It’s fascinating how people you’ve known for so long suddenly change, as if they’ve become a complete stranger…

I grew up with my friend “Mike” and although he lived relatively far away, we still found a way to convince each other’s parents to drive one of us to the other’s house every week (everyday during summer vacation). I loved hanging out with “Mike,” so much that, on occasion, I requested my mom assign me extra math problems just so he could stay a little longer at my house. Only problem was he hung out with me because I was a good friend and he enjoyed my company, I hung out with him because I had the biggest crush on him. I know, adolescent, naïve love, how lame… but I thought it was the cutest thing at the time. No one knew I liked him, and to keep it that way, I tried every possible maneuver to show everyone that I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested, including wearing gloves so his “cooties” wouldn’t get all over me when our friends dared him to slow dance with me. Yeah, real mature I was…

Then came my 10th birthday party, we were at a restaurant and it was time to open the presents. And again, to disprove any accusation that I liked him, I chose to open “Mike’s” present last and when I finally did, I was shocked. There, in a nicely wrapped jewelry box was a 24K Gold necklace with a small locket in the shape of a heart; but before I could say a thank-you, “Mike” fires out, “My mom made me buy it.” From that day on, I wore that necklace everywhere and with everything; even if my outfit didn’t match the necklace, I’d wear it. Then the most horrible thing in 5th grade occurred, I was playing around with some of my classmates and I broke the chain. I remember it falling to the ground and almost cried, tried everything in a sad attempt to reconnect one link to the other. Apparently, it didn’t work.

I guess it all went downhill from there: my family moved to Houston the summer of 6th grade and “Mike” was sent to some prestigious private school. I drove 4.5 hours to go visit him some time later at his basketball competition and he blew me off like he’d never seen me before. After that, I lost complete interest in him.

Was talking to a friend of ours awhile ago:

Me: ‘You know, I never told you but I used to like “Mike” when we were younger.’
Friend: “What?!”
Me: ‘I don’t know, it was kinda like an on-and-off light switch, one moment I’d like him and the next I wouldn’t.’
Friend: “Well, if you would have told me earlier, I would’ve pulled that damn switch out of the freakin’ wall.”
Me: ‘Don’t forget you liked him too…’
Friend: “Yeah… but it wasn’t as annoying as on-and-off. I liked him once, and that was it.”

I went to go visit his family 2 years ago and it turns out, I no longer know this guy. His parents begged me to talk some sense into their son who was now hanging out with druggies and going out drinking and driving every night. Every day he’d have an argument with his parents about his lack of direction in life; he’d storm out of the house in rage and not return till 4am in the morning with alcohol on his breath and with the scent of cigarettes on his clothes; he’d enter through the back door and attempt to sneak quietly upstairs but only to be confronted by his mother who had been waiting for him to get home all night; and he’d win the argument again with his over-used response, “Hey, at least I’m not smoking pot.”

This hansom-looking and intelligent guy with whom I used to always arm-wrestle and win against, who was once a head shorter than me but now towers 8 inches over me, and who has known me for the past 13 years saw me cry for the first time. He turned into a jerk and I was disappointed, disappointed that he let himself metamorphose into this monster just to “fit in.”

I haven’t talked to him since, but I still consider him a good friend, or the childhood crush that got away. Needless to say, a relationship never fabricated, but that’s ok… because I realize that it would have never worked out. Last time I asked, he managed to pull his grades up and got into the same university, still parties like no other, never attends his classes, steals items from home to sell on eBay to pay for booze, and well, I won’t degrade his dignity any further.

(Originally Posted 10/29/05)