Not the Did, But the Was
It's difficult to pick from these prompts, only because love is such an amorphous feeling. At first, I wanted to say "Lost Love," but truth be told, the lesson that I learned from this first love, lost love, whatever you'd like to call him, is that I possess these feelings.
I'm reading the prompt, "Many people get hung up on their first love, for reasons of history or just the fact that love is defined in terms of this particular person." It's not that I can't get over this person. But, for the first time in many years, I'm starting to be able to put words to all the feelings that this boy engendered in me. So, we're onto the lessons I learned from this relationship instead. "Oftentimes our first loves teach us more about love and human relations than any other relationships we will ever have."This prompt speaks more accurately to where I'm at than the one that intimates that I'm not over it.
When he and I began dating, my family and I were in the first year of coping with my father's severe brain damage as a result of a car accident. I came in to the relationship very guarded, and hesitant to be vulnerable because I'd just been through this trauma and I felt as though I'd lost my life's guidepost.
I remember often repeating to this boy my newly adopted mantra of "I don't know how to love," and trying to maintain a sense of coolness and distance from him, so that I wouldn't get hurt. The truth is, though, that I do know how to love, and that this boy (I call him boy because I equate him with a sort of innocence and genuineness. Man seems too worldly, too old. Guy sounds like he's a jerk, which he isn't) kindled it.
We spent what the pop-psych relationship gurus will call not enough time together. And, those same pop-psych people will yammer on about "it didn't work out for a reason," and "obviously he didn't like you enough to make the effort," or "if he really cared, he would have bridged the distance," all of these punctuated with "it wasn't meant to be."
But, the time we had was very intense, and very meaningful. I remember once he told me (maybe in a worried tone) that our relationship had progressed as rapidly in five or six weeks, as his previous relationship had in as many years. We met respective families, spent countless hours together talking and sharing our stories. But, there was an impending end. His brief stay in our shared hometown would conclude at the end of the summer and he would move on to the next phase in his life a few hundred miles away.
He moved. I clung. For which, I've since apologized, since he and I have remained friends in the four years since our relationship ended. But, what led me to this post, these realizations, strangely enough, was this commercial Valentine's day and taking inventory of the various demonstrations of my affection for him that, along with my strong feelings for him, summarily met his remonstration "I never did anything to deserve this from you."
On this V-day, where couples go out of their way to have done something for one another -- flowers, cards, romantic dinners, Hershey's kisses on bedroom floors, surreptitiously planned scavenger hunts and the like -- I started ruminating on what made my relationship with this boy so memorable. It wasn't the did, it was the was.
Who he was made him deserve my affection. Who he was made me feel. Who he was allowed me to trust him, not just enough but emphatically, and that's where this whole conundrum found its solution.
Maybe it's not that I couldn't get over him, but it is that love, for me, became defined after him (less amorphously than I had thought) by those feelings of trust, of "right" that I felt with him.
I've mourned this relationship for a long time, largely because in the four years since then, I haven't been able to trust anyone -- or, nobody has fostered that sort of trust in me, as it were. And, also because I miss the part of this person, or who this person was, that was mine or with me in our relationship. It's not so much that I've compared others to him, but that those feelings haven't resurfaced.
A friend of mine once told me that I possess a kind of love that only few can receive, an all-encompassing, completely giving love, that the wrong person will think of as overwhelming. He said that one day, the right person would be able to handle this love. So, I wait. But, the important thing is that I know I'm not loveless. I'm not a coquette. And, I'm not afraid to love and be loved in kind.
This is the lasting memory of my first love, and I suppose those memories are the sum of the lessons that I learned from him.