Our love story began in 1978 when we were 14-year-old freshmen in High School. The transition from middle school—or in my case, junior high school—to high school was exciting and scary at the same time. Although I had friends from junior high school and my neighborhood attending the same high school, I still felt the sense of angst that any 14-year-old would feel when embarking on unfamiliar territory. I anticipated with baited breath this adventure that was ahead of me.
The first day of school was a beautiful September summer day. The leaves were beginning to fall from the trees, yet the dew of summer’s warmth still glistened on our skin and in the air. The weather was picture perfect.
Before the school day ended, I met a boy and he stole my heart. He was a freshman who also applied for the school’s unique academic programs. We were in so many classes together, including homeroom. Because both our last names shared the same first letter, we always sat a few seats away from one another, either in the first or second row – always within reach. It was funny how he seemed to be everywhere I was.
He always made me smile and, whether I liked it or not, he found a way to ingratiate himself into my life. If it wasn’t homework or questions about an upcoming test, he would ask and I was more than happy to help. That is what being in high school was all about. Laughing, sharing homework assignments, and the occasional answer to the ever-present pop quiz. I welcomed seeing him every day and I was pretty sure that he didn’t know it. I was shy and had no idea how to behave when crushing. This back-and-forth cat and mouse, teasing, laughing, joking, talking, ‘can I see your homework’ went on for the next 4 years.
Fast forward to the spring of ’82 and our focus shifted to Regents and final exams. The graduation ceremony had taken place and college was just around the corner. We took to our yearbooks to share our platitudes of grace. We both had hopes and dreams that may or may not have mirrored what we studied in school, but either way, it was time to move on to another chapter of our lives. In the summer of ’82 went our separate ways.
Time went on and I went off to college. I had boyfriends and lovers and experienced life as a young adult living at home. In 1996 and again in 2002 the boy who made me laugh crossed my path again. By this time I had moved from Brooklyn and was working full time. We kept our conversation cordial, never crossing the line to anything more than ‘’hey, how are you, what have you been up to? Good to see you, take care.” At the time, I was already involved in a relationship, one that I was working my way through, and out of, and I didn’t know if his life was equally complicated nor did I want to further complicate mine by asking him out. I admit that I was curious about him—as a young woman who’s experienced life, somewhat—so my thoughts traveled to places that I dared to venture as a teen. Time was not on our side. However, it was great to see him and I thought about him long after we said our goodbyes.
In 2004 I found out about a high school reunion; it was 22 years since I graduated. Once again I felt nervous wondering, “Am I successful in comparison to my peers? Do I look old? Am I fat? Will I see my high school nemesis? Will I see my crush?” Yet for better or worse, I decided to go.
I no longer lived in Brooklyn, so I really didn’t know what to expect. After all, I was 40 years old and a lot has happened in my life since the summer of my 18th year. I found a few outfits and set my mind on having fun and reacquainting myself with new friends and meeting new people.
I arrived with an open mind and strangely enough, there were more people there that I didn’t know than I expected. It was like the first day of school all over again, except this time, more than one guy approached me than in 1978. There were also so many people who knew me that I didn’t know. I took it in stride. I wasn’t the shy 14-year-old so I had no problem engaging conversation with any and every one. However, I did wonder where are all the people I used to know?
So I mingled, danced, drank, laughed, and ate . . . and then I saw him. That boy—the one who always joked, teased, asked for my homework and made me laugh—was now a grown man and, once again, seeing him made me smile. His face was the only face that I remembered, even though time and life had left its mark on us both. Before I knew it, we were off in a corner talking and catching up, and this time, we exchanged numbers. Maybe third time is a charm. Oh, it was on.
We began dating and started spending a lot of time together and I enjoyed every minute of it. I remember thinking how comfortable I felt being with him, in his arms, and eventually, in his bed. I don’t know if it was the familiarity of high school, being the same age, or just the fact that our personalities clicked, but I felt a bond with him that was unlike any man I had ever dated, or thought I loved.
One day I said “I love you” and although I wasn’t sure what he was going to say, I felt liberated. It’s not that I had never been in love; it was more a matter of knowing that this time was different, this time it was real. He told me that he loved me too, and I was ecstatic. I glowed, from the inside out, and anyone who knew me could see that I was different; that something about me was different. I knew what it was like to Exhale.
Years passed. Life happened, as it does. We couldn’t stay wrapped up in our love bubble indefinitely without something happening to test our resolve. And. It. Did.
In 2009 my life changed and so did his, and things drastically changed between us as well. Although we never solidified our relationship with marriage or cohabitation, the initial wave of discontent was very difficult for me to handle. We broke up and got back together as many times as Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson but it was never the same as it was in the beginning. Maybe Sade was right, maybe it’s “Never As Good As the First Time.” Hard truths are what they are, hard to admit, maybe it was ever meant to be.
Our relationship hung by a string for a few more years until I finally realized that I needed to get my life on track. I no longer wanted to rationalize the myriad of reasons why ‘if you love me, you would do this or that’ or ‘love conquers all’; apparently, it doesn’t. Many years ago I read a book entitled ‘Why Love is Not Enough, written by Sol Gordon, and think back on what I read and as I relate it to my devastating breakup, I realized that I can’t tell someone how to think, feel, or be, and maybe our ‘conscious coupling’ was meant for me to learn that I have a great capacity for love, and when the time is right, I’ll be ready and it will be amazing.
Photo credit: Pixabay