As Kevin drove me back to my grandma’s place that night in 1998, he squeezed my hand and said, “I wish you could be the one.” Fortunately, upon hearing this romantic confession, I had the restraint not to blurt out anything blunt or negative, such as “that’s not an option!” In fact, I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut and just squeeze his hand back. I’d been thinking often that I’d love to spend the rest of my life with him. I didn’t want to go back in my protective shell, always hiding my thoughts and feelings from people. In some ways, I already knew I wouldn’t put up all the barriers I’d taken down to let in the friend who had come to live with us, nor the ones I’d disassembled in order to grow closer to Kevin. Going back to that sort of isolated existence would be too lonely.
Even so, I didn’t feel as comfortable talking with other people. Frequently, I was discouraged from sharing because people didn’t listen very well. Other times it was because I had it ingrained in my brain that what happened in our family should be kept secret. For a while, I’d convinced myself others not only wouldn’t understand or care enough to learn about the real me, but also that they’d judge my family and me if I were completely open and honest with them.
There were so many reasons why I didn’t want what had been one of the best weeks of my life to come to an end. I’ve always hated not knowing what would happen next, many times, because in the past, major decisions were made without my input, and I had to deal with the consequences. I wanted to hold on to the memories, the closeness I’d felt to someone else, and the abundance of laughter and silliness we shared. Kevin had said he’d never been good about writing letters, and I knew my mom wasn’t okay with us spending hours and hours talking on the phone. I hoped something would change so we wouldn’t lose touch.