"The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end" - Benjamin Disraelier
Longtime readers of this blog probably already know the basic story of my first love, but I’m gonna tell it again in more detail for the newbies. I apologize in advance because this is gonna be a long one.
I met Snickers when we were in high school at a mutual friend’s party. He had a girl but we became fast friends – he and his cousin and me and my sister were a tight foursome; spending countless hours in each others’ basements watching basketball, playing Come Clean over and over and over, and talking sh*t. We probably fell in love with each other about two seconds after we met but it took about two years for us to finally get together, and that was only after I gave him an ultimatum – be with me or we can’t be friends anymore.
I know it sounds crazy to say this, but for a long time we had a perfect relationship. We hardly fought, loved each other hard. We knew we were going to be together forever. The only problem was that it was a long-distance relationship in the days before email, before cell phones, before facebook and twitter and all the ways we now have to stay connected to people even when they’re far away. We wrote each other letters and my parents allowed me to call him like once a month for half an hour – at something like $0.45 a minute. There was never enough ink in the pen or minutes on the phone to say all there was to say, but we made it work. We were happy.
But we were also stupid. See here’s the thing – he was a basketball player on scholarship at a school in New York. After two years he decided he wanted to change schools; he wasn’t happy where he was. But changing schools meant that he’d have to start over from scratch somewhere else and instead of waiting two more years to be together we’d have to wait four more years. For some reason we decided that we should “separate”. We didn’t call it a break up because we would still be together when he was home but when he was at school we would be free to do our own thing. I remember being nervous about what “doing our own thing’” might lead to and I remember that he wasn’t nervous at all….he told me that no matter what happened, no matter how far apart our lives might take us, no matter what one day he would show up on my doorstep with his hand outstretched saying ‘”we gotta go”.
I would ask him things like “but what if I marry someone else? What if you marry someone else? What if you show up on my doorstep and I’m pregnant with someone else’s child?” And he’d tell me that he would stand there with his hand outstretched until I came with him. No matter what. And so I believed him.
Needless to say, time passed and “doing our own thing” led to huge problems between us. Our separation turned into a breakup that took about three years to complete. And when it was over there was nothing left but the love. We weren’t friends anymore. There was no closure – we never talked about what went wrong. He never talked about showing up on my doorstep one day and I stopped expecting him to.
More time passed and I dated other people. Loved another person. It took about 5 years but eventually I was able to picture myself marrying someone else without feeling like I was betraying him. I was over it, I thought. Until he died.
The afternoon I found out I could not stop crying. I thought there was something physically wrong with me and I called my mother half-terrified that something had permanently shifted in my brain and I would never, ever stop crying. She said to me “now you’re going to have to really get over him.”
My mother – if she lives to be 112 years old – will never be more right than she was with that statement. I thought I was over it but what I was really doing was burying my feelings. I thought I had accepted that we would never be together but what I was really doing was biding my time, waiting for that knock on the door. And when I found out he was dead I was crying as much for the fact that I would never know if that knock was coming as for the actual tragedy of his death.
It’s been three years now and if you come into my home you will see more pictures of him than of anyone else in here. I know they should come down at some point and I know that I will probably never take them down. I resist everything that I see as a threat to his memory, even as my mind gently pulls me away from it. Earlier this month the anniversary of his death passed without me noticing it. The horror of realizing that I am no longer fixating on it – and him – sent me into a tailspin of tears and self-recrimination. And that was an unconscious step forward from my past….what would a concerted effort to move on do to me? This isn’t just moving past a relationship that was meaningful; this is exorcising someone who is part of the fabric of who I am. Someone I was in love with when I became myself. I don’t know how to get rid of that and leave myself intact.
If I were reading this story about someone else I would have two things to say about it. First – that this person is caught up in the tragic romance of it – two star-crossed lovers separated by tragedy. It’s so poetic and beautiful…it’s like starring in your very own romance novel. And second – this woman is using her dead first love as an excuse not to try again. And both of those things are true. They’re part of the reason but not the whole reason.
The rest of the reason is who he was and what we had. He is the only person who ever made me feel that he loved me just for me. Not for what I did for him or how I made him feel or what I looked like, just who I was. Nothing I’ve ever had with anyone – friend, lover, whatever – has ever come close to that. And I fell in love with him at an age when I didn’t know what a broken heart felt like. I didn’t know about the horrible things that people can do to the people they love. I didn’t know that finding love is the easy part, that staying in love is the hard part. And honestly if I had known all of that back then I might not have bothered.
Why can’t I get over my first love? I don’t see the point in it really. Even with everything I’ve learned about love and relationships, even with all the effort I’ve put in to make relationships work, I’ve never had anything like what I had so effortlessly with him. So it doesn’t seem worth the bother. I’m content with the memory of something amazing, coupled with the sheer comedy of my life as the perpetually single gal. It doesn’t seem like much but it’s enough for now.
So what about you guys? Do you have big loves that you can’t get over? Do you let them stand in the way of falling in love again? Can anyone see where I”m coming from? Give me your take in the comments.