There’s nothing like the memory of a first love. And nothing makes it more memorable and heartbreaking when you have to watch that person walk away.
The other day I went to Starbucks to write and saw two prom couples taking photos. The girls were all decked out in long glittery formal wear. One wore pink and all the ruffles enveloped her – like a tiny bee lost in labyrinth of blossoms. The other wore blue, a mermaid out of water, shining radiantly with sparkles in her hair, like seawater glistening on her crown.
They looked so young and excited for the night ahead. I couldn’t help but smile and think about that simple and innocent time in my life. When I think of high school, I think of Jay.
All love stories are the same. We were friends.
Jay and I met at a leadership camp the summer before our senior year. The camp was only a weeklong but we both made a lasting impression on one another. A month later after camp ended he had broken his arm in a horrific car accident and was unable to make the camp beach reunion. A week later, I drove out to the East Bay to visit him and bring him In-n-Out and show him pictures of the event and tell him everything he missed. We became fast friends.
In those early days, I would call him in tears at the thought of leaving home to go to college. He would confide in me about the development of his father’s illness. He’d accompany me to dances when I didn’t have a date. He’d ask me to come over to help him to look after his baby sister. We had to be friends because that’s all we could be. He was with someone else. When we were together, we laughed and experienced so much joy. But we both struggled with the definition of our relationship. We both felt it. After we’d see one another, he would go home and put on a face for his girl, while I got down on my knees and put my face in my hands. It was hard to be in love with your best friend.
Homecoming came around and I had no date for the dance and in his usual way, Jay came to the rescue. When he got me back to my house after the dance, he had the arduous task of helping me take down the countless pins in my hair. We sat on the floor of my room, stifling our giggles in the wee hours of the morning while he plucked my hair and counted each one. When he finished, I shook my head, closed my eyes and ran my fingers slowly through my hair. I opened my eyes and he leaned in deep and kissed me.
He broke my heart not too soon after that, professing undying love to his girlfriend and denying any involvement with me. What followed in the decade after was a stop-and-start fledgling relationship. At some point in all those years, I let go of my past disappointment and anger for what happened, and concentrated on one thing – being his friend; and that friendship has been the most fulfilling and bittersweet of all.
In my anxiety about moving forward in what could be my new relationship, I had to look back to my past, and look for advice from Jay, the one person who probably knew me the best. He confided in me about the complicated particulars of his relationship and how he would be going next level and asking his girlfriend to marry him.
I was happy for him but couldn’t help but think- had we missed our chance?
For a long time, I felt there was nothing to mourn. Though Jay and I never had the opportunity to be in a tried and true relationship, I treasured the fragile friendship that we did have. With my dad and grandma in the hospital and his father passing away, we have been each other’s sanity checks and shoulder to cry on.
After all we’d been through, would it soon be time to say goodbye?
I sit back and look at it as logically as I can. We would be horrific as a couple, so much so that it makes me chuckle just thinking about it. I think our relationship would be awful and amazing, vindictive and forgiving, volatile and serene, thoughtless and deeply loving, all at the same time. And at the end of it, we will have amnesia of every negative thing and only remember one thing- our friendship.
Perhaps we were lovers in a past life and that’s why our friendship has survived 13 years in this life. And just as he’s growing up and finding love and happiness, so am I. I think we’ve been here for one another to help each other on this never-ending journey. Soon, we’ll both have to walk away. My heart will break a little and maybe his will too. I will look back on that time with fondness and I hope he will do the same.