Tonight isn’t special. Nothing seminal happened on this date, but for some reason, you were on my mind all night long. I thought of those piercing blue eyes, the wavy hair that had a mind of its own and your combustible smile. In my pubescent mind, you were the sun and I was all nine planets (Pluto still existed in the early 70’s) trapped in your spherical rotation. Drawn to you like the Amish are to real horsepower.
You were the cutest guy I’d ever seen, my juvenile idea of perfection. Every song on the AM dial was written about us, for us. Colors were more vibrant, I laughed more. I felt safe and secure. At 12, I could actually envision a life with you: joy-filled, deliriously happy and totally bereft of reality.
We were kids, from two different planets on so many levels, it would never have worked, even had it worked. I loved you on that juvenile surface level. It wasn’t complicated, yet wonderfully difficult.
Even so, first loves are indeed the rarest ones and easy to idealize 40 years later. Was I ever that naive? Not a rhetorical question: yes, I was, but who cares? I committed far more emotional atrocities as an adult, but even in the midst of all those romantic failures, you were there, always there in the vast baggage, large enough to fill the cargo hold of a Boeing 777.
You broke up with me just as my parent’s marriage was deteriorating. Your timing couldn’t have been worse. So naturally, I remember you and our relationship as something it wasn’t. It wasn’t real love but somehow, it was the stuff of dreams. When we were together, everything was good and warm and felt oh so safe. You diluted all the evils in my world; a most welcomed distraction to the fights, the tension and the public shame of a familial sinking ship.
At the time, we were a big boat in a very small body of water. Daily fodder for the gossip mongers. But I had you and you helped make all of that irrelevant.
I can honestly say I loved you as much as my ingenue heart allowed me to. And I can honestly say, I’ve never loved in that way since. Oh, I’ve loved others, but not like that. You were my first love, destined by every romance author, to remain in my heart till it beats no more. You set the standard. You have that honor. Every relationship after you would have to live up to your ideal. But how can anyone compete with a first love that coincides with the last vestiges of childhood emotional stability?
Since that fateful day in the early fall of 1973 when you told me you needed to be an unencumbered High School Sophomore, I’ve filled the voids in my life with many things: college, career, travel, relationships that have run the gamut, amazing experiences that I never would have had, had I not been so simultaneously devastated d by your departure and the loss of my family unit.
You were a happy time in my life. A “go to” memory I employ regularly. And let it be known here and now that I have forgiven you for merely assisting in the trenching of my heart (I too have shovel-calloused palms) and I have finally entered the process of forgiving myself for not forgetting you and holding on to some idealized crush way longer than I should have. What does that say about my psyche as an adult?
I think it indicates I’m a romantic, lucky enough to have had an experience so profound. I’m asked to define “love” and I think of you. I never admit it. I give the enquirer some pat Oprah response. And while love has morphed and grown as I have, it was never more pure than when I loved you. To me, you were an adorable 13-year-old boy with more greasy kid stuff than sense; Hormonal surges, Junior high problems, popularity, dances, cheerleading, coed parties, hokey love songs, three hour phone conversations, love letters handwritten in real ink on paper which began with, “God, I love you!!!” Can you imagine that kind of dialog at 12 and 13? It was as life when living was easy. It was before Clearasil, debt and the whole startling Gestalt of adulthood.
It was having a cohesive family like all three TV networks would have us believe.
Dare I ask in this scenario if that old chestnut applies: forest for the trees?
Be that as it may, I will always love you, but I have released you. But I think about you with a tremendous fondness, often at the damnedest times. As I drive in my car, when washing dinner dishes, in the quiet of an insomnia addled evening. But so what?
I seem to remember some singer once warbled, “whatever gets you through the night”.