dear first love (day ten)

now, of course, we can discuss what 'first love' means. 

if we are talking about first, first love, then that would probably have to be my mom, right? or do we mean that playful first love, like the love i found in kindergarten (shout out to him for holding my hand on the bus and sending me a love poem!)? or do we mean the first loves that were not housed in a person?

we can mean all of those things, and this letter could be to all of those things, but i would just be avoiding what and who i've been writing this letter to in my head all week, ever since i knew this prompt was coming. i'd be avoiding writing to my first love, the romantic first love, the one who taught me about love as a (young) adult. 

and, if you've been around the blog at all these last few months, you know that this is further complicated by the fact that the person who is my first love, also happens to be my last love (last meaning most recent, though i did think he would be my last love as in we were going to ride off into the sunset together), because a few years back my first love showed up at my doorstep and asked us to try again and we did.

so this letter is weird and hard to write. even though they are the same person, is writing a letter to my first love the same as writing it to the one who left 7 months ago today? i don't know. 

also, first love made a habit of reading my blog. i don't know if he still does. so, presumably, he is reading this.

so.

what i do know is writing all of this is yet another avoidance tactic. so...i should just start the damn letter and see what happens.

first love and me. guatemala. august 2007.

first love and me. guatemala. august 2007.

dear first love,

when i plug my phone into the computer, and new photos upload, sometimes your face pops up, first love. it is you, holding a napkin up to the camera with a message for my mom. we'd only been dating a few days, a few weeks at that point. we were twenty years old and it was december and everything felt new and wonderful.

that was 9.5 years ago and sometimes it feels like just yesterday. but i look at that photo and i realize just how much you don't look the same anymore...i mean, of course, it is you, but your face has become more man and less boy since then and it is shocking to me every time it pops up on my computer. just how much your face, my face, has changed and yet stayed the same,

i think about deleting that photo every time it pops up. i haven't yet--mostly because i believe there will be a time when that photo doesn't cause pain, because there was a time, maybe four years ago and up until last september, when it didn't. and i believe that i may want to look at it then and remember those first few weeks and smile and thank the heavens i had them and also thank the heavens time has moved on. 

that is what i hope.

first love, you taught me so much. you taught me what love really was. you see, i didn't really know. i had had a boyfriend or two, but no one who really loved me. not really. and no one i had really loved. and you came in and changed all of that. i sometimes try to figure out how you did it. was it the fact that you held my hand or brought me tea or send me long emails when you were traveling in kenya with your family? was it that your hair smelled like wildfires to me? or the music we shared or the salsa dancing? or just the warmth i felt when i looked up at you?  i fell for you in a little over a month and in the early hours of new years day, i whispered that i was falling for you. i remember that moment as though it were yesterday. i can feel the nerves.

you taught me about wanting to declare my love no matter the consequence.

and i didn't even know then how that, the fact that i was falling for you, was to become true. i had no idea where the next two years would take us.

you taught me that a man in a black t-shirt and jeans is nearly equivalent in attractiveness to a man in a suit. not a small feat, first love.

first love, you taught me that i could fall in love and that when i do, i really, really fall in love, i fall deeply. first love, i learned with you that that is a good thing...and a bad thing. either way, it is a thing, a truth about me. 

it is also a truth that i don't let a lot of people in. i don't fall in love with just anyone.

first love, you taught me about how i could fall in love with another's family. you taught me about the stupid fights you have with the one you love. you taught me about hugs and kisses and monthiversary competitions and how mad someone can be when you ask them not to eat in bed anymore because they spilled chocolate in it. 

but it is funny, and sad, first love, that i can't get a lot of the happy pictures in my head. i see flashes, but sometimes i think my brain is trying to protect me. the happy memories surprise me. the sad ones stay present. i can get the pictures of our last few months together, which were hard and tough for a number of reasons. i have those in my head. i have our (first) last kiss, in penn station, before you went back to school and i went back to england (i also know when our last, last kiss was. fuck you, memory). i have the fight two days before when you wanted to end it with me, but i begged you not to.

first love, you taught me that i beg for people to stay with me...the ones i love...which have been you...so you taught me that i beg you to stay with me until i see that your mind is made up. i beg because i hope, because i see a future, because i see how it can work until i look in front of me and see you and realize you don't see the same picture.

first love, you taught me that just because two people know each other well doesn't mean that they see and feel the same things. you also taught me that we make assumptions about each other that are not true. we both do. we both did. first love, you've taught me that assuming gets us nowhere.

first love, you taught me about heartbreak. i didn't understand it until that february, lying on my blue carpet, crying my heart out and i thought to myself "oh, this is what people mean. i get it. this is heartbreak." and there was part of me that was grateful to have had the experience, grateful that you had taught me it, because i thought it would prepare me for what and who came next. i thought it made me that much stronger. 

i don't know about that now, first love. i don't know.

i learn that i blame myself, first love. i blame myself for "making you leave". i learned that in disagreements, i usually end up taking on the blame, promising to change myself. i learned that when we break-up, i don't share the issues i may have had with the relationship, but i listen wholeheartedly to yours. that isn't your fault, first love. it is just what i do when i am faced with leaving you. so you helped me learn this, but it isn't your fault.

ha. see, first love, here i go...about to blame myself again. 

anyway, first love, you taught me about needing space for a few years before i could become friends. and then you taught me about letting old love back in after four and a half years apart. and then you taught me that i haven't really let others in--the men between you, first love, and you, most recent love, were great men who i tried to love and couldn't. you are my achilles heel, love. there is something you have, a key, that opens me up. (i'm in the process of calling the locksmith and getting that lock changed, first love.) and i learned, first love, that you could open it again and move in even more than before and that once again, you could teach me about heartbreak. 

first love, you taught me a lot about the love i want and the love i accept. you taught me a lot about fear. you taught me about compassion. you taught me about family. you taught me about how people have different experiences and histories. you taught me about sharing space. you taught me about my love of travel despite being terrified of planes. you taught me about festering wounds. you taught me about how important it is that my dog like you. you taught me about how two people can say 'i love you' and mean two, equally important, but different things. you taught me about anger and pain, but also about pleasure and pain. you taught me about memory and how they can haunt a place, a person. you taught me about letting go and moving on and how it is hard for me when it comes to you. you taught me, first love, a lot about myself.

and i'm grateful for that, even as i sometimes wonder what would have happened if you weren't my first love. even as i sometimes question whether i hadn't fallen for you that day, in that rehearsal, when you said that line.

but, first love, it is a ridiculous notion. because i did. and i would. on some level, i was made for that, for falling in love with you.

for now, i am looking for a love that is beyond what we had. maybe it is a love of myself. maybe it is a love from someone else. i am scared it doesn't exist, first love, but i am scared of everything so no surprise there. 

first love, i hope you are doing well. i hope that you are happy. truly. i look forward to the day that i see that picture pop up and i smile. i do. 

but for now, first love, i am looking for my own happiness with all the self-knowledge i've gained from my times with you.  

(this is day ten of april love)