First Love - continued
I was recently told that you shouldn’t compare subsequent relationships with your first love; your first love is almost irrational and delusionally-giddy. I guess it could be like comparing the first time you hike a mountain to later summits. The first time the peak shocks you with a perspective you've never seen or felt before. Visiting the mountain again is pleasurable, too, but it hits different. I don’t know if I agree or not - I am still chewing on it. But, in a way, this statement about first love did kind of click for me. I haven’t experienced something like it since, even though I have been in love since the first time I found myself feeling this explosion of emotion. I think, at least for me, your first love is the first time in your life that someone outside your family (people who have no option but to love you) reflects back to you your sense of self. This feeling of reciprocal adoration somehow expands what feels possible. You're finally able to put a face to love songs you hear on the radio and suddenly you notice flowers blooming between cement blocks.
I remember feeling grounded and at peace sitting, waiting for (my bagel to toast) (chapel to be over) (the bus to park for our state finals lacrosse game) because I had this person who I didn’t have to explain myself to; someone who appreciated my whole self just like I adored everything about him. When things went wrong, I had someone who would openly and admittedly make it his job to cheer me up. He was proud of his job, and as someone who basks in all my emotions, I was sometimes resistant. I wanted to keep listening to my sad music. But he’d surprise me in the hallway since we knew each other’s schedules and bop me in the head, telling me to “snap out of it, dumb dumb.”
For my high school self, as I was still figuring out what made me happy and how to navigate self-love, his confidence in and acknowledgement of my ups and downs buoyed me.
After I broke up with him on Facebook messages freshmen year, we dated other people sophomore and junior year. I remember our junior year he came back from summer break with real muscles, and he didn’t look so gangly anymore. He didn't have a bad haircut. Everyone was commenting on it, and I remember feeling annoyed seeing him with this senior girlfriend.
We’d find ourselves making eye contact in crowded cafeterias and only hanging out together in groups. Each time the group would start dwindling, he’d scamper away with his moppy-golden-retriever-hair at the chance of it being just the two of us. We’d find odd ways to communicate to each other like accidentally sending a text that was meant for someone else or asking about history homework in the library even though we were in different classes.
Going into our senior year, the people we had each been dating graduated and moved onto college. Within the first week back to school, we planned to hang out playing lacrosse by the soccer fields on Sunday before study hall. I remember being excited to show him the new skills I learned at Brown camp that summer. Two weeks later, I found myself having to teach him how to kiss.
“Okay, wait...Did you kiss Zoe like this? You’re kind of slobbery!”
We shared the same kind of natural glee that we experienced freshman year, but with an added confidence since he grew a couple inches, I had worn my first thong, he got his rubber bands and braces off, I bought my first mascara tube, and we both made it through SAT’s and a handful of varsity sports.
There was this giddy thrill we felt in each other’s presence. One afternoon I was on the couch after throwing up all day from the flu, and he squeezed himself into the couch cushions to be next to me and my barf breath. Our appearance or mood or cleanliness didn't affect our desire to be close to one another. ("It's not that much worse than your smelly burps"). We’d grin goofy smiles when we’d pass each other in between classes and be like magnets in a crowded hallway. We’d talk nose-to-nose in the middle of the dining hall, not seeing anything but each other while we talked. It sounds gushy now when I write it, but it was pure, and since we were best friends, it was a comfortable and approachable kind of love. By 17 years old, we were sure that we were going to marry each other. If we didn’t end up being able to marry each other, we said we’d meet in Greece for a romantic love affair.
When we were leaving for college, we didn’t label our relationship - “the feeling of love transcends words, and trying to put words to it can be limiting” just like we had learned from reading Shakespeare and Anna Karenina with Mrs. Matouk. So we didn’t have to define our relationship. But we weren’t together, and we still said “I love you.” I wrote him a letter that said “The only thing that makes me feel better at this point is knowing: if we are meant to be together, we’ll get back together.” It just was not the time to continue our relationship as we started a new journey of college.
The first week at Brown I was hypnotized by the social scene and swept off my feet. Again.