Jake Perry was my neighbor and constant companion. He was the Scooby doo to my Shaggy, the guitars to my drums, the Batman to my Robin…
Through our childhood, we were inseparable…. there was always an extra bed in place in our homes. We went to the same school, the same basketball practice, the same everywhere…. To his parents I was the daughter they never had; to mine he was the other son, as my older brother was away in boarding school.
But as with all good things, our relationship changed with time. As we became adolescents, Jake discovered girls. Strange it might sound, considering he had spent almost all his living hours with a girl. He realized that girls were a different species, who found him attractive, and fascinated him. Soon his walk changed to a strut, he became obsessed with his looks, and his skills on the court and on the guitar were exercised largely for the benefit of the giggling multitude that were the new fixture in his life.
I, on the other hand, was slower on the uptake. Boys suddenly did not become the centre of my universe. I thought that the huge amount of time the silly girls spent preening and pouting was a complete waste. And I was totally at a loss regarding the importance given to breasts by all my friends, both boys and girls. Perhaps my ignorance was the reason that I “bloomed” pretty late. Needless to say, I did not share Jake’s enthusiasm about the opposite sex or understand it. This however, did not affect our friendship.
Jake soon started asking girls out. Though we still jammed together and met on the court every other day, apart from traveling to and from school together, we saw less and less of each other. Even our phone conversations were short, on account of his “girlfriend’s” many calls. But nothing could change our friendship. Or so we thought.
According to my mother, I “bloomed” a little after my eighteenth birthday. And I first got asked out on a date later that year. I was so shocked at the question that I had said no before I realized it. And that made me the butt of a lot many jokes in school. As always, I was hardly bothered, laughing at myself with the others. Until, Jake made a comment. We were sitting and doing the past week’s post mortem, a weekly ritual for us. And Jake said that he did not understand why someone would ask me out. Before I could really register what he said, his girlfriend called and he left. That night I first realized that Jake had never thought of me as a girl. As I went over our shared memories, it hit me that he had never treated me like a girl. And though I did not quite understand why, I cried myself to sleep.
After that night, knowingly or not, our paths crossed less frequently. I was quite uncomfortable around him. And when school closed for the winter, I was apprehensive, as we had always spent a large part of the holidays together. But that year my brother came home, with a friend from college. And I experienced a new found joy as I started hanging around with my brother’s friend Gary during the holiday season. I sure liked him a lot but was not quite ready to commit.
Towards the end of the vacation, on my birthday, while I was out with Gary, we met up with Jake and his girlfriend. The four of us then watched a movie together, and then went for coffee. At the coffee place, Gary asked me to if I wanted him as my boyfriend. I said no. He knew of my commitment phobia and tried to talk to me, terming it a guy thing. It probably is, but it also plagues me. Gary very maturely understood and did not press the issue. Jake’s girlfriend however lambasted me in public, making outrageous jokes and comments. And that made Jake break up with her. I went home feeling miserable. I had hurt more than one person that day, and it was a horrid feeling. The next day Jake, though quite torn up himself, came to see if I was doing fine. And that is when we realized what we really felt for one another. But both of us were not ready to talk about it, or commit.
As we went back to school for the last semester, things were totally different. We avoided hanging around alone, and we did not go out with anyone. Soon the school was abuzz with stories about the two of us, and a lot of common friends tried to hitch us. But the two of us knew each other better than anyone else and stubbornly refused to take the first step. As we finished with school, and the time to head out to college neared, I had realized that I was fighting a losing battle. I loved Jake. But I could not tell him that. And so I planned to do the only thing I could. Run away. As far from him as possible.
But just before we said our goodbyes, he told me that he loved me. And I still could not say. So I ran away, so far that I thought he couldn’t find me. And he didn’t.