Being a teenager sucks, but when I treated relationships like they were disposable, I didn’t know I was hurting other people too.
The one boy in particular I remember was a red-haired kid who played piano. He was a year younger than me, and sweet and crazy smart and very talented. He used to whistle old blues songs as we walked around campus. He played piano on breaks, at lunch, after school. And wrote me poems about our love in the springtime, and the way we would grow old together. How much he loved my laughter, how he wanted to hold my hand forever. I would sing while he played piano, we would drink beers and smoke pot at the ocean and drive home mildly at risk, thoroughly breaking the law. This sweet boy wanted to wait to have sex until we were both ready, until he was ready, until we thought we were in love.
I cheated on him, as I did every significant other I had until I was 22. I slept with a couple of exes and one of his friends, and then decided my red-haired Romeo wasn’t “enough” for me, and had a girlfriend tell him that because I couldn’t face it myself.
A week later, he wanted to hang out just to be friends. He had written me a poem about becoming friends even though I hurt him. I don’t know how it finally occurred, but I got him into bed. Years later he told me he thought having sex with me that day would make me his girlfriend again. I took his virginity on my back, and I remember the disassociation I felt with our body parts, I remember the poster of the moon on my ceiling and how I was thinking about that while he put his life into making love to me. The next day was Saturday, and I got drunk and met Will at a party, fucked him and started dating him.
The next week at school, Romeo’s sister approached me. “He thought that was worth something,” she said to me. “He thought you two were something special.” I think of this moment now and still can barely muster feelings about it. I regret that I can’t. But I remember her saying the word special and I wrinkled my eyebrows in confusion. Special? What was special about sex? It was two sweaty ugly naked bodies forcing themselves to merge, it was two people faking feelings for a few moments so they could both get off. I was apathetic and annoyed that she was wasting my time with this information.
Years later my Romeo and I had sex again, drunk this time, both home for the summer. We spent the next two days wrapped up in each other. Without a conversation, I leapt with all my heart into it. Without promises, I decided he had promised me something, and I found the old poems, sang the old songs. I wandered around for a few days in a haze of happy-ever-after fantasies. I was beside myself with the romance of the whole thing, the decade of separation, the adorable cheeks of our red-headed children, the places we’d go and see and make better, together. But Romeo didn’t call me back. And of course, why should he?
We all take advantage of each other. I’d like to say I would do better by Romeo if I could rewind this life. I’d like to say I wouldn’t have cheated on him, or any of the others. That poor Nick who cried in the morning because he’d been trying to save his virginity till marriage when I got him drunk and took it from him wouldn’t have had to cry like that, wouldn’t have had to hate me the way he still might hate me.
I would like to pretend that these lessons have made me the loving woman I am today. Honestly, I think if I had lived those years better I probably would be an even better person now, without the stunted development I drank myself into. I think if I could go back to twelve and give that first virginity back, I probably wouldn’t. I would just fuck up again in many, if not all, of the same ways. But I hope the boys that I really did hurt, who still remember that pain and how it clung to them, I hope they somehow know I am sorry. I have been broken open myself, but I was never treated as unkindly as I treated those boys I used in high school.
Photo credit: Flickr / lonnypaul