“You cannot fathom the depth of the conflict within my soul when it comes to you. The profundity of my pain, sadness and regret when I think about you.
I will love you till my last breath.”
Besotted Brutality: The First Love Lesson
We never forget the first person we fall in love with. The emotion exempt from family and friendship based love catapults us into another realm we had at this point only ever witnessed and wondered about through film, literature and music. We had observed it growing up but never quite grasped what happened behind closed doors. Now, we have ourselves been given the opportunity to walk through that door and become enlightened by an experience more intoxicating than fantasy. Reality and curiosity collide and we feel an evolution in our knowledge of our self and learn about our capacity to love romantically. So new, so different, so good. How liberating!
Love hit me for the first time at 21 and to this day, is still the most fiery and passionate relationship I have experienced. Unbridled, raw, powerful, intense, overdramatic and above all the greatest learning curve. When we’re all new to love we’re unaware of the fundamentals. We know a few evident things but the intricacies in between, the grandeur of emotion and the repercussions of our choices and actions are yet to be explored. We become so involved in the moment knowing that, for the first time, our vulnerability is requited and yet unaware that our vulnerability is in the hands of the one we trust, love and admire the most. Which is the biggest gamble of all. The payback of emotional investment when negative is brutal. The more we invest the more we stand to lose. But we’re young, naive and foolish, unjaded and still capable of taking the blows. We haven’t yet received cuts, scars or bruises to know it hurts and takes a long length of time to recover.
He was a few years older than me. The perfect height in my opinion, brown puppy dog eyes, beautiful teeth and infectious laugh. We met at a party through a mutual friend and I instantly took a liking to his character. He was as odd, quick witted and enjoyed banter and juvenile jokes as much as I did. I must admit I didn’t fall for him straight away. It wasn’t love at first sight for me. My initial thought was that he was a wholesome boy, clever and would make a great friend. A couple of years passed from when we first met. In between we had seen each other and randomly msgd online (good ole days of MSN and MySpace) and he made numerous attempts to hang out but I was never available.
My childhood dog passed away and on the night she went to sleep I was lying in bed sobbing when he texted. I told him what happened and assumed he’d say the usual things like, “Sorry to hear, hope you’re ok. If you need anything.” but instead he started to talk about his his dog and how he completely understood how I felt based on the immense love he has for his pet. I found I learned something new about him and he was the only person that was able to raise my spirits. Only a few months before a close family member had passed away and I was stumbling into a multitude of emotions and grief. We continued to text and eventually started to see more and more of one another. A strong friendship was forged and I found he was a wonderful conversationalist. He was extremely empathetic, sentimental and an unbelievably caring soul. More than anything else he made me laugh, so much. More than anyone else has ever made me laugh and through his jovial spirit I forgot the pain of grief and enjoyed life through hysterical laughter, a sore stomach, tears in my eyes and crazy knee slapping.
On a long drive during a discussion on grief, he opened up to me about the admiration he had for his Grandfather. He detailed his life, how he idolised him and how he wears his hat on a regular basis. I was moved. Here was a masculine man who listened to metal music who was usually quiet and reserved putting his wall down and letting me in. This sparked the change in our dynamic and our conversations became significantly deeper. We opened ourselves emotionally to one another. The times spent together were no longer random long drives, sitting at fish and chip shops or cafes, making fun of one another, acting like gorillas (literally) or going to costume stores and trying on ridiculous outfits for a laugh. Nice intimate dinners were had, nights spent at either house talking and laughing. We even started to get to know each other’s families. The layers were being stripped back one by one and the first foundation of trust was built. An extremely in tune character he paid attention to things I said or did and always remembered what I liked and what I didn’t like. He was getting to know me better than I knew myself. He’d finish sentences or spit out jokes micro seconds before I did. He knew what restaurants I liked, my strange eating habits and would get excited about the same movies I would. In the car or at the movies he’d pat his legs inviting me to relax them on his lap. Our proximity wasn’t enough and in some capacity we always needed to be touching. Interesting how touch becomes the tell tale sign of need and want. I was incapable of ever allowing him to drive without my legs on his lap as he massaged my feet.
It was evident to me that he was feeling something more than friendship and I knew I was too but needed time to process as it was all so new. I was unable to distinguish whether it was love or just a strong admiration for a person. He had become my best friend. The best I’ve ever known. He was a gentleman without question. To this day, I still revere him as such. He was traditional like me in his values and it wasn’t until we officially became a couple that he mustered up the courage to kiss me. When our lips met I remember my heart feeling that same feeling you get when you go down a roller coaster really fast. My heart beat hard and I relished the feel of his soft lips and can still recall the smile he gave me after he let go. Engrained in my memory like a freshly processed photograph.
The first few months were a blur. Time seemed to slow down and go quickly all at once. Frame by frame I can piece it all together visually and yet after so many years I can still remember how I felt when he was with me. I’d never felt more at ease in all my life. Like I was exactly where I was meant to be at that precise moment and couldn’t envision anywhere else I’d rather be. Dreams were a thing of the past. Reality and the present were all I knew and I felt I was experiencing life the way it should be experienced for the first time. With full force, no looking back, no curiosity about tomorrow or even the hours ahead. It was this second. This moment. Him. As if my field of vision, when he was in sight, was completely out of focus and in super slow motion. It’s a cliche but he truly was the drug I was completely intoxicated with and like a junkie I craved it when I didn’t have it.
