First Love

“Standing on a hilltop, the setting sun silhouettes a couple kissing” by Filipe Almeida on Unsplash

Oh, that unmistakeable mania grasped me in the sixth grade. Age 11. Her name: Alex K

What a fantastic and stunning hold this young adolescent had on my mind.

Every accomplishment I achieved was for her. All of the creativity in my mind was reserved for her.

I burned her CD’s. I wrote her love notes. I explored writing her name in every font I found stimulating, including the ones I didn’t.

All of my free time was spent on AOL Instant Messenger waiting for Sftblbabe9 to send me a simple hi. I constantly ravaged my sense of humor for ways to invoke her smile.

And, I learned about suffering.

I had a tight knit group of about 7 friends who did everything with one another at this time.

We played sports together. Sat together at lunch. Sat together in our classes. Passed notes. Competed for GPAs. Rode our bikes to one another’s houses. Snuck out together. Snuck into rated R movies together. And attended pool and beach parties together on our free weekends in sunny St. Pete, FL.

These truly represent some of the most cherished memories of my childhood. With only an alcoholic father at home, my friends were my life.

Unfortunately for me, Alex was interested in all of my friends. Specifically my best friend, Kelan. They dated the majority of 6th and 7th grade.

I learned the meaning of envy. My best friend had a nice house, a nice family, and my only love.

The only thing I had that he didn’t was straight A’s. Every other victory I deemed significant, whether it was our friend group or a youth football championship, we did it together. And, he had the girl.

I had nothing and everything.

I had an apartment with my crazy dad. I had late and lonely nights.

But, what I didn’t realize at the time is I had lifelong friendship.

Every time he made Alex laugh in front of me I felt pain. I felt jealousy. I felt insignificance. I felt emptiness.

So, I practiced being a better version of myself. I focused on areas I had control over to change.

I explored dating other girls. This led to an expanded circle and a popularity I enjoyed. I improved my wit. I smiled more and laughed harder.

I found a substitute happiness elsewhere and stopped obsessing over Alex, but I always knew she was the only relationship that mattered.

Finally, she began to notice.

She started calling me, asking me questions, asking to hang out. This happened well over a year into my infatuation.

I took advantage of every second of her time she was willing to allow.

I rode my bike to her softball games to watch her pitch. I rode my bike to her house on weekends. I walked her from her locker to her classes.

Eventually, her and Kelan broke up and I was waiting with open arms.

This was what I had been waiting for. I’ll never forget the opportunities to kiss her in her room, at the sports complex, or hidden around a corner at school.

She was everything to me. No other relationship mattered. Not even the fraying of the relationship between Kelan and I. He had felt no remorse in the beginning when he had won her affection, so why should I feel any now?

This was competition. Everyone cannot win.

And, eventually, yet again, I was on the losing side.

After a few months and what seemed like a blink in time, she dropped me for reasons I will never know. She got back with Kelan.

No more talking on the phone until well past midnight. No more sneaking kisses. No more attention.

I couldn’t make sense of it. Everything was going so well. It wasn’t fair. She had no idea how much she had crushed me. My heart knew true pain for the first time.

Home life had become much too distressing during this time and I had decided to try life with my mother for a bit. I was twelve. My dad was a drunk. Football season was over. And, I was accustomed to making all of my own decisions.

And, I pondered, this break will make her miss me and realize the mistake she made.

I traded amazing friends and instability at home for stability, boredom, and loneliness in Memphis, TN. It was February, 2001.

My friends in Florida truly sent me off in style with a party, balloons at school which were usually reserved for birthdays, hugs, love, and a kiss from the one that mattered.

All was going to plan. I hadn’t realized that I was sacrificing the emotional stability of my mother and father by playing this love game.

Three months later I told my mom what i had known all along. I was moving back to Florida. I had a life there that I finally appreciated. My love had been messaging me every day and had even sent a few personal letters. Football season, summer, 8th grade, and Alex were all waiting for me.

I’ll never forget the embrace that followed. It was seismic moment in my life. Alex was all mine and everyone was happy I was back.

That summer was perfect. Long days kissing Alex on the beach. Finally, working up the courage to touch the budding breasts that my eyes were now fixated on. The loud and boisterous laugh of my love and those entrancing green eyes.

We planned all of the big events together. Most pertinent at the time: Losing our virginities.

True love grips us and becomes the focal point of our young lives. It is a treasure, which I am eternally grateful for having experienced

I was ripped away from my comfort zone again in October of 2001. My mom had hired a PI to photograph my father taking me to and from football practice with beers on the field and beers in the car. She had done this after being informed of an event.

My dad was arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend the day of September 11, 2001 in an encounter and a day that are burned into my memories.

I went to live with my friend Kelan and his parents. We examined our friendship and decided that it was worth more than one competition over a young girl’s fleeting heart. We remain in touch today.

The courts sided with my mom as they should have.

I left Alex during the peak of our relationship.

My mom brought me back to visit every few months, and our love shined during those times. But, time and distance eat away at all love.

I found out she had gone further with an older guy than we ever had. They had been naked together. When I confronted her over the phone, she confirmed.

The self-generated images of those moments tormented me, and they live in my mind today as if I was there. I’m 28 and those feelings have long passed, so it’s interesting to probe what remains.

We remained friends, and over the next few high school and college years we would visit one another here and there. The physical nature of our connection was sometimes present but the relentless desire and the love had faded.

Our relationship evolved into a meaningful friendship, and we remain close friends to this day.

I attended her wedding last year and could not be happier for her. Our love has grown, proven itself malleable, and exhibits value now and always.

Young love can yield amazing adult friendships if it is treated with respect and transgressions are forgiven without grudging behavior.

We were both highly flawed and incredibly vulnerable individuals, and our emotions were vivid and overwhelming.

That passion taught me how to better understand and experience love down the road, and the wisdom yielded from that relationship still helps me on my journey today.

All love has value. All pain has value. All lives have value. Enjoy the human experience.

Originally published at