In the summer of 2003, I completed my freshman orientation for Baylor University. Whilst scheduling my classes, finalizing living arrangements and learning the university history, I also had to make friends. I enthusiastically sprinted to the volleyball courts as soon as we were released for “free time” and made it a point to introduce myself to everyone as “the girl who’s played volleyball since she was 11.” Yeah, ok. I know that acting like a hot shot is not the best way to make friends, but the likelihood of my ever seeing much less remembering those people at school was slim. Baylor isn’t an incredibly large university, but it’s not THAT small. Besides, the ones talking smack back were most likely going to be those that I got along best with anyway.
And sure enough, there was a kinda cute, kinda sassy, super athletic guy on the other side of the net bound and determined to beat us. We bantered back and forth and somehow wound up on the same side of the net, totally dominating the other team. By the end of the day, we had bonded rather well and discovered that we both lived in the Houston area. We exchanged info and agreed that we’d hang out over the summer so that we would be great friends by the time school started. We hung out quite a bit, played volleyball, went to movies and I eventually really started to fall for him. He instantly became one of my best friends; we pretty much did everything together. We agreed to make time to hang out with each other once school started, to attend sporting and other events together. We even agreed to go to Freshman Formal together. Silly me… I, honestly, hoped that we’d maybe even enter college as a couple. He was super respectful, chivalrous and above all- took the time to get to know me. I was totally, irrevocably smitten with him. I… just couldn’t tell him.
Once school started, we had chapel and maybe a business class together but were so busy that we hardly saw one another. We tried to make time on the weekends to do late night Whataburger dates or to see a movie, something just to escape the insanity of our studies. Over that first semester, we didn’t exactly grow apart, but we didn’t grow much closer either. I had finally come to terms with the fact that he simply didn’t see me as anything more than a friend. I did not want to risk ruining our incredible friendship by revealing how I really felt, so I enjoyed what ever time I could spend with him and did my best to hold up my end of the friendship. I wound up struggling through that semester due to some extenuating circumstances and decided that I wasn’t really Baylor material after finals. I withdrew and moved all of my belongings back home, but spent the whole Christmas vacation with Ryan and his family… by then, his family had become my surrogate family. We exchanged gifts and talked about how sucky it was that I wouldn’t be going back in the Spring and how he wished that he wasn’t going back because he hated it just as much as me.
When school resumed that Spring, I found myself incredibly lonesome and would wait for him to hop online so I could talk to him… or we’d text. Whatever. As long as I had communication with him, I felt better. I hated the distance; I hated being apart. Mostly, I hated that I never told him how I felt. I knew that it wouldn’t make the situation any better, but I finally couldn’t take it anymore. One night while we were on the phone, I told him that I had something really important that I needed to say. Coincidentally, he said that he had something really important he needed to tell me too. I was almost giddy at the possibility that he was going to tell me exactly what I intended to tell him… so I urged him to go first. He insisted that I start, so I took a deep breath, harnessed my courage and said “I think that I am in love with you.” He was silent on the other end. I didn’t know if to say that I was sorry; I thought perhaps I should include, “please don’t let this affect our friendship.” Until, I heard him sort of softly sigh and then say…
“Shel, I think I might possibly… be gay.” “what? gay???”
I started crying. Bawling like a freaking baby.
I was not sure of what else to do. I mean, I’d just confessed my love… to my best friend in the whole wide world. That I thought I knew forwards and backwards. Whom I believed was just incredibly respectful, and, at best, just not into me as more than a friend. I had absolutely NO idea that he could be… gay. I was stunned. I was in love with, completely, uncontrollably IN.LOVE. with a guy who definitely loved me, but could never EVER, EVER be IN love with me in return. I was at least grateful for his honesty and he still is to this day one of my best friends in the whole world. I would do anything for him and I trust that he would for me. I still am very much in love with him (in a very different, realistic way of course) and consider him to be my brother. Of course, I learned a very valuable lesson from my experience with him:
On that day, I swore that I would never profess my love to anyone ever again without knowing full well that they were very much in love with me FIRST.