home a few days before Christmas, and of course, he hadn’t even started his Christmas shopping. It was probably my only chance to really spend time with him. One such year, I remember as he met up with some friends and he started talking to them. It was like he pretended that he didn’t know I was standing right beside him. I had started becoming invisible to him. On reflection, I realize it had been happening longer than I wanted to admit to. I had him on such a high pedestal, I could only see his good side. There were some other situations that showed me that we weren’t little anymore. I began to doubt his loyalty and friendship to me. I even wrote him a letter at one point, about our friendship, and his solution a bouquet of a dozen red roses. At some point, I started hearing a silent voice, and I believe it was God, who spoke. “Michael is not the marrying kind.” I ignored this, but it was the truth.
Around the time of my initial conversion to Christ(1999) when it seems like God simply picked me up, and everything that I was avoiding and had suppressed was unearthed from me. For me, that meant acknowledging my feelings. Every single one I hid from because they scared the crap out of me. It was around this time that I noticed that Michael had this friend that didn’t seem like the kind of friend Michael would normally hang with. Michael always had to work hard for his grades in school, and was in no way a nerd, but this ‘friend’ was very much a nerd. These bread crumbs that I saw while he was in high school had never disappeared. He never stopped trying to tell me what he feared I think the most, at the time, was his sexuality.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances but I remember the age that we were when I last saw him; he was 24 years old, and I was 23. He was four months older than me. My mom had heard the news on the radio, and a neighbour confirmed hearing his name as well. Michael had been charged with sexual assault of two young boys. I wish I could remember exactly what he wearing and looking the last time I saw him but I don’t. In fact, I don’t have a single picture of him as an adult, and I don’t think that’s an accident. I don’t remember my thoughts, but in the weeks and months ahead I experienced so much anger towards him. He had stopped being that person I thought I knew.
I don’t know where my decision to break off contact with him came from, but I knew couldn’t deal with his stuff and my stuff at the same time. I did what I thought was healthy at the time. I told him I couldn’t be his friend anymore. I wrote him a letter. He never tried to contact me, he respected my wishes. The innocence of our friendship had faded a long time ago, but I had just assumed I would be his friend in some way for the rest of our lives. But he has never left my heart.
I always believed my heart was burning for him. I wanted a friend who would always be with me, always listen, always want and love me, but it wasn’t Michael; he was badly chipped. I wanted him to be what I needed, and if only he would truly ‘see’ me everything would be better. I pinned all of the solutions to my problems to Michael noticing me. It took a long time before I realized he was just a boy, who just wanted to be loved and accepted by those around him. Yes, he’s an adult now, but there are parts of us that never truly grow up, and stand tall to be that man or woman that we were created to be.
Published previously in 2014