The Boys I Have Loved, pt 1

17 Jan

There are five boys I have loved.

I fell in love with Junior when I was thirteen.  Love, at thirteen, is not mature; it is not conservative or sensible or contained. The feelings I had for him were intensely impassioned, loud and public. They were shallow, I have come to realize, but in the moment they were all consuming. Every fiber of my small, underdeveloped thirteen-year-old body was in a constant state of obsession over Junior.

He first kissed me on March 27th. Well, I think so – he always disputed this. While I asserted our first kiss was outside his house as he got out of my best friend’s mom’s car, he maintains that it was in the stairwell the next day, when we were hiding and talking instead of working on our after-school projects.

I’m obviously right. I remember how fast my heart was beating when I got back into the car. I remember replaying that moment over and over in my head, not able to sleep that night. I remember the ridiculous smile I didn’t even realize was on my face for days. I remember dreaming of our lives growing old together: a child’s fantasy, to postulate beyond the realm of middle school. For years after our inevitable break-up, Junior would act as the gold standard for the boys in my life.

That was in eighth grade; the majority of that year was spent forcing my three best friends not only to obsess about him with me, but to force them to respectively obsess over his three best friends. Two of those were successful. One unrequited obsession may be ongoing. With that exception noted, that is what thirteen-year-old love is: learning kisses in the dark with a thread of saliva hanging between our mouths. Locking eyes across the room for over half of Social Studies. Running my hands down his back during games of keep away. Feeling electric as his knee touched mine under the table in our reading class.

It was world-rocking and heart-shattering and so perfectly innocent, as first loves are wont to be. Similarly, it came to a wrenching end not so long after it began.

 

But high school did begin, and this is where I fell in love with Des.

I will preface this with the disclaimer: my boss and mentor in my Leadership Program pronounced the pair of us the “worst-matched pair, probably in the history of ever.” After we graduated, there was a strong recommendation put in place that no two people date within the Leadership Program, due to ‘disruptions in the Leadership Process.’

I was lonely in high school, depressed leaving my best friends behind. I had known Des for many years, and it was so simple to fall into a relationship with him. It elevated my spirits and gave me something to concentrate on outside of my schoolwork. Gave me a best friend to talk to. Social status in a school I had previously been a hermit at. I loved him for these reasons.

For three years, it didn’t matter how horribly matched we were. What would matter, eventually, were the daily fights. Were being pushed against lockers and, worse, ignored when he was angry with me. The girls he kissed “at baseball practice…” they mattered. What should have mattered was our inability to compromise on anything.

I remember vividly, during 11th grade Health Class, being assigned a mechanical baby to take care of. Des and I were partners, and, at first, we had worked out a schedule to take care of the small robot. Duties involved changing the magnetic diaper; feeding the tiny magnetic mouth and burping the hard plastic back afterwards. Nothing too outlandish. Students were expected to adjust their sleep schedules (the babies went off religiously at 4:15 am) and work around school work (finding baby-sitters during test periods, for instance) during this week. Days 1-4 went swimmingly. It was the fourth night shift, which I had taken, that was particularly exhausting. On then the fifth day, having dragged myself and a screaming toy robot to the school and handing it to Des, I was headed off to my mentor’s office for a nap during my free hour.

I remember him saying, “Can’t you just take him this morning?” I had said no. Vehemently. “Come on, you have a free period.” Absolutely not. “Stop being a bitch. Just take him.” Anger, now, bubbling up next to exhaustion. This turned into a yelling match, outside of our homeroom at 8:15 in the morning; a small carrier with a metal robot sitting on the floor between us. Both assuming the other would give in, I stalked away from him and the carrier; he did the same in the other direction. Hours later, right before Health class, we walked towards the room at the same time. He appeared unsure. “Where’s…the baby?” It was his turn to take the damn thing. He knew it was. We walked in, eyes wide, to see the small child-thing sitting on the Health teacher’s desk.  It had been screaming it’s little robotic scream in the hallway for an hour before a fed-up principal brought it to the health teacher’s room.

It was the only assignment I failed in high school. Until only a couple of years ago, I was still violently opposed to having children.

Much like the robot child would have under our supervision for any longer, our relationship (and seventeen years of friendship) erupted in a fury of lies and jealousy and hurt and anger – a blackened, charred end of a very long, unstable relationship.

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