We never forget our first love.
We remember how it felt to see them for the first time, how suddenly they crept up and up and up into the confines of our brains until suddenly we couldn’t sleep, or eat, and we kept having erratic thoughts about the future – one that didn’t even exist yet, but one that was cultivated like a fully-realized dream. And we felt like Cinderella then. We felt like he was going to fit our dainty 21-year old foot with the glass slipper, and our ever-after had finally come along. And we had imaginary conversations, replayed real ones as if watching our lives on VCRs at a constant, rewinding and rewinding, all the while not being kind.
We remember how it felt to kiss them for the first time and feel how it felt to like someone who – gasp – actually liked you back! You – ugly, fat, pathetic, stupid you. We remember how it felt to feel beautiful for the first time, to hold someone’s hand, to experience the awkwardness of your head hitting the wall when he took your shirt off, your teeth clicking together, your breaths smelling like vodka and scotch together. So much vodka and scotch.
We remember what it was like to wake up the next morning, shrouded in foreign blue sheets, and have a tickle war and profess to like each other, tease each other, realize that you had to leave before his roommate got up. The leaving-early.. that should have been your first clue. But it wasn’t. Instead, we floated home, drifting over snowbanks and squinting in the morning springtime sun.
We remember hearing that it was over, over before it began, and how the gaslight of our hearts flicked on and there was no filling station anywhere, so we had to slowly chug to a halt until we were stranded at the side of the road waiting for something – anything – to come airlift us out.
We remember how heartbreak was the end, and the beginning. We remember how we struggled and strived and worked so hard to do something after almost a year of wallowing and suffering and letting key moments – graduation, a couple of birthdays, trips with your friends – pass you by, because nothing mattered except words that followed you around, a cartoon speech bubble above your head that said “HE DOESN’T LOVE YOU BACK” and that phrase became you, embodied you, defined you, until you finally managed to do enough for yourself to cut it free.
We remember how finding love again felt insurmountable and impossible, and how holing onto hope that he would come back – not because you wanted him back, but because you wanted revenge. We never got revenge. But instead, we go to live well. We got to lose 60lb, see our favourite band, start a career, go back to school and get another degree, and meet the love of our lives and forget the whole thing ever happened.
We remember looking back at every moment and hour and minute and second spent with, and/or thinking about our first love and realize that what we value and love at 21, what we see as ‘love’ before we love ourselves, and what we feel on the other side of heartbreak, is something we’ll cherish and learn from and recognize forever. And that our ‘first love’ is just a tumbleweed careening down the windy, empty ghost town of our youth. And we’re good with that.