First Love

First loves are perfection. They’re the kinds who look like Adonis. They court you, shower you with compliments, and hold the door open for you. They know all the right moves and the right things to say to sweep you off your feet. They romance you as if you’re the last one on earth, besides them of course, and recite poetry to you for hours on end.

They tell you how beautiful your smile is, and how enchanting you look in your sweatshirt and dungarees. Oh, yes! They see right through your teenage veneer and angst, and right into your soul. And, all they see is desire. Their’s, mostly.

High school hallways and memories of make-out sessions.

High school hallways stir memories of make-out sessions.

First loves only have eyes for you and often, when Cupid’s arrow hits, you don’t even see it coming. Which is what happened to me.

I was 16 and in the 11th grade. I was a volunteer in the high school library. Having memorized the Dewey Decimal System, I was charged with putting back on the shelves all the books that had been returned to the library. Thankfully, my job was made easier by a little cart on which I could stack the books while I weaved my way around the aisles.

And, that’s what I was doing  one day in early October when a senior, who I’d never met before, but had seen from a distance, approached me.  He was just under six feet tall, with sleepy, twinkling brown eyes, and longish brown hair, reminiscent of Buster Brown, the mascot featured on the shoe by the same name.  He also had a pock-marked face.

“Well, hello, honey. How come we’ve never met?”

Of course, when it’s your first, you have no idea how trite that sounds.

I turned around, looking to the left and to the right to make sure he wasn’t speaking to anyone else. And I replied with a “pithy” line of my own.

“Uh…I don’t know,” I said shyly. (I was very shy. VERY.)

He stood, blocking my cart, so I could not move to the next aisle.

“Can I help you find something? A book?”

“No,” he smiled broadly as he winked at me. “I think I’ve found all I need right here.”

As someone with olive skin, I don’t blush, but I’m pretty sure I turned six shades of red right then. “Well, um, excuse me, cause, um, I have to put these books away,” I practically fell over in embarrassment, I was stammering so much, and tried to maneuver around him, which was difficult, given the cart.

After my shift was over, I left the library to head to my next class. There he was, waiting in the hallway for me. This time, he pinned me to the wall and wouldn’t let me leave until I agreed to go out on a date. I explained that there was a school football game that weekend and I was part of some sort of pep team. He said he’d meet me there. Which he did.

The rest, as they say, is history. We were inseparable. I fell hard for my senior, who happened to have a car of his own, an Oldsmobile Plymouth or something to that effect. I was so smitten, I was sure we’d go off together into the sunset, and marry upon graduation.

He was a big fan of Shakespeare and would read sonnets to me, spending hours on the phone as he recited them all. He’d also write me notes of love. It was corny, I know. Worst, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. More than once, a teacher would pull us apart in the hallway between class, shaking his head about our PDA’s. But I didn’t care. Neither did he.

And, then came spring break. My parents insisted the family take a trip to Washington, DC, and see the sights.  When I returned to school, a week later, my knight in shining armor had found someone else. She was a pretty, petite girl, with a head of soft brown curls, a turned up nose and a smattering of freckles. In other words, she looked like the proverbial girl next door, and, like him, she was a senior.

As he explained to me, they were deeply in love. And, just like that, it was over.

Let the agony begin.

So tell me, do you remember your first love?

The Road Taken: Flying the Coop

Chapter 8:  On the night of our fourth anniversary of dating, G and I spooned.  Which made me reflect on the day, four years earlier, when it happened. When I was hit with a two by four. Smacked, really. Some might say, struck by Cupid’s arrow. Here I was, out in left field, and falling for a guy who had no fingernails—completely and unquestionably over the moon. We’re talking as infatuated as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were when they danced cheek-to-cheek. Only without the dancing. G couldn’t do a glide and step to save his life.

