I hadn’t thought about Harley in several years. But when I saw his picture on Tinder my heart skipped a beat. Automatically I swiped right! I couldn’t believe it! We were the bestest of friends in high school. Used to hang out every afternoon after classes. He would skateboard and I would try now and then but could never keep my balance. We shared CDs and exposed each other to new bands regularly. He was there when I got a new crush to gush about and was there every time they broke my heart. He was always on my side when things went south with the other girls in our group. Often it would be just him and I walking around, hanging at the park.
I guess it was grade 12 where we stopped talking. I was growing out of the punk scene, worked two part time jobs, took care of my mom and had a steady older boyfriend. He ended up going to school for music management and I went to university for Sociology cities apart. I don’t even think we had seen each other since graduation, 10 years ago.
I didn’t download Tinder on my own. The girls from work did it. Said I needed to get out there, that it had been a year since my split with Riley and it was time I got back into dating someone. There had been the odd girl stay the night after shows, but they were never anything more than a hookup to me, satisfying a biological need. The girls from work set up my profile and everything. They giggled and awed over the girls as they swiped. I didn’t understand it. The idea that my next girlfriend, potential wife, would be on this app was foreign to me. I couldn’t see myself with anyone who sought out love like that.
Riley and I met after one of my band’s shows one night. I spotted her because she was wearing an old The Used t-shirt, one with their symbolic heart artwork on it. It reminded me of the days where I’d sit and share my headphones on the curb with my high school best friend. Not paying much attention to the people walking by nor the cigarette butts recently stomped out beneath our feet. Reminded me of days where I knew who I was and where I was going, life was just about the music and how it streamed out of my fingers from my heart.
Riley was the love of my life. Until the day I came home and her side of the closet was empty.
So I wasn’t taking Tinder seriously. I don’t even have the notifications turned on. But this morning, with a freshly brewed coffee in hand, the sun flooding my apartment floors with warmth, I decided to check it. Amongst the new messages there was a picture and name familiar to me. A smile drew across my face and just like Riley’s t-shirt in the bar that night three years ago, I was brought back to those days of high school with my best friend, Ollie.
After swiping right on Harley, I was overwhelmed with joy as the notification popped up saying we were a match! I didn’t even think twice about it, I sent him a message, “IT’S A KITTY!” it read, with a kitty emoticon for emphasis. It was an old joke between us; I thought it was witty and cute. He’d laugh that’s for sure. But when days past and he didn’t message back, I was lost and confused. “Perhaps he didn’t have the app anymore” my friends assured me. I know it was silly, but something about seeing his face again on my iPhone stirred up some feelings that settled a decade ago. My hopelessly romantic mind imagined scenarios of us getting together confessing our hidden love for each other. I dreamt of us exploring the world, seeing concerts of new bands we both have discovered.
It was two weeks of checking the app and being disappointed on a regular basis before I continued on to swipe right and left on the guys on there. Eventually I went on a date with one. But I couldn’t get Harley out of my head.
I laughed at her message; she always knew how to make me laugh. It was an inside joke from the first time I got her drunk. Screwdrivers we drank that night, she had passed out on the couch, I sat with her to make sure she was alright throughout the night, and when my cat joined us she woke up and shouted “IT’S A KITTY”, she went straight back to sleep. It was the moment I think I fell in love with her. I never had the courage to tell her how I felt in high school. She always had a boyfriend, usually someone who was older than us and I never felt manly enough for her. So I settled for being her best friend.
I looked at the date she had sent the message, three weeks ago. I felt awful and wrote back explaining I didn’t use the app much and hope she was well. I didn’t mention anything about the butterflies that developed in my stomach. Butterflies that I had thought perhaps had broken their wings since Riley left me. But leave it to Ollie to bring them back their flight.
When I checked my phone on break, I couldn’t believe it! A Tinder notification from Harley! Harley wasn’t a popular name so it had to be him! I could hear his monotone, emotionless voice as I read the message. He was always so formal. I used to tease him that I was his ying to his yang, I brought the sparkle to his dark allure. I quickly responded to his message, poking fun that he was never the type to be cool enough to check a modern dating app even if it was his BFFFF (best fucking friend for fucking forever).
I read through the other messages on the app, most of the women my employees at work swiped right on were all beautiful smart women, but when Ollie (Olivia she went by on the app) responded no more than 5 minutes after my message, I lost what little interest I had in every woman on that app. We quickly caught up and exchanged phone numbers. We texted back and forth, relived tales of high school adventures and a few stories of our more recent histories. Filling in the years we missed out on each other.
After 2 days of messaging, I knew nothing had changed. She was still my Ollie and I decided to make a risky move. I stopped messaging her back.
