Chapter 1: first love

The story of how you meet the love of your life is highly regarded. We ask without thinking, “How did you guys meet?” expecting the most adorable story ever imagined. Movies are dedicated to creating the perfectly magical tales of how two people see each other across a crowded room, their hands touch without meaning to, their eyes lock on the subway, they bump into each other and drop their groceries, they’re reunited after years apart, etc. The story is important.

I met the first man I ever loved in high school. The moment I remember when suddenly our story seemed to have just begun was at a football game. I was with my friends, he was with his, and our two groups seemed to meld.

He threw loose change at me from two bleachers back.

No, I did not write that incorrectly nor did you read that wrong. He stood laughing as he threw pennies and dimes at me during the game. Perhaps it was half-time. I don’t really remember. But I do remember being pelted with change and wondering to myself, “Who the hell is this attractive man?”

I began to notice him everywhere. In the mornings he was just on the outskirts of the group that gathered near my locker. In the afternoons when I returned from an arts program across town I often bumped into him running through the halls by the theatre’s green room. He was attractive, but I was certain he was way out of my league. I wasn’t pretty enough or funny enough or really enough of anything for a guy like him. I just assumed I would harbor this crush on him for the rest of senior year.

One afternoon, sitting in my theatre class at the arts school across town, there was a knock on the theatre doors. A secretary from the office entered closely followed by none other than the penny-pelter himself. He wore a long (and I mean floor-length long) trench coat, a beautiful Indiana Jones type hat, shiny black shoes reserved for men much older than him, and had flowers in his hands. I don’t remember another time in my life where I’ve been quite so embarrassed and covered head to toe in the most intense blush a girl could experience.

So of course when this man asked me if I would attend homecoming with him I said yes. “Yes” in front of my entire class who was waiting patiently to get back to our work on Romeo and Juliet. Before he left we hugged for the first time, flowers awkwardly in my hands, my face flushed from the ridiculous nature of the entire moment, and my head spinning wondering why in the hell this guy had asked me to homecoming.

This guy, the penny-pelter, was suddenly my homecoming date.

I wore a neon blue dress made out of this crinkled fabric which looked like crumpled up paper, but in a pretty way (I swear). It was the most unique dress I had ever seen and looking back I realize it was the perfect dress for my personality. I was never your classic beauty and neither was that dress, but I guess one could say both the dress and I were pretty in our own way.

The penny-pelter, Vince, picked me up from my house. I was wearing a small heel and realized I was awkwardly taller than my date. All of the cheesy photos the parents wanted to take involved me popping my hip as I attempted to make Vince appear at least the same height as his date.

We barely knew each other. I had never spoken to him alone. Yet here we were arm in arm. We went with a group of friends, we went somewhere to eat (I can’t remember where) and started being in photos taken by friends – the photos that are always a truer representation of the evening than the awkward posed photos parents insist upon.

There’s one photo we took together that night, the iconic photo that began our relationship, where we are both making ridiculous faces and filled with this unmistakeable joy. Its easy to see how the two of us ended up together for almost a year. We were both weirdos, despite the fact that his level of attractiveness seemed to me to be way above my own.

By the end of the night we had kissed on the dance floor. I wish I could say I remember the amazing wonder of that kiss, but I don’t. This was 7 years ago. The magic memory has dulled over time, but the kiss stuck with me long after that homecoming dance.

Some time after homecoming we started officially dating. Vince dyed his hair green. I was in rehearsals every night. I spent any spare moment on Vince’s lap and any free night making out on basement couch’s.

I fell in love hard and fast, that terrible way most teenager girl’s do when they meet a guy like Vince. He wasn’t my first kiss, but he holds a lot of firsts. I know, of course, your mind goes straight to sex. To this day Vince and I have never slept together. There have been attempts later on in life, bizarre drunk evenings, but it never happened. I don’t know if it ever will – but that’s not part of this portion of the story.

Vince was the first person who ever made me realize how sheltered and innocent of a life I led. Not to say that’s a bad way to live, but he made me realize how guarded I was, how afraid of intimacy, how self-conscious I was. He changed a lot of those things (and did some damage as well). I found myself absolutely convinced that I loved him.

