22 years of regrets about my love for Mark, for which I’ll always be grateful

When I moved to my parents’ suburban home as a freshman in high school, the “13 years of freedom” included a white picket fence and around the corner from us lived someone named Mark….

22 years of regrets about my love for Mark, for which I’ll always be grateful

When I moved to my parents’ suburban home as a freshman in high school, the “13 years of freedom” included a white picket fence and around the corner from us lived someone named Mark. And someone else. And a third. And yet another.

I hadn’t met any of them, I’m sure, but as a one-of-a-kind freshman, I knew they were around. When they knocked on the door, I knew it would mean I had to answer.

“I’m here,” one of them said.

“Well, what’s your name?” I said. “And where do you live?”

He gave me a conspiratorial smile. “Come in,” he said, then walked back outside and down the sidewalk toward the parking lot, which was surrounded by just two cars, a Yamaha and a Maserati. “You won’t have to walk,” he said.

There was something unique about this trio, and I didn’t really know why. By high school graduation, Mark had graduated from college, leaving me to bask in the communal well-being from our “13 years of freedom.” When we’d planned to go to college on the same day, Mark and the others convinced me to join them the following day, luring me with scotch and skateboarding and skateboarding. I hung out with the gang all summer, and there was no place I’d rather be. I made new friends and had fun, but when college came, it was still just a dream.

It wasn’t until college, years later, that I realized I’d been in love with Mark. He drove his personal car and only lived a half-mile away. My group of friends had moved together and had formed a pretty tight bond, but so had I, the daughter of the garbage men. My bike and I rode most days past Mark’s house. Two nights in a row, at the beginning of the summer, I took the bike, crossed the street to go into his house, and locked it to the garage door. On the way back, I crossed the street to go out back to the garage.

I stopped to use the toilet and then climbed out of the truck. When I looked up, I saw Mark with his hands on his hips. He was staring at me in a way that I had never seen him stare at anyone else in his life.

As I stepped away from the truck, I was overcome with emotion.

“I love you,” I said, shaking.

He never acknowledged me.

I was dumbfounded. This was the first time I’d seen him like this. The first time I’d seen him as my love. For him to smile at me as he’d done moments before was a shock I could never fully fathom. I was twenty years old, about to go to college. I was so consumed with the question of whether or not I would see Mark again that I simply put my hands over my mouth, caught my breath, and wondered where it all had gone wrong.

When my college boyfriend and I broke up a year later, it felt like he was a stranger. It was like he was the last person I’d ever love and the last person I’d ever get to say goodbye to. Yet, as we learned in a single night, we were still the same people we’d always been. Our hearts were still as sad and open as ever. We weren’t nearly so young as we’d thought, and the lessons I learned from Mark had helped shaped me into the person I am now.

I hope Mark knows that, even when he stops looking, even when he goes outside, that he’s still there. That even though he moved out, he is still a part of my life.

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