My school didn’t exactly have a football team. The next best sport was soccer, and half of the school played. It was the most talked about, biggest sport at our school. Homecoming was a big deal too, and it was our first as freshman. Everyone was so excited for it. I was excited for the game; we were playing Brentwood. I knew it would be a tough game for them, but I also knew they could pull it off. All day that Friday, soccer players had been giving up their jerseys to girls to wear to the game. I had been sitting in the lunchroom with our friends when he came up and sat his lunch down on the table, pulled the blue away jersey from his backpack and handed it to me. “Wear this tonight, would you please?”
He was different. He had to be the one, I know that now. He was probably my first love; definitely the first, I realize, but only after the fact. Understanding how I felt made my stomach churn. He was trash and he knew it, but he also knew how I felt about him. He made me feel different, and I loved him for it. We could talk about anything for hours; Physics, why we think we're alive as we are now, soccer. He was one of the very few at the school that knew about my mother, and sometimes we talked about her. He was the one and only intelligent conversation I could rely on. My safe space. I never felt pain when I talked to him, and when I did, on the small chance, he was there. How ironic; he was the one who I never felt pain with, and later he caused me pain.
I stood on the bleachers. Hundreds of people were at the game. It was hot, sweaty and loud. Everyone was standing in the student section, so I was too. My breath hitched everytime Brentwood got the ball. I was nervous. I could tell that everyone else was also. I rolled the short sleeves further up on my shoulders. The jersey would definitely have to be washed before I gave it back. It reached down past my shorts, and I got weird stares the whole night from parents of other kids. My voice was slowly creeping away, and it just got even raspier as the night progressed. I yelled and screamed and chanted and sung. I chanted for the whole team, but inside, it was for him. I had always been jealous of his touch and his bravery to play defense. I could never, I would be too scared that I was gonna mess up. He, however, had a perfect touch and rarely made mistakes.
I remember that day exactly how it happened. It was a Tuesday; I was at the Grand Canyon with my best friend, and I'd been texting him through the whole trip. He asked me how it was, if it was as beautiful here as everyone made it out to be. Pulling my eyes from my phone, I looked and listened to my surroundings. The birds sung their sunset songs while the sun lowered over the canyon, covering the scenery around me in red and orange rays. The flowers were closing their beautiful blooms, the trees moved with the evening breeze. A rainstorm was forming over the canyon, miles and miles away from the spot where I stood. My thumbs hovered over my screen. I didn't have the confidence at the time to tell him he was the best part of my day. I replied to him quickly, and told him that it was just as beautiful as everyone said it was, that it took my breath away. I was met with the expectant eyes of my best friend. She asked me who I was texting, even though she already knew. It wasn't a secret to her at this point. I sent him pictures of my mother's camera, taking photos of photos I'd snagged during the trip around the canyon. I was really proud of one in particular: the rainstorm and lightning over the vast expanse of the canyon.
The crowd began to count down, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6,...” Brentwood had lost the game, and the crowd erupted in screams and in song. Students rushed the field after Brentwood had quickly left in embarrassment. I yelled congrats to every player that I came across. When I came across him, I gave him a huge hug. Sweaty or not. He smiled and dropped what he had in his hands. I congratulated him, but it was barely audible. He laughed at my voice and hugged back.
Between driving back from the canyon and actually getting to my hotel, my heart was shattered into a million pieces. Over text, less than 200 words, and he couldn't be bothered to give me a real apology. ”It would be different if I wasn’t moving," he said. Different? As if our feeling would stretch and flow over the miles between here and North Carolina; like it was a physical thing being spread thin. He hated long distance, and the only thing he could ever say about it was a half serious insult to the last relationship I’d had. He was bitter over something or someone, but he would never tell me. Just spat back with insult and injury set to target me. I knew he was making excuses, and I knew I was never getting over him either way. He tried to tell me he wished things were different, but I knew it was bullshit. “I’m sorry, I really am.” I couldn't do anything; couldn't reply, couldn't think, couldn’t move. 200 words or less, and he moved to North Carolina and took my heart with him. I was helpless to do anything but stare at my phone screen, a gentle distaste for what the small object had delivered. I couldn't believe it: after so long of self doubt and waiting, the first person I loved moved out of my life.
Two years later, I still think about the conversations that we had over time. Conversations that really mattered to me. When I’m home, sometimes I think that he’s gonna just show up at my door and apologize for leaving, and everything would go back to normal. We’d talk everyday, like we used to. See each other everyday, like we used to. The past two years of my academic career seem like a dream. None of this has happened, what little pain that he put me through has been a dream. That I haven’t experienced this. Though, I know in my heart that this is untrue, that I have endured pain.
I never knew that my first love could cause so much pain and disgust. I criticize every thought I have about him and what I could’ve done differently to have changed things. I hate myself everyday for still thinking about the trash that was my first love. Every morning, I tell myself that today, I will not think about him for the entire day, think about happy things. Always, does it fail. No matter the situation, it seems I’m always thinking about him, whether it be directly or indirectly. I am over him physically, I know this. Mentally, however, is another hurdle I am too scared to finally jump over.