I regret very few things in my life—one of those being the only relationship I’ve ever been in. I don’t regret the person or how the relationship ended, but more so how it came about; I’d been involved with another man before, which had ended with me feeling used and thrown aside. I wouldn’t say that this relationship made me feel the same, but it did end with this guy—we’ll call him Mark—going back to his ex, who’s a woman. This was a gay love story doomed to fail from the beginning.
I come from a pretty small town in the Northeast, and the town I come from is pretty conservative. Mark and I didn't know each other until our senior year of high school. He was a popular jock. People obsessed over him, and everyone always wanted to get with him at parties. But for the majority of high school, he was in an on-and-off relationship with this girl.
My story with Mark began in the fall of my senior year. When I heard I was going to be sitting next to Mark in science class, I lost my mind. Just a month before, I’d finally come out to my family and friends—and developed a straight-boy crush on Mark, whom I had assumed to be straight. We had a great time in that class. Mark isn't the brightest, but I could tell that deep down, he could do well if he applied himself. We grew close, and he told me that a school was looking to recruit him. His grade in this class was absolute trash, though, and Mark knew he’d have to get himself together and improve his grade. That's when he reached out to me. I started by going over to his house and teaching him the material we’d learned in class and even hosting study sessions for him the night before tests. His grade improved, and somehow we got closer. I expected him to drop me at this point, but to my surprise, he started hanging out with me and inviting me to parties.
Then the month of graduation hit, and I began to hear some whispers from my friends. A lot of my friends were close with Mark, and they’d always thought he was bi or gay. They started coming to me and asking what my gaydar was saying about him. I’d never really gotten a feeling about anything from Mark, so I didn’t push anything. But one day, Mark’s close friend told me that Mark always talked about me to his friends and during practice. This seemed random to me—especially considering I’d never talked about Mark to any of my friends. Then, the day before graduation, one of my friends threw a rager. By 11 PM, everyone was drunk as hell and I was soberly cleaning up puke. Nobody knew where Mark had gone, and I panicked. I ended up finding him in a river nearby, tripping and struggling to walk back to shore. I helped him onto the grass and called him an idiot—and that’s when he said something I never expected him to say. "I wanna kiss you so badly right now." My heart stopped. I looked up into his eyes and saw him lean in. But before anything could happen, I put my hand up to his face and said no. Mark was too drunk to be thinking straight, and I knew that if I kissed him in that moment, it would’ve been predatory.
After we graduated, I got involved with someone else—let's call him Jack. Throughout high school, Jack had been openly bi. When I got involved with Jack, things were simple because his family knew and he was seemingly secure in his identity. We were purely physical, and I ended up losing my virginity to him. I was the first guy Jack had been with, and about three weeks into our relationship, he called me and told me we should end things because now that he’d been with a guy, he knew he preferred girls. I was hurt—it felt like I’d been a test subject. But my grief was short-lived. Mark hadn’t talked to me since the party, but suddenly he messaged me and invited me to go to hot yoga. I wouldn’t realize until later that this was our first date. When the class started and Mark's shirt came off, I realized just how physically attracted I was to Mark. While we were walking back to our cars, he stopped and turned to me. I looked down into his eyes when he again said the words: "I could kiss you right now." I paused. What was I supposed to say? Did I want him to kiss me? Was he joking? This had to have been a joke. Before I could even say anything, he leaned in and kissed me. Time seemed to stop. Eventually our lips separated, and I stared blankly into his eyes. We were standing in broad daylight, and Mark had just kissed me. Mark, whom everyone knew as a straight alpha male. From there our relationship quickly escalated: we went to the movies, got dinner, and hung out several times a week. We promptly became physical and started hooking up in his Jeep, at his house, and in my basement. His parents are super conservative, so we had to be careful.
After a passionate four weeks, the time came for us to leave for school. Since we’d been such good friends, we decided to end things amicably. But as you can imagine, that didn't last very long. We quickly fell into a cycle of Facetiming at 2 AM and watching Netflix together. A couple of weeks into this routine, he said the words I dreaded so much: "I love you." I felt my skin crawl as the words left his lips. I began dodging his calls, even though Mark continuously reassured me that I didn’t have to say it back until I was ready. Finally, as our three-month anniversary approached, I found the courage to say it back. I felt secure in the relationship, despite it being a secret from his family and friends; I respected his choice and had no intention of outing him to anyone.
All good things must come to an end, and I knew that eventually the secret about his sexuality would get out. It did. One weekend, when we were hooking up in his room late at night, his dad burst in and found us. I quickly ran out as I heard his dad grow heated. I didn't talk to Mark for a couple of days after that, but a few days later we Facetimed and I saw how visibly distraught he was. His dad had told him this wasn't the son he’d raised—that he was disappointed in him and his choices. What could I say? Was it my place to say something? I knew Mark loved his dad—was it my place to get in the way of that? I made a tough decision and decided to end things between us for good. I thought we’d go back to being friends, but soon Mark got back with his ex-girlfriend and seemed happy again. I was angry, but I couldn't help but feel bad for him. His family hadn’t been as accepting as mine, and he was being forced to repress his sexuality. Did I have any right to be mad at him for something that was out of his control? Was our relationship a fluke, or did he actually love me?
I regret our relationship because it feels like I almost ruined Mark’s life. Still, though, it taught me so much. I now know that it’s virtually impossible to fully, truly love someone who doesn’t accept himself. Also, straight boys aren't worth it. They might seem like forbidden fruit, but they’re forbidden for a reason. I gave my heart away without thinking about the consequences and ended up getting hurt. I’d love to be able to blame him for the end of our relationship, but somehow I can’t. It was partially his fault, but in the end, I think I should’ve known better. The novelty and allure of the relationship threw me out of my comfort zone and caused me to ignore my gut instincts. And that’s when everything started coming down.