On a bright balmy day at the park we decided to lie on the grass and relax. For the last few days I had been uneasy, anxious, love drunk. I needed to tell him how I felt! A million thoughts were racing in my mind. What if he didn’t feel the same? What if he ignores me? What if he laughs at me and runs away? What the hell is wrong with me?! So much worry and excitement. I was so confused but I needed to get it out before it exploded out of me. I needed him to know dammit!
Then. He said it. “I love you.”
Time froze. This was the first time I’d ever said it and the first time anyone had ever said it to me. What a new experience. When all these crazy emotions within could only ever be summed up by three words and when said to one another you could completely comprehend the gravity and value in what that meant. A communication of the mind, body and soul. I felt like an adult for the first time. I was entrusted with someone else’s emotions and I had entrusted them with everything that came with me. Fears, insecurities, love, ambition and dreams. I felt valued by someone who at one point I never knew existed and from all the people in this world found me and chose me to be their ally. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. To him, to the gods, the universe, the sun, stars and whatever else may have placed us in each other’s world.
Rise and Fall
As it does with most relationships of a few years the honeymoon period came to an end. Which, just like the newfound feeling of the romantic, was also a new emotional experience. He suffered from a chronic illness that affected him physically and mentally inevitably creating friction and affecting our ability to communicate with each other. Two people in their early 20s, experiencing a serious adult relationship for the first time whilst also at the peak of learning about adulthood; dealing with a serious illness and conflicting viewpoints makes for a turbulent cocktail of emotions.
My early twenties were the most fragile of my life. I was a high achiever and knew how to get what I wanted when I wanted it. I was rather manic experiencing severe highs and lows. A workaholic and an attitude where I would scold myself if I wasn’t achieving what I set out to do. My teenage angst was delayed, I had underlying family issues I never dealt with, a boiling hot temper and I was confrontational with a tunnel vision that only allowed me to see how things affected me, myself and I. I viewed Him as a saving grace who allowed me to feel love and in turn I became too attached emotionally, physically and mentally. The disappointment I would feel if he made a mistake or upset me, no matter how minuscule, were always met with venomous words of hurt and ridicule. I made him feel guilt and responded with aggression when I didn’t receive what I naively felt at this point I deserved. In short I handled it atrociously.
His chronic illness affected him as such that his body was incapable of meeting his mind set. I didn’t see this at that point. He would at times be too tired or too sick and would cancel plans at the last minute or be incapable of conversing or remembering things which frustrated me. He educated me on the illness, so did his family but my mindset was rather naive. At times I would research, try my best to understand but would assume he thought I wasn’t doing a good job as a partner. My insecurities clouded my judgements and I was consumed by failure and so was he. The foundation beneath us became a path of eggshells and both were high-strung and sensitive to every discussion that related to the illness. He too was still trying to understand how his illness affected him and as a high achiever with an abundance of talent himself was trying to understand his own restrictions and limitations and wished for me to understand him as he felt no one else did. My attempts failed terribly. We’d have great patches then one small comment would change things. Instead of love we focused on disappointment. Our values and goals gravitated from potential marriage to prioritising support yet we were incapable of supporting each other when mentally we already had our own demons. I started to fear what life would be like for me to commit myself to someone ill in my twenties when I still had so much soul searching and curiosity. I wanted to travel, explore and spend late nights partying, drinking, conversing or making love and he was unable to keep up no matter how hard he tried and he did. He tried in every way to make me happy and all I retorted with were painful words of disappointment and frustration breaking his spirit. I turned him into the scapegoat for all my own internal anguish. We loved each other without question but we were struggling to find a common ground and the future started to become a cloudy haze of confusion. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together but the pressure made us fear the present. We were constantly living in past transgressions fearing future issues.
We became toxic and the toxicity grew with the age of the relationship. We were both hot headed and broken individuals not knowing what we were fighting for anymore yet still knowing the love was there. It hadn’t changed, it hadn’t gone anywhere and we still made passionate love and couldn’t envision a life without each other. However, the life we envisioned was far from what it was and the threat of further pain was a constant causing furious arguments and late night conversations finished with resolutions through intercourse in order to remind ourselves of the rawness of our intimacy. Words were never enough and we allowed the passion to speak for us which, worked at first but eventually turned into a slow requirement to cease any form of affection. Contrary to the beginning we were no longer finding solace in each other’s touch. A tiring up and down for the both of us. We exhausted one another emotionally.
