I know this is a blast from the past that you may or may not have been expecting. I am sure you still hate it when I use my pet name for you, and yeah, that is still why I do it. It was the only thing I could ever tease you about because back then, everything about you was perfect to me. This letter is to you, my first love.
Thinking back, I don’t even remember when we met. I just remember knowing you, as if I had known you all my life. We became friends and chatty in science class. I remember you made fun of me because I cried when we had to dissect a cat. You made more fun of me when I cried because we had to dissect a frog. How could anyone care so much about a frog? Later you told me it was what attracted you to me. That and my eyes. I remember thinking that was sweet.
In the beginning, though we were friends. Just friends. Ninth grade was a hard time for me. Prior to our high school, I had gone to school with all the kids I had grown up with. Now, in this large building with open classrooms, and kids from all different neighborhoods, I felt small. Smaller than usual. Meeting new people was difficult for me back then. I didn’t realize it then, but all the insecurities I have now started to surface back then. I just thought I was awkward, fat and ugly. All my friends were prettier, smarter, had more money, and made friends like it was flipping on a light switch. Even my friends from elementary school seemed to glide into this new environment with ease, leaving me behind to struggle on my own to figure it out. I hated high school. I had one bright spot in the ninth grade. You.
I looked forward to science because seeing you and your friend. The two of you were like twins. Making fun of teachers and seeming to care less about the class and more about football practice after school. You were popular. Smart, good looking, a fancy name, a football player. You were more than out of my reach but for some reason, in that class, you included me in your conversations and games. Then you started sitting with me at lunch. That was a shocker indeed. Of course, I wouldn’t eat in front of you. It made the fact that I was fat even more noticeable when I was actually eating something. You made me laugh. I enjoyed that. When you were there it wasn’t that I felt popular among the other students. It was, that I felt like you wanted to be there. I never thought you were just bullying me. One of those terrible tricks that boys play on the fat girl in the cafeteria. I just thought you were a nice guy. You had a girlfriend so I never thought more than it was friendly. Maybe you saw the scared little freshman I was? Maybe you just wanted attention and sitting with me would definitely do that. I don’t know. I guess I’ll never know what it was. I know we were friends, and that was good enough for me.
I somehow survived the ninth grade and the summer we had very little contact. You called a couple of times, but I wasn’t allowed to go to parties so we didn’t see each other. Then there was the skating rink. Roller skating was a place I went and pretended I could skate but spent much of my time on those red mushroom seats watching everyone else have fun. I played my role as caregiving to my friends when they were drunk, heartbroken, angry and wanting to fight. I was the “mom” figure. I hid my weight well in tight jeans and flowy shirts, (much like I still do today at times), I did my hair in the 70’s wings style, I had the comb in my back pocket and pompoms on my skates. I wasn’t a bad skater but I enjoyed watching people skate. I enjoyed watching you. You skated well. Fast. In sync with your friend, that truth be told I probably had a little crush on him. I knew though, that I was seriously crushing on you. You had a girlfriend and I respected that. I remember the night at the rink when it was your one year anniversary with her. She was there. You looked so in love. I had gotten you both a card. An anniversary card. I was a good friend. She liked me, but she knew. She was leary of me. I couldn’t imagine why. I was nothing compared to her. That was the first night you asked me to skate. I felt so good to be skating with you. Even though I was clumsy at skating backward you made it look like it was your fault when our skates clinked together. I left that night knowing I was in love with you. It would be my own secret.
You still called and we talked for hours. In those days the phones had cords and were only at the house. I would lay on my bed and wait for the phone to ring. I had a phone in my room. I was thankful for that. I don’t even think we were flirting with each other, we just talked about things easily. I even talked to your Mom on the phone. We became close. We talked about soap operas and the ones we liked. She was an amazing woman. I still think about her.
In the tenth grade, I had a little more confidence, a few more friends, and maybe a little less weight. I always struggled with it. Some months were better than others. I didn’t know it then, but the eating disorder that still shows up occasionally started in the tenth grade. It was my attempt at being perfect. I missed the mark by a lot. There was something different about you. I had heard rumors that you and your girlfriend were fighting. You were always fighting though. Many of our conversations were me counseling you on how to make up with her and how to make things better. I was your friend. The day came when I had heard that you had broken up with her at a party. You called me the next Monday. You told me the story and that you were done. We talked for hours. It wasn’t too long before I realized we weren’t talking about her, but about us. Was there an us? I wish my tenth-grade self had been more aware. It was two weeks before I realized we were actually dating!
