His name was Jeremy.
My parents had just dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a small town in Ohio. I was 16 and I didn't want to switch schools.
I refused to make friends. I sat in my new high school cafeteria, scowling at everyone who dared to make eye contact.
Frustrated, my parents forced me to audition for a community theater production.
I was Princess Jasmine. He was the genie.
I was sitting backstage when he appeared. I had noticed him the day before--a handsome Italian boy my own age, with dark brown curls, tan skin, and a boyish grin.
"Can I borrow a pencil?" he asked, sitting next to me.
I handed him a pencil wordlessly, glaring at him for bothering me. I still hated everyone in my new town.
"They're playing our song right now," he said casually, making notes on his script.
In the background, the sound speaker was softly playing "I Knew I Loved You" by Savage Garden.
I stared at him, dumbfounded.
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "You don't even know me."
"You're right," he said, looking up thoughtfully. "We should get to know each other better. Especially now that we have a song."
I shook my head in amazement.
"You're crazy," was all I could muster.
"I know, isn't it great?" he shot back, with a big smile and a wink, before tossing the pencil back in my lap and walking away.
For the next week, Jeremy followed me around, acting like we'd known each other our whole lives. I got used to him. I couldn't help laugh at his jokes. And when we figured out he lived in the neighborhood next to mine, he started giving me rides to play rehearsal in his shiny black BMW.
He quickly became my best friend. We spent every weekend together, riding around town in his car. Hikes at the state park. Drive-in movies. Mini golf. Sometimes we would even just park somewhere random, talking and laughing for hours.
I drank up every detail about him. Despite his effortless charm and outgoing personality, Jeremy was quietly unhappy. His dad owned a software company, which took him to Europe or Asia for months at a time. His mom was never home and would sometimes disappear for weeks, without even saying goodbye. And although he would never admit it, I knew Jeremy hated being alone in that big house.
I didn't make many friends at my new high school. All I could think about was him. Jeremy attended a Catholic school across town. The only frustration to our relationship was those large chunks during the week when I couldn't see him. I found myself impatiently going through the motions of school, waiting for the final bell to ring. I knew he felt the same way because as soon as I would pull into my driveway, he would already be sitting on my front steps jokingly shouting, "what took you so long?"
One Saturday afternoon we were laughing hysterically on the couch in his living room, smearing his leftover birthday cake on each other's faces after some silly argument, when he suddenly grew serious.
"I love you, Jen," he told me, staring in my frosting-framed eyes.
My heart soared.
The summer after our high school graduation, I helped Jeremy pack up his boxes. He was heading to Stanford. I was heading to Missouri for journalism school.
We numbly agreed to end things between us. A long-distance relationship didn't make sense. Our lives were about to drastically change and we knew it. We were already a part of each other's pasts before our futures had even begun.
Of course, I couldn't just get over him. Nothing is that clean.
I drifted unhappily through my first semester of college, putting my efforts into studying and ignoring social opportunities. One afternoon, I stared in my bedroom mirror, in a daze, watching my reflection cut my long brown hair off with scissors. I gazed nonchalantly as each lock dropped to the ground.
Chop chop. Snip snip. Bye bye.
But my depression slowly evaporated and I found myself getting caught up in the excitement of university life.
During my junior year of college, I fell madly in love with the half-Egyptian sports editor of my college newspaper.
Six months into our relationship, I was sitting on his lap in front of my desktop, checking my brand new Facebook account. It was 2005 and I was mesmerized that I was able to reconnect with all my old high school friends with the click of a button.
I came across Jeremy. He was no longer at Stanford. He had transferred to NYU.
And there before my eyes was a status update that turned my world upside down.
My eyes blurred with tears. I couldn't even finish reading the comments of support from his friends. He said he had been confused for a long time and as a devout Catholic, it took him years to even come to terms with the realization.
My boyfriend swiveled me around on his lap, noticing the tears in my eyes.
"What's wrong, honey?" he asked, worried. "Who's this Jeremy?
Nobody, I told him, just some guy I used to know.
It was a painful realization to face.
The one that got away had never even been mine.