In typical me fashion, I got waaaay too excited, waaaaay too fast, Harley stopped texting me after a couple days. And I thought, well maybe he’s busy, or maybe he’s decided I’m not as cool as I was back then and he wanted nothing to do with me. Or maybe he met someone off Tinder and was with her now. I crashed down hard from my cloud nine high. My friends thought nothing of it, they have seen this side of me before and brushed it off knowing in a week I would be talking to someone else. But that didn’t happen. I sent him a message after a couple days of silence, being all cool and calm, made some comment about how I actually drink coffee now (I hated the stuff in high school but he drank it everyday). He didn’t reply. I was crushed.
I saw her message about coffee; about damn time she started drinking something that wasn’t full of sugar. Although I imagined she drank it with at least three sugar packets in it. I resisted the urge to reply, I knew she was likely getting mad at me, but I also knew Ollie and she loved surprises. She was probably one of the only true romantics I knew, and if I was going to get this right, I had to set up the biggest grand gesture to win her over.
I started by messaging her sister on Facebook to get Ollie’s current mailing address and began writing the letters. The first letter I wrote apologized for not replying to her texts, and insisted that she for once relax and let someone else talk, I asked her not to reply to anything until she had received a letter for each year we hadn’t spoken, 10 in total. I explained that I had kept the letters she wrote me in high school, folded in all sorts of different shapes, and it was time I replied. Some letters were long, some were short but each told a story of how I had feelings for her in high school, how I would put myself through torture listening to some of her favourite bands just so I could feel her arm rest against mine as we shared headphones. In another letter I wrote about how she stole my favourite sweater and I wasn’t happy about it, but I let her because she looked so damn perfect in it.
When I got his first letter I was floored. My mom always told me Harley had a crush on me in school, but he never made a move and he always seemed happy when I met someone after my break ups. No one sent hand written letters anymore and I was just over the moon excited to read it! But when I read that he was writing a letter for each year we didn’t speak, I became speechless myself. I hung on to his every word, soaking it in like dry lawns in August during thunderstorms; desperate to feel alive again.
The letters came over a period of three weeks. I fell more and more in love with his soul over those weeks. I didn’t even know who he was anymore, but I knew I could be with him and never feel scared or unloved. People at work looked at me and asked, “What’s going on with you?”. They said I had a glow they’ve never seen before, that I floated around the office. I somehow managed to not tell anyone, except my sister of course who gave him my address. I even managed to not contact him back. I listened and awaited each letter patiently. He challenged me.
The 9th letter came on a Wednesday. It was a letter about his parents divorce. They had a rough divorce in high school. They argued every day in front of Harley, his dad found his mom in bed with another man and they attempted to work it out. He spent a lot of nights at my house. His letter mentioned his last girlfriend and how she left him. He didn’t explain much, just that he related to his father’s desire to fix their broken marriage as a result of her leaving him.
Riley took many pieces of me the day she left. The excitement of reconnecting with Ollie began to revive those dead spaces in my heart. I became hopeful for a life filled with love and adventures. Things seemed easier knowing that I could hold my best friends hand again when times were rough. I focused on this thought as I write my last letter for Ollie.
I had it all planned out, I was going to surprise her at a concert she and her sister were attending. I knew the opening band, a local group who I have jammed with in the past. They agreed to let me play one of the songs with them on stage and at the end of the song I would seek out Olivia in the audience to deliver her last letter.
Nerves were not something I often felt, but as I practiced their song, I was determined to not let these nerves get the best of me.
It has been almost a week since the 9th letter from Harley came in the mail. I anxiously awaited the final letter’s arrival. I felt like no time had passed since we last spoke. I felt like I knew him, every inch of him as I read his letters. I reread them in my head, his words burned into my mind, as my sister drove us to our concert. It was funny, the concert was at a music venue Harley and I used to frequent in high school.
The opening band was a local band, they were an up and coming I wanted to scope out. During their set they had a guest guitarist come on stage, a friend of theirs. It took me a moment due to the stage lighting, but it was Harley! I couldn’t believe it! My heart jumped my mind spun as I tried to think about how I could connect with him after the show. I barely even listened to the lyrics, my ears tuned into Harley’s rhythm. I felt connected to him as he played, having read all of his feelings in his letters, his music felt alive to me. I was astonished when he spoke at the end of the song. I melted hearing his voice, it was a little raspier than it was in high school, and he had a small beard growing. But he was the same Harley I remembered. My mouth dropped wide when he said my name and all the spot lights switched to the audience.
He was looking for me.
I stood still, unable to process the events that were taking place.
He jumped off the stage and the audience made room for him to walk across to me. As he walked he pulled a folded piece of paper from his jean pockets.
He smiled the whole time he walked towards me. I couldn’t feel a thing.
When he was in front of me, he handed me the letter. On the front of the paper it had the number 10 written in thick black ink. I didn’t say a word, and opened the letter. It read,
“Ollie, my sweet sensitive Ollie.
I have loved you quietly from afar. And my love for you has survived the test of time.
Will you let me love you closer, louder and for even longer?
I watched her face as she read the note. She never was good at hiding her emotions; I could tell she was going to say yes! And within milliseconds of reading my letter her arms were around my neck and my lips found hers. A kiss I had waited decades for.