I had tried out for cheerleading and remarkably made the team. You were on the football team. We were a beautiful cliche’. You walked me to classes, kissed me good by in the hallway. You were everything I expected and more. Neither of us having our license made seeing each other after school difficult, but we talked every night. You were an amazing first boyfriend. I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like, I just knew I was walking on clouds. You gave me cards and wrote me beautiful letters. It was a sweet, romantic first love. There was little physical interaction outside of school but you kissed really well! I remember one night, your Mom drove you to my house. We were watching TV downstairs. Your arm around me as we watched The Wiz with Michael Jackson in it. It was horrible and neither of us made a move to change the channel. We kissed a lot that night. I was too nieve to think about whether you wanted more from me. I was too nieve to think that you had been having sex with your girlfriend and that would be anything you would expect from me. You were my first boyfriend. I was still trying to navigate the terms. When do I hold your hand? Is my breath ok? Will he like this shirt with these pants? Do I look fat today? Sex never enters my mind. Maybe if it had, you would have hung around longer.
Three months into our relationship, I was going on vacation with the family. I would be gone for a week. No cell phones back then and out of state meant no communication. By the time I got back from vacation, you were back with her. Those parties always seemed to have an impact on you two. I called you three times, three days in a row and when you finally called me it was because your Mom made you because I deserved a conversation before we went back to school for our junior year. I don’t think you said more than 10 words. You just said you needed space to figure things out. Perhaps you were the one that actually invented the phrase, but I sure have heard it a lot over the years and every time it makes me think of you. I told you we could still be friends. I would always be there for you. You thanked me and we hung up. It was the first time I cried myself to sleep over a boy.
Going back to school was really hard. Your girlfriend had lost all desire to be nice to me. In fact, she was the opposite and seemed to make it her job. She raided my locker, tore up the letters from you that I had kept. She was quick to let me know that you always come back to her and that I was simply a place holder. She also makes it clear that giving you my virginity still wouldn’t have been enough so I was smart to keep it from you. All of it hurt but it hurt more knowing that you told her we had not had sex, or that there was even a conversation around it. I hadn’t been in a relationship with anyone before so I didn’t know how it all worked, but I didn’t think that was something she needed to know. If she needed to know, did she need to tease me about it? I guess she did.
Graduation, 1983! I didn’t’ think I would get emotional because I hated high school. I spent all four years wishing we were together and holding on to the three months that we were. Wasted time as I look back but I am not sure the girl I was then would have done much else, even if you hadn’t broken my heart. As I crossed the stage I heard your voice screaming my middle name. Your pet name for me. I got back to my seat and realized I was shaking. After the ceremony, I was slowly moving through the crowd of happy graduates trying to find my family and there you were. Standing in front of me with your arms open wide inviting a hug. I wish I could say I walked away with just a smile to you and the wish of good luck for you, but I didn’t. I fell into those arms and buried my head in your chest and cried. I am sure everyone thought it was emotions from the completion of my high school career. They would be wrong. It was the offer of your hug and being close to you again. However fleeting it was what I needed. We were pulled apart by other well-wishers and you drifted into the crowd. Your graduation cap replaced with your famous trademark of a backward baseball cap. You were gone. We would still be friends. We would still talk.
We would reunite many years later. You told me how you had married that same girlfriend, and then divorced. It just didn’t work out. Then you married again and had two children. I was separated from my husband and my daughter was about five years old. We talked about old times. We talked about the “what if’s”. We laughed, and we had silent moments where we knew we wanted to say something… just didn’t know what. We would talk a lot after that first call. I would visit you with my daughter. We would make promises of a future. Two months later, you would disappear for a week. I would call and talk to your mom and she would be vague about where you were. You had gotten a new job. You were making new friends. A week after I talked to your mom, you would call and tell me you had met someone… we weren’t going to work out. I was catapulted back to high school, my sophomore year, sitting alone in my room on the phone with you. You used the exact same words to break my heart a second time.
I packed up the things that you left when you visited. I mailed them to you with no note, no goodbye letter, nothing. I was finding strength in that I had put my daughter first. I wouldn’t move to your state until I had settled things with my ex-husband. That bothered you. You didn’t want to wait for me. You told me to leave my daughter with my ex-husband and I could visit and she could visit. As much as I wanted to be with you, that just wasn’t possible.
One thing that you did was set a pattern in place that to date, I have not been able to break. I tend to fall for people (male and female, which I am sure makes you crazy) that are struggling in their relationships. It starts as friends and I am helpful and supportive. I fall for them. Sometimes they have left their relationships for me, sometimes it because a sorted affair I lived to regret and be ashamed of. Rarely did it ever turn out well for me. Is this your fault? No, it isn’t. It is my responsibility to break the cycle. I recently tracked back my pattern to you. I don’t know what it means.
I don’t hate you and I am not even made or hurt anymore. You were my first love. While we never had sex, we had an intimate relationship with communication (as best as high school kids can) and on my part love. You were my first love, first heartbreak, and the first lesson that I am still learning from. I am getting there.
I hope you are well. I hope you are happy. I hope you have found someone that makes you feel complete.
All my love Hutch,