Fight or Flight
Two years were spent making up and breaking up. Feeling fear without one another then realising, once together, there were too many issues left unresolved. Broken people are incapable of fixing a problem so soon. We struggle with pain, barriers and fear and too many wounds that haven’t healed. We are still so emotionally invested in the situation that we’re incapable of making objective decisions. We are empowered by the way it affects our hearts. Good and bad. We return for love because we know the wonder of the feeling but then we hurt each other and hope we can reconcile our issues and move forward feeling fresh. Impossible and eventually expectation and reality move further and further apart. The more we tried to work on the relationship the more we reminded each other of past hurt and the blaming game takes place. Dignity is lost and we go through all those stages of bargaining, begging, fighting, loathing and crying to be heard but in these sorts of circumstances, when the pain is insurmountable, and repair is impossible a resolution will never be found. The only resolution is to see it for what it has become instead of moving back. To see it how we see love. To look at the present and wake up to the moment. In this case, we were two damaged people, individually and together, who undoubtedly loved each other but couldn’t access that love beneath the rubble of hurt on top of it. When it all started the foundation of love created a beautiful building. The pain inflicted caused the earthquake that demolished that building leaving a mountain of cement, shrapnel, sharp objects and dust in its wake. Instead of walking away we would break up and return to one another creating several aftershocks continuing to add to the destruction and burying love deeper and deeper. Until you realise, like any structure, it will take years to repair and you are incapable of repairing it together anymore. In our case there were way too many aftershocks that a lifetime may not even be enough to extinguish the debris.
It was early morning by the time we’d finished our last fight. Both exhausted beyond words, incapable of formulating any sentences, emotionally destroyed and physically exhausted. We sat outside on the patio side by side where, after a previous brawl, his bruised bottom lip started to quiver. I looked at him and saw tears in his tired eyes. Those puppy dog eyes as he struggled to hold his tears in. I’d been crying and screaming all night and finally awoke to reality in some capacity.
It wasn’t the same.
We weren’t the same and the damage was irreparable. He turned to me and told me he loved me. That he would always love me but that he also feared and loathed me. He could no longer comprehend the contradiction in his emotions. All he knew is this was not what he wanted for us anymore. It couldn’t continue.
The next morning he dropped me home. No words were exchanged in the car. There was nothing left to be said and as he drove away and I walked into my house for the first time a weight was lifted from my shoulders. It was well and truly over and we would no longer torment and torture each other with harsh words or painful blows. Other times this had happened I only ever thought of our love, that I’d never feel his touch anymore, I’d never make him smile. That he’d never push my nose like a button when he wanted a kiss or that I’d never be locked in passion with him anymore. Now, it was reality. It was the present. We would never inflict such hurt on one another anymore. We were no longer a team. We were individuals on separate paths and I was enlightened, amidst the excruciating pain, to know I was alone able now to rebuild my life for no one else but myself.
From The Ashes
A few weeks after it ended I sent him an email to tell him I was moving overseas for a job. I felt this was a sign from the universe telling me it’s time for a new change and a new life, alone, to reestablish and repair myself. It came at the perfect time. Ever the gentleman he responded with such euphoria for me and wrote:
“You are the only girl I ever loved. I never let anyone in as much as you. A lifetime of concealing insecurities, fears, doubts and never letting anyone in ceased to exist when I met you. That wall came down, you were the only person I ever loved and trusted enough to see that side of me. What’s more, I loved you with every fibre of my being and every ounce of my soul in the only way I knew how. You bought me a happiness I never knew existed, a strength I never knew I had inside of me and you made me feel like I was not alone in a world I had come to despise and felt completely disconnected from.
You cannot fathom the depth of the conflict within my soul when it comes to you. The profundity of my pain, sadness and regret when I think about you.
I will love you till my last breath.”
I’ll never stop loving him. I always will but time, experience and knowledge puts reality into perspective. It took many years to realise and I’m still trying to realise that love is transient and doesn’t necessarily require that person to be in your life in the same way. The harsh reality of the first love is that more often than not it doesn’t usually last. It is the first fundamental life lesson and perhaps the most brutal one. It teaches us about the highest emotional point we can access, once unknown, and it tests our resilience and ability to respond to adversity. When you ask someone about their first love most will respond with the multitude of regrets they have, how they were so young, how they didn’t know any better, how they would do it all differently if given the opportunity. Words cannot be unsaid, actions cannot be forgotten and most of all time changes us all individually and our paths, like that of a map, may have intersected once but are now destined to be in different locations. The body may be elsewhere and the heart may be a little different but respect and admiration can never change. We’ll always remember our past loves for the people they were then, good and bad, but can at least take solace in knowing that they too share the same sentiment.
Perhaps it may never be vocalised, perhaps we’ll never know and our minds can trick us into assuming they think the worst of us based on our past transgressions but truth of the matter is each experience of love is a moment captured in time and those who experienced the same euphoria will hold that close to their hearts regardless of the cuts and bruises they felt along the way. We can only take solace in knowing that the best thing to learn and evolve from this is to remember that those we love will never stay forever in the same position they were in. As individuals we climb a ladder slowly and on different rungs will meet different people who serve different purposes. Nothing ever ends. They’re new beginnings disguised.
As for this man, I’m content knowing I’ll always love him for what he was to me, the impact he made and although it’s not the same love we once shared it is eternal and a love that I can keep for myself along with the memories we once shared.
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