first love


I let go a little bit this week.

I lay awake in bed one night, realizing that it isn’t really him running through my thoughts, occupying my imagination, still, after all this time. It’s not really him, because I have no clear thought, “if only there were another chance…”. I have no illusion that it would all fall into place like puzzle pieces. I imagine running into him again, I wonder if he would regret not staying in touch, but at the same time I don’t know if I really do. Sometimes as much as you want to speak, what is there left to say? I wonder if he’s married with children already. He told me once he always wanted to have them young, when he was still full of energy. The idea fills me with only a little bit of jealousy; even the most selfish part of myself wouldn’t want him to have me instead of all that. So it can’t really be him.

Even so, far too often his name is on the tip of my tongue, no matter where I am, no matter who I’m talking to. I see something, or remember something, or find myself using a familiar turn of phrase…

I lay in bed and realized it was not about a person, but about  an experience, a frame of mind, the feeling that I had really found something, that a new road was opened up in front of me for the first time. One person opened up my eyes to what was possible in life, to aim higher not just in love but in everything. So different from all the complicated relationships with female friends, this was one without expectation, without judgment, it was just something that made me feel “normal,” whatever that means.

And that thing we’re not supposed to want from a boy–yes, validation–and the feeling of security that came from that, no matter what might happen or how things might end. It was a peek into the life I wanted, punctuated with moments of pure joy: being woken up by a cute text message; starting the day happy, knowing you had plans later; trying to get along well with his friends, laying a groundwork for the future, even though that future never happened for us. A phone that seemed to always ring, without leaving you a second to doubt, and without doubt not being shy about running into anyone I knew on the street. Because of someone else, I was less afraid of being myself, in some mixed up way.

It was a relief, in a way, to realize that it wasn’t the person that I miss but all these things, these nameless gifts he gave me. But it was also a certain loss, to think the name again, out of habit, with a new emptiness — without having another word for it. To realize it was maybe just a dead end memory, not an idle wish to continue to toy with. It can be nice to cling to a hope, even when the hope isn’t necessarily what you want. But letting go means you can look forward.

*A note on the image: This is by one of my favorite graffiti artists in Barcelona, “Lolo.” You can see more of his work here.


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