It took me a long time to get over the first boy I loved. Longer than I’d like to admit.

I remember thinking, Why can’t his life just implode? Splatter into a pathetic disaster? That would make it easier to not want him anymore.

But it didn’t. And even when he did dumb things, I still thought he was cool. I still thought he was brave and funny and different than anyone else I’d ever been with. If only he’d do something terrible and mundane. If only he’d become ugly and fat. If only he’d flat-out disappoint me and fail all my standards and rules.

This boy is now a man. And now it appears that his life is splattering and shitty and broken and imploding. But I don’t feel better. I don’t feel like I can hate him or make fun of him or even feel like he’s finally being punished for leaving me. I just feel very sad.

There is a memory in all this, which never leaves me. I am young and so is he. We are at the house I grew up in and nobody is home. We’re wearing jeans. He wears a flannel shirt, blue. Boxer shorts, striped. We are in my bedroom. The cover on my bed is dark green and the carpet is white but I’ve turned off the bedside lamp and there is only the light from the hallway on. Half dark. I can still see it.

A rare intersection of space and time and privacy. When we found out we had this lucky window, he said, let’s go get naked. He always called it that –  getting naked – which I thought was funny, because it was so honest. So I called that it, too. Still do.

I remember my hand on his thigh, touching all the blond hairs that were almost pretty, feeling how flat and strong the muscles were. How there was nothing on my body like that, how I was always so soft and smooshy despite my efforts to be fit and pretty. How hard he worked to be strong and fit and athletic. How he thought nothing of it. It was almost jealousy that I felt for his body, that it could be so tough and unforgiving in this way, so unlike mine. But not quite jealousy, because I was touching him, his body, as if it were mine and now I could have it whenever I wanted, like it belonged to me, too, like my own soft thighs belonged to me, like my own long hair falling everywhere around us, like all the parts of me that he touched back in the same way.

I remember, too, afterward, how he scooped me up to him and held me tighter than anyone ever had before and said, “God, you’re so great. I just love you so much.”

How happy I’d made him. I had never made anyone happy before like that.

That moment: the hallway light, the turned-off lamp, the dark bed beneath us, his thighs so strong, holding me on him, holding us both while we pressed together and didn’t talk. I didn’t declare love back. I knew I didn’t need to; it could come later. He said it only to thank me. Spontaneous. The most genuine and vulnerable I’d ever known a boy to be.

I can’t stand that he’s imploding, this boy, now a man. I can’t stand to think of it. I want to shake him and say, “Wait. This cannot happen. You were the one who taught me. Who started it all.” That moment in the half-dark of my girlhood bedroom when I first began to slowly realize that sex didn’t have to be a sin, that maybe god didn’t mean it that way, that maybe god himself didn’t even exist. I didn’t know this at the time, of course. But now, remembering that shadowed room from this far away, I know that’s exactly when everything began to change. Exactly.

That was what he gave to me. Is still giving to me. So he can’t be broken and shitty. He can’t be. But he is and there is nothing I can do except write about it.


Image: watercolor by Eugene Delacroix via Gurney Journey


  • Meagan Mac on Apr 15, 2013 Reply

    So. Good.

  • Pat Schmatz on Apr 15, 2013 Reply

    thanks, that made my day. it’s those moments, right? *those* ones. I’ll hold that guy in my thoughts today.

  • kellybarnhill on Apr 15, 2013 Reply

    This is lovely. And I am sad for the boy/man.

  • Matthew MacNish on Apr 15, 2013 Reply

    Still, writing about it is something, and something isn’t nothing.

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