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Unfortunately, this is pretty much a direct quote from the first time a boy told me that he loved me. Did he really love me? I don’t know. Did I love him in return? Nope. I (eventually) said I loved him, too, because that was the polite thing to say, the automatic thing to say, and for a while I even convinced myself it was true, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t.

So, how did I get here, standing in the gymnasium on a payphone at the summer program, listening to the familiar squeak of sneakers on the hardwoodm trying to pretend like I didn’t just hear this boy say he loved me? It was all BlackPlanet’s fault, really. Blackplanet and boarding school had coalesced in causing this.

I’d met B-Boy on BlackPlanet. He lived in a city about a half hour away, but I never met him face to face. I was a junior in high school with a phone in my room for the first time and a roommate who didn’t seem to need sleep. I talked to B-Boy on BP for quite a while before I exchanged numbers with him. It took far longer before I gave him my home phone number so I could talk to him at the weekends and in the summer. He was a year older than me and seemed to be both smart enough and focused enough for me to give the time of day.

To be honest, those were some of the best conversations of my young life. We talked about everything. He was, without question, one of the best male friends I ever had. As someone who didn’t date, I mistook that for a romantic relationship (in the interest of full disclosure, that happened to me a LOT in my teens, up to 21–finally grew out of that). While it was true I enjoyed hearing from him and felt I could talk to him about just about anything, I hadn’t met him. I’d seen pictures of him, and I wasn’t that physically attracted to him. I figured that didn’t matter because we got along so well, had so much and common, and communicated so well, and then came the awkward I love you moment.

We had been talking on the phone, and it was time for me to go (aka, I had run out of quarters), so I told him I would talk to him later. “Alright. I love you.” “What?” “I said I love you.” “Oh. I love you, too. Talk to you later.”

I put the phone down thoughtfully. Did I? What was love? What did it feel like? Had it snuck up on me through the last nine months of getting to know this person? Was I being influenced by the fact that he’d said it first, or by the long-term relationships of two of my closest friends (who, by the way, are both still with their then boyfriends–one married and one recently had a little boy)? After some pondering, love got the cautious upperhand.

It turned out all of my pondering was in vain. I heard from B-Boy only once more after that. I guess he could feel my uncertainty through the phone. We lost touch after that, until one day when I was a freshman in college, he called my phone… but that’s a story for another post.