My First Love

We met at work. He was the creamy brown-skinned guy with the perfect smile and hazel eyes and naturally, every girl and woman who worked with us delighted in attention from him. He was charming, handsome, intelligent, witty, and was athletic. He was the guy every girl wanted to be wanted by and despite my cool attitude, I was no exception. Thinking back to the beginning, I remember willing the universe to put us in the same place at the same time. Answered prayers, a whole shift in close proximity, we struck up a rapport. Inside jokes and side comments at work lead to an eventual number exchange and the first time we talked on the phone? It was for 7 hours. Over the years marathon phone conversations would become hallmarks of our relationship. Sunset to sunrise, we could talk and laugh without awkward pauses or silences that begged to be filled. I had never been able to talk to someone, anyone, so easily. He understood my humor. We laughed at the same things, and thought about things in the same way. He had seen the silly youtube videos that I loved, and could quote obscure song lyrics from songs that only we still found relevant. 

(Don't wake me) I'm dreaming

Underneath the Stars

He loves me

Our first and only real fight was when he told me he did not want to be my first sexual partner. Actually, he asserted that I was not ready. Never one for being told what to do or how to feel, I acted out. My 33-year-old self can look back and admit that he was right. I wasn't ready. I felt the pressure to be physically intimate with him because I assumed that our emotional/spiritual intimacy was insufficient. Oh sweet girl...You were so misguided. 

Now, I would kill for that sort of unadulterated candor, honesty, connection, love...

Unable to process my feelings for him, I wrote. He became my muse. Love poems, songs, stories, day dreams and what-if fantasies. Life moved on without us and he began to date other people growing into a man who would find disdain in monogamy. 

I tell myself that just as I could never replicate the sort of bond that he and I shared, he would spend his days searching for me in every woman he came across. I wished it because, in a way, I felt robbed of the opportunity to love him properly. I think of how things would be if we met now for the first time, would we be open enough to receive each other? Would we even know what it was that we had? 

I reveal to him that I believe the physical aspects got in the way of "us". He asked for clarification and I told him, "At the time, I wasn't ready to have sex. You knew that, but because of what I knew you had done and would do with other girls, I felt the pressure to push our intimacy to be physical and I think that messed up the purity of our friendship." I had admitted the truth, that I loved him but that I allowed pressure and expectation to taint something that was Real. 

I have let go of any hope of connecting with him again in this lifetime. He and I never had sex, the only man I ever loved that I never made loved with. In a way, it is fitting. The most innocent love, the most unfiltered and true. Even if it was superficial. Even if I didn't know what love was. Even if I couldn't give all of myself to him, I loved him with all that I had at the time and I know that he loved me in exactly the same way. I know that without asking because it was in his ways. The words hung loosely between his admission that he still thinks of things he wants to tell me that I'd find funny, fairly regularly, despite the fact that we have not seen each other in over a decade. I know because he always greeted me with a big hug and was never shy or stingy with affect. I know because every birthday, every Christmas, ever New Year, and tiny moments in between...I know because I just know. 

 And even though we are just friends. Even though most of our relationship now exists in faded memories and broken recollections, I will always love him. He was my first love. The first man to give me butterflies. The first man to dive into me, head first, just for the pleasure of the journey. I love him for our innocence. I love him for what it was, and for all the things it could never grow to be. 

Now I say this specifically to him, no matter how many hours go by, how many years separate us, how many miles fill the distance between our beings, I will always love you. You will forever have a place in my heart that is yours and only yours. You showed me what it meant to be vulnerable. You taught me the importance of communication and with you, I discovered how truth can bring two people so close they become irrevocable. You have laughed with me, at me, you have made me think, you have calmed my fears, you have cried for me when your love could not protect me from harm. You have been such an important part of my journey. I cannot say it enough, E, I love you. 

I find that as I prepare to enter 2018, I want to do so at peace with who I am. I want to create as much peace and stability around me by nourishing my relationships. That means telling people how much they mean to you. And as I think about being 33 and feeling ready to open myself up to a life partner, I think back to the beginning. I think through all of my mistakes, and my failures. I think through it all and I remember this, my first, and I think about how even without trying we were able to create something wonderfully perfect. Flawed but perfect. I want that for myself again, in a new iteration, and this time because I am a woman and not a girl-in-progress, I will be able to handle it. I will be able to look not only fear in the eye, but also open my arms to love just like I did when it was just me and just you. 

Jessica Williams