But here we were, side by side, four years later. It struck me how perfect this could be now, if not for the housemates.  After all, we were finally together, having made it through living in different cities and a one-year breakup.  For the sake of our love, I had left home and flown 3,000 miles west to begin our future.  I should have been ecstatic. Beyond joyful.  And perhaps I would have, if not for the housemates determined to make my life with G, hell.

“It’s us against the world,” G was fond of saying.

I agreed, though part of me couldn’t help but feel that, when push came to shove, it was me—and me alone—putting up with the demons of this house. But G explained that, as much as he loved me, it wouldn’t be right for him to get in the middle of the milieu. He didn’t want to risk antagonizing the housemates any further, despite knowing that the way they treated me just wasn’t right.

I tried to understand, as what he said seemed logical. Yet, somewhere inside me, I was feeling frustrated and a tad resentful.  Sure, it would be in G’s best interest to stay on the sidelines. But how was that good for me—or for us?  And how were we ever going to make a go of it, with the housemates in tow?

Things did start to change after the night of the dinner party, the one that never happened. I had baked a dessert in a ceramic pie dish that Stan had purchased at a crafts fair. It was blue and had a red checkerboard pattern around its rim, with a scalloped edge. Stan was fond of that dish, which, not surprisingly, smashed into bits when I flung it on the kitchen floor. Bits too small to try to glue back together. Much like Humpty Dumpty, though in this case, the king’s men didn’t even try.

After that episode, Stan and I reached an unstated agreement to refrain from any conversation whatsoever.  Which meant that, whatever Stan was thinking about me, he now kept to himself.  Meanwhile, Marigold, in an unexpected move, chose to stop her own vendetta against me, albeit, reluctantly. It was as if by destroying the pie, I had turned into a force that she could no longer defeat.

As I lay in bed with G, I thought about the moment I’d discovered I was smitten. It was autumn, and G had just returned from a long weekend in the Catskills with his family. Ever since school had started in early September, he’d been begging me to go out with him on a date. I had stubbornly refused. Though, we did hang out a lot and laugh, driving each other into tizzies of madness and mirth. But I just didn’t feel an attraction.  That is, until he left for the Catskills, and I found myself longing for him, counting the minutes to his return.

I couldn’t bear the gamut of emotions I was feeling. The reckless kiss from the first time we met was now long forgotten. So was the lack of fingernails. Instead, I found myself unable to concentrate on anything else but G, and was chomping at the bit to tell him so.

That evening, I met him at the train stop at the foot of campus, and as we walked across an open field back to the dorms, I felt a rush of nerves overtake me. Why was I feeling this way? This was the man who’d been asking me out for the last five weeks! The very guy who, that past summer, had driven up to Boston to look for me, but had turned up empty-handed.

Luckily, G wasn’t noticing the frenetic conversations I was having in my head, and instead, talked about his trip. I started to relax and found myself smiling goofily at him as we walked. We’d traversed halfway across the field and I still hadn’t made my feelings known. It was now or never, I decided. So I took G’s hand and squeezed. Pressing it so tight, I’m sure I heard a vein pop. He yelled in alarm and stared at me, perplexed. Then, noticing my inane grin, a smile spread across his face. He knew. Pulling me close, he kissed me. Again and again.  Alone, in the middle of that cold, dark field, the world was ours.

Four years had gone by. Laying next to him now, I thought about all that had transpired, and how far we’d come since that first night in the chapel fields.  Which is when I knew, that if we were really going to make a go of this, we would have to get out of Stan’s house and we’d have to get out now. We couldn’t let the housemates come between us and ruin what had just begun.

“Let’s not wait anymore,” I whispered.  “Let’s take the money we’ve saved so far and get a place of our own.” I hoped the urgency in my voice conveyed my new resolve.

“You know? I was thinking the same thing. We should get out of here.”  Kissing the top of my head, he added, “It’s now or never.”

And just one month later, we flew the coop and landed in a tree house.

Missed a chapter? You can read the entire series, by visiting the page, titled, The Road Taken.