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Dear Jake:

Dear Jake:

You taught me things you may never have known.

I wish there had been perceptive, considerate, and intelligent boys like you in my high school. If someone had taken the few minutes you did, on a few occasions, to encourage me to break out of my shell and interact with my world, I might have done so. It might not have taken until college for me to learn social skills. It might not still be a continued struggle for me to value myself.

You did not do anything complex or time-consuming. I don't even know if you were consciously intervening to help me, or if you were just naturally thoughtful and sweet. You danced one song with me. You loaned me conditioner. You (and Anna) let me tag along with you instead of being a loner. You answered my letter. You talked to me for an hour in the bookstore about nothing in particular, to distract me from the social angst.

When I apologized for being so silly over you, you told me, "I cannot forgive you because there is nothing to forgive. You must learn to forgive yourself." I took what you said to heart - obviously, or I wouldn't still know the words you used. More than a decade later, I am still trying to learn to forgive myself. I hold myself to an impossibly high standard, and am constantly disappointed when I can't measure up. And, more often than I prefer to admit, I have continued to fall for my friends. And to apologize for it when I come to my senses. And, more often than not, to get a considerably less pleasant response. Inevitably, I come back to what you said, and ask myself what the hell I think I'm doing, anyway.

Unlike most of my other long-lost friends, this isn't a "whatever happened to" situation. You're remarkably easy to locate on the Internet, as you always have been. But I don't know that there's anything to say. There wasn't much to say the time I talked to you in college, and I didn't understand why you would want to marry someone inside an online game... two years later, when I was hooked on LUN, it would have made more sense.