Sunday Scribblings--First Love
Why does something inside of me want to play it safe, deny it all? To rhapsodize about how it felt walking down Bergenline Avenue, dizzy with my own power, staring into faces as they hurried by and smiling, wondering if they felt it too. That sense of the universe barely contained beneath the smooth mask of the face. That sense of possibility, sneaking in my brain like a secret, that made me want to giggle behind my hands. That was a first love. Yes.
Or the way I stroked the books I loved, made myself a part of them by creating rough versions of whatever objects captured my imagination in the pages—a ballgown made from a tattered satin bedspread from Colombia, heavy with fringe; wands made from the stick on the featherduster; business cards that proclaimed me a spy, or a CEO; dolls and pets and rough scratched drawings that dragged the magic of the book into my world. I had to be prepared to understudy the characters I loved, if needed. That was a first romance that still slow dances with me, takes me out for red wine.
But I have to be honest. I saw a face when I read the prompt.
It’s strange how different people appear without the red haze of emotion attached to their images. Occasionally, I glance through old photo albums, marking the change in time, look, clothes. Acknowledging the different direction my life has taken, carrying me so far from home. I see him there, in my albums...and I always have to look again, because he looks so ordinary. Not at all like the person who haunted my dreams for so long. Not at all like the person who taught me how to love.
"Taught me how to love"...what a trite phrase! And not at all accurate in this case—I drenched myself in emotions back then, but quietly. I knew that they were somehow outsized, inappropriate. I knew that as a 15, 16, 17 year old girl, I was expected to use dramatic words to try them on for size, not quite understanding what they meant.
But I always knew what they meant. I just didn’t want to get into it.
I was used to presenting two faces (Gemini, after all). There was my mundane face, the extroverted, opinionated student who was fond of making bold pronouncements, who liked to drag everything into everything. I loved to bring seemingly irrelevant facts into a discussion and then find a way to tie them together. I was insufferable as only a precocious teenager can be.
But then there was the secret me, inner, insecure, who loved inchoately and struggled to give birth to something that would feel big enough, real enough, to encompass the almost religious ecstasy I felt when I was alone with my frenzied thinking.
I was pretty good at keeping them apart—knowing without knowing that I needed to play the part of the good teenager, without allowing it to touch that vast reservoir of feeling—my oversoul. So I dated, got involved in many romantic entanglements and loved the drama they brought me. I cried and laughed and thought that I was being honest and that I really knew love.
I wish I could say the object of my first true love was worthy; no, that’s not entirely fair. He was a person, ergo, worthy. But he was young, looking to play and be casual. He wanted to have a pretty girlfriend, hold hands with her in the hallway, kiss her before class. He thought I was odd, but interesting for all that. And to make me more alluring...I was also older.
All of that devotion, that longing, that intense palpating feeling that I’d kept a secret—it overflowed out of me and nearly crushed him. He tried to struggle against me, said it felt as though I was drowning him, eating him. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. The sane part of me was trying to shout, but was muffled through the glass of obsession.
Are the details about him necessary? He was an ordinary boy, cute but not overly so. Sensitive. During our time together, he discovered he had talents, discovered he didn’t need me quite so much anymore. You probably wouldn’t have looked twice. First love? He learned to love himself while seeing himself through my eyes.
We continued our dance for years...drawn to each other even as he was repelled by my relentless gnawing need for him. I wish I were kidding, dramatizing for effect. It would do wonders for my opinion of myself. But I spent those years writhing and raw with longing. He didn’t teach me to love, far from it. In fact, most of the time I hated how I felt, powerless, wrecked.
But some good came from that time—my misery freed me to integrate those two sides of myself. I faced up to my messy, too-intense, dramatic, passionate self. Stopped abusing myself for falling for the wrong guy, for being honestly in love even if it was illogical, or inconvenient, or embarassing. I learned to recognize that my outsized self was a gift; that someday I’d find someone who could swim in me and not drown.
And then I met TEG.
(I think I just broke the #1 rule of writing, what with all of this telling and no showing. This kind of went all over the place. And I loved the prompt so! Oh, well...)
For more falling into first love, go to Sunday Scribblings here.
Labels: sunday scribblings