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I never thought a picture could cause me so much pain.

In Senior Projects we are giving presentations, our cumulative projects. A(name withheld) presented, spoke about her childhood, gave smart and sassy advice for freshmen. A major part of her spiel involved her Service Learning Project, which originated with the job she worked over the summer.She worked with the Columbia Estuary Environmental Education Program (CEEEP), along with other local high schoolers. If I had know there would be a picture of the CEEEPers(keepers), I would have looked away.

His face was the only one I saw.

We met in late August, 2006, at the end of the County Fair. Or there we connected, as I first remember meeting him a couple years previous through an acquaintance I made in 4-H. I was quite surprised to learn that he is more than a year younger than me. The five of us- two girls, three guys one of which was my cousin- spent the evening hanging out and being weird. There I learnded he was an atheist and an anarchist, and though I still believed in some form of gods and thought anarchy an impossible dream, I admired the strength of his convictions. I ended the night with his email address written on my arm. We chatted online frequently. Early in October he and his girlfriend broke up. He invited me to spend time with himself , his younger sister, and an ex-girlfriend (not his most recent, who would become a friend of mine) a couple weeks afterwards. It was the day after my pig had escaped and been hit by a car, and both of my parental units were out of town. It was a bright spot in a dark time, a theme which was to continue through our relationship.

Unfortunately, we live a half an hour's drive apart, and each drove another half hour in opposite directions to attend school. The next time we saw each other was shortly before Halloween, when I went with him and his sister to the birthday party of the same girl we had hung out with before. It was a day of silly jokes, cake, and air hockey. It was also one of small awkward moments, and the event that pushed my drive to become a DJ (something I'm still working on) which gave me focus and motivation, something I had been sorely lacking. I also came to terms with the fall of my pagan beliefs through him, when I saw that people could be happy with out any gods. In atheism I found comfort, in socialism, libertarianism, and anarchy I found the root of my politics.

Somewhere in all this he met and then lost another girlfriend.

By the time finals came in December, I was far behind in my course work, struggling to deal with my step-father, and coming to the realization that I didn't just like the boy, I might actually LOVE him. The stress of finals, coupled with my belief that I was too young to fall in love and a previous conversation where through a serious of bizarre word choices and bad reactions to jokes I had all but TOLD him that I liked him and where we had resolved not to pursue it for the sake of our friendship, triggered a major depressive episode.

I was in the college library's computer lab, trying to cram words onto paper, when he logged on. (I carried MSN Messenger's installer on a flash drive so that I could use the program to talk to friends, other students, and my mom) When he asked how I was, I was honest. But I was trying to be honest with him about my problems without telling him how I felt about him, I was shaking and cold, and my type-speech became erratic and confused, echoing my emotional state. And somewhere, out of the blue, out of his side of the internet, came the three little words I was trying so hard not to say to him. "I love you."

I was confused. I was elated. My cynical side questioned his meaning, my romantic's heart fluttered at the words I had already accepted I would never hear from anyone who was not family. I told him how I felt, how I loved him. I said it over and over, smothering him in joy and e-hugs

We saw each other again shortly after. Something like a date, with our friend and her then boyfriend. Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show at someone else's house. Sharing a blanket, the warmth of him leaning against me. That day he bought me a gift, a fine dagger with which to stab my son-of-a-bitch step-father. The car ride home was filled with singing. I could have gone on forever that way, listening to his warm voice, a sound I fell in love with, that I will never forget. When he dropped me off at my home, I wanted to tell him how I loved him, say it with my own voice and not the toneless bytes of an IM. I didn't. I couldn't, I was not brave enough.

We made good use of MSN, sharing thoughts, having serious and silly conversations, talking music, movies, books. When I was down, all I had to do was talk to him to feel better again. And many of our conversations included an exchange of "I love you"s, each of us instigating our fair share. I would not see his face or hear his voice until April.

In January I started seeing a therapist at the advising of my school counselor and was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, a fancy phrase for depression. To him I confessed my confusion regarding the boy I loved, but did not tell him, or anyone else, about the conversation in cold December. To my dear therapist I have told many things, my cutting which ceased after meeting my love, my occasional thoughts of suicide, but also that suicide is an act I can never commit. I avoid the topic of Laszlo and Alistaire because I do not want to seem too crazy. Perhaps I should admit their existence.

I saw him a short while in April while on a trip with new friends I had made. When we parted an feeling of total despair, as if I would never see him again, welled up from the emotional depths I cannot control and overwhelmed me. I spent several hours crying in my hotel room. This was not just tears, I cry frequently. This was wailing, keening, a howl drawn from the depths of my soul, an ancient expression of sorrow and pain. I had not cried like that since the death of someone close to me.

I have not told him about it.

He spent a day in helping me with an errand. We talked and sang along with the radio. He left his book in my possession, though I returned it a week later after reading it and scribbling in the margins. 'For Whom The Bell Tolls', Earnest Hemingway. I will forever associate it with him. Some couple of weeks later he came to see my small part in a local theatre performance. He hung in the green room with me and my best friend/crew member and some cast as we dealt with make-up and costumes before the play started. People who saw us interact came to the conclusion that we were a couple. I had to drive him home afterwards because his car was broken down and he had been dropped off. I wish I had said those three little words while I had the chance.

Only a couple days after that, he became "In a relationship", and not with me. This came as a great surprise to my friends, but seemed to confirm the niggling thought that perhaps he used love the way I occasionally have with good (female) friends of mine, people whom I would never have any romantic interest in. Of course, the voices in my head attempted to tear him to shreds, as my friends also wished to do. I have not said a word of how I feel to him. How can I, as such a conversation takes more strength than I have to spare? And in any case, I would not want to put a shadow over his current relationship by telling him how I hurt. I sincerely hope that he finds someone who makes him happy, and if she might be the one I do not want to jeopardize that. However, I cannot remain totally silent, because talking to him has become an emotional strain. I have a letter prepared. I send it on the morrow.

Though I chat with him and see his pics online, there was something about seeing it on the projection screen, unexpected, that made me relive it all. I spent the rest of the day in a black and blue mood, crying whenever I wasn't drowning the pain in music.

If everything in my life didn't remind me of him, maybe I could just go on living. But I think of him a million times a day. A snippet of song can reduce me to tears. Many of the things that once brought me joy because of their association with him are now like a hundred arrows in my breast. And yet I still insist upon constantly wearing the coffin charm I bought on that first trip with him. I love him, and I cannot avoid it. I miss him.

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