I can't remember the first time I saw you. Perhaps it was on the playground in second grade, perhaps running around kicking a ball with all of your friends--I'm not really sure. You were just always there. I can remember the first time you spoke to me, however. You were playing catch with your friends, like always, and you accidentally hit me with the baseball. And your face was red as you apologized. The next day you sat beside me at lunch, even though your friends made fun of you at recess. But pretty soon you and I were best friends, and I was accepted as part of your pals. Things sped up quickly--I really don't know how it all happened that fast. But we were still in high school when the U.S. entered the war. And you insisted you had to help, to enlist. I argued, tried to persuade you against it, but no, you wouldn't listen. If only you had...
And I can still recall that day––that bitter day with the cold sun shining through the clouds, dead grass crunching underneath my feet. And you just grabbed both my hands with your own, and blurted out the question, going very quickly for fear I would say no. And when I did say yes, your ears got red and you breathed a sigh of relief, seeming to forget I was standing there for a moment. Then you gave me the engagement ring: a single band of cheap metal, saying that later, when you came home from fighting, you would be able to afford better. And then we could get married and buy a house somewhere and settle down--you promised me, you promised. And then you kissed me, pulling away rather quickly and coughing, but very pleased with yourself that you had had the courage.
I begged you not to go--not till we could graduate high school and get married. But no. You enlisted, lying about your age, and at seventeen went to war--a flyboy, a pilot. You would make me proud, you said. I would be proud to be your girl, and later, your wife. And I was, really, I was. Until I got the telegram...that accursed telegram. You were wounded, but I was thankful. I thanked God you were alive. And then they sent you home to a hospital with a severe head injury, warning me that you could suffer from amnesia. I visited you every day, praying that you would live. And you did, you did live! But you had no idea who I was, where I had come from, or what I had meant to you... And never did remember, ever. You had promised me that we would have a life together, but you broke that promise. You broke it. And you'll never know how much I loved you. You love someone else now. She has the life I always thought of as mine--still think of as mine. It should have been mine.
And do you know that I still have that old ring you gave me? I still keep it on my finger, reminding myself of that boy with floppy ears and unkempt hair who was so shy and awkward around girls. And who swung me around in his arms till we both got dizzy and fell down. That boy went off to war...and never came back. That boy is not you. You are not yourself anymore.
And for some crazy notion, I almost wish you would read this--but that is impossible. You will never love me again, never look at me the same way. And I'm still crying inside, but it's time to move on. And so I will, with everything I can muster.
But if it makes any difference, I still love you...and always will. You just don't love me back.