I don’t remember who said I love you first, I don’t even remember when it happened. I do know we broke up for awhile. Vince was well-aware of who he was (still is) and wasn’t sure he was ready for the serious feelings forming between us. He broke up with me over lunch, when we had gone back to his place to cuddle and talk, and I came back to school running straight to my best friend and breaking down in the hallway. She literally held me in her arms by the theatre green room and stroked my hair as I cried until the bell for our next class rang.

I went into my theatre class with red puffy eyes, sniffling like I had a cold, and was immediately met with concern from my director/teacher. I assured everyone I was fine, but this was the biggest heartbreak of my life (at that point) and still remains one of the worst I’ve experienced.

I don’t know how long we were broken up. Weeks is my guess. I cried a lot, I saw him every day, and no matter how hard I tried we made eye-contact frequently. Needless to say we got back together. He asked me to talk with him in one of the band practice rooms. I sat on top of the piano as he said whatever he needed to in order to get me back.

I didn’t need much convincing. I was young and foolishly in love with him. I don’t even know what he said to me, but we got back together and were together until the end of our senior year.

We spent our days being weird together, laughing at stupid jokes, holding hands, making out (lots of making out). We were the classic “young and horny” couple. I stole his hats and sweaters and wore them with not much else on. He made me homemade earrings for Valentine’s day and white chocolate which he colored blue (since blue food was one of my strange obsessions). I wore the same scent almost every day, ‘sensual amber’, and still to this day it brings both of us back to our high school days.

He didn’t ask me to prom, until the day before the dance. I remember being furious as I saw all the adorable proposals around the school. I took it upon myself to ask him and covered his car in drawings done with window markers and in gigantic letters over his front windshield, “Prom?”.

I heard he was angry about the amount of cleaning he had to do that day after school (apparently the marker didn’t come off quite so easily), but soon he was on my front porch with flowers in hand. Behind him was an attempt to spell out “Prom?” with gasoline and have it light on fire. His idea didn’t work, but of course I was his prom date.

We had the perfect prom together. I had a gown in emerald green, mermaid-style, that fit me to a tee. It made me look long and lean and allowed him to actually dance with me without a pile of tulle between us. He wore a gorgeous suit with a vest in the exact same shade of emerald. We were a gorgeous couple and we made the most of our evening.

Again we went to dinner with a group of friends. Some bizarre greek restaurant that wasn’t quite my type of cuisine. I barely ate. The food was far too expensive for high school students and far too complex for my child-like palate. Vince had stated that he would pay, or maybe he didn’t and I just assumed, but regardless when the waitress came to dole out the checks Vince was in the bathroom. The waitress merely kept the check and said she would return when Vince came back to the table. By the time he came to sit back down everyone else had paid and the checks had been taken away. We all stood up to leave.

Vince and I dined and dashed.

Without meaning to, but we took it as a sign that tonight was going to be a great night.

We danced. We took too many photos. We attended the school sanctioned “after party”. We drove around and parked his car behind an abandoned warehouse to makeout and basically make the most of how gorgeous we both were. Eventually Vince’s parked car was noticed by a police officer making his rounds and we awkwardly were jolted out of our teenage revelry by a flashlight through the car window. We drove away rattled by the officer’s interruption and ended up sleeping curled up on a friend’s couch.

I spent the next day pulling bobby pins out of my hair and reveling in my prom experience. I always strive to have a life full of stories worth telling. Prom definitely lived up to that standard.

After that Vince and I continued dating, but graduation loomed over us. As excited as I was to go off to college, I could feel the question every time Vince and I were together – “would this last?”

I would subtly hint I wanted to stay with him, I loved him, I was willing to make this work. And he subtly began to pull away.

One night after a show or a rehearsal I got him on the phone. I can’t remember if I called him or vice versa. It was raining hard outside as I sat in my car talking with him. The year had not yet ended. We still had a few weeks of school.

He told me, “I’m going away to camp this summer (like he did every year) and….I want to be single.” In other words he explained that he wanted the freedom to makeout with other people.

Once again I found myself running into the school and crumpling into someone’s arms.

We dealt with each other awkwardly for the rest of the school year. I tried desperately to get him to reconsider.

We would come back to each other for a night here and there over the next few years, but we would never be the “young and horny” couple we were in high school.

That phone call was the end of my first love. A god damn phone call.

And it began my long trail of lovers.

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