Come, sit, rest for a stir.Curl up, get comfortable.
Allow me to tell you a story.
I can’t tell you if the ending of this story is happy or sad. This is no fairy story. This is a real life romance, and in real life, love is often not tragic, nor exhilarating. It see-saws on the perch of everyday things, of laundry and lunches, of kisses and miscarriages, of forgotten anniversaries and impromptu celebrations.
The exception to this, of course, lays within the sweet shards of sunlight, the lilting melody that plays the very first time you fall in love.
There is nothing quite like it. Now, there is a phrase that has been stripped of it’s meaning, robbed of it’s emphasis. But apply it here, whisper it with passion and force- There is nothing quite like it.
His name was Christian, and we were fifteen years old.
Before I go on, I know there are a few of you, those in the background, who roll your eyes and murmur to yourselves that fifteen is far too young to experience love, that ‘love’ at fifteen is merely a hormonal infatuation. And perhaps you are correct. It was not the love I have for my husband, not the comfortable love built of respect for one another, for the commitment we have made.
But to say it was not love would be unfair and dismissive of the emotions this relationship encapsulated, of the devastation it left behind.
And this is where our story begins.
Does it surprise you that I remember, a Polaroid picture pinned in my mind, the moment I first saw Christian? No, it doesn’t, I’m sure, because this would not be a love story without that fact to frame it. Christian was in my Year Nine French class. He was witty and popular and entertaining without being a nasty pack-led creature as teenage boys so often are.
It’s his eyes that I remember- the shade of green that has stayed with me. Somewhere between sea water and pine needles, with flecks of golden sun. And his hair, thick and dark. His hands, firm and calloused and comforting.
He made me laugh.
I’ve always been a sucker for a man who makes me laugh.
At fifteen years old, we mistook ourselves for being far more mature than we were. And I think it’s only fair to say that, for a kid of his age, Christian had far more going on in his home than anyone should have, at any age.
For some reason that I have never been able to definitively clarify, Christian and I connected. Plato says that we, man and woman, are two halves of the one soul, and I remember seizing that philosophy, grappling with it to explain why I could not turn away from this person, even after they had turned so very toxic for me.
That sentiment, ‘toxic’, perhaps, is the understatement here. If the truth is to be known- and surely, this is the forum for it?- Christian and I had a crippling, withering effect on one another’s souls, coupled with a polarity that was like a magnetic force- as much as we needed to push away, something enticed us together, to repeat our heartbreaks, over and again.
Teenagers are cruel. This is an undisputed fact. Turn that cruelty to an angle that is not quite pointed at yourself, but only slightly away from your own heart, and you are destined to scorch the core of the people you love.
Arguments flared and burned between us, with stupid decisions and rationales ruled by hormones to provide a constant supply of dry, crunching fuel. What should have been private arguments, surely would have private arguments, had we been adults, not children, were aired, dried, starched in the judging sunshine of the schoolyard.
Things ended badly. Does that surprise you…? No, of course, it does not. First time loves that do not end, and end badly, are an increasingly rare commodity.
But that is not what I’m here to tell you about today.
Because this story is about the exhilaration, remember? The sparkly part, the effervescence of falling, of feeling no one before had experienced a love like this, no one but you.
The beauty of falling in love for the first time.
Do you remember…? Being young like that, filling your nose, your head, your senses with the smell of Men mixed with cheap antiperspirant and the waft of freshly lit cigarettes and the dank sweet smell of Coca Cola on their breath? Of being unable to sleep, of not needing to eat. Every thought and emotion balanced on the ridge of a sweet anticipation, of a thrilling anxiety, waiting for their phone call, their voice, their knock at the door, the next encounter.
And the passion…? Surely, you must remember that. When kissing someone was so sweet and new, it was like sun warmed peaches in your mouth. When the touch of someone’s skin was a surprising, soft sensation, when no greater satisfaction was found in anything except laying in their arms, listening to the startling yet comforting thud or their heart.
In their arms, were you easily could have stayed, caught in the soft web of that moment. Closed your eyes and floated on the succinct perfection of it, for a lifetime.
With the jaded hindsight of an adult, it is the optimism of first love that astounds me. Isn’t everyone optimistic, at that point in their lives? Don’t we all believe that our first love will be our only? Mustn’t we…? Because if we didn’t, then why love for the first time at all…?
It’s an Earth stopping moment, to realise that the sweetness of your first love has turned rotten and spoiled. To realise that even if that love was to somehow be rebuilt, if trust could be re-threaded and words taken back , there would still be something missing, and innocence and faith in your own heady feelings, that cannot be replaced.
And to say that all of that, at any age, is not love would be a disservice. Not only was that love to me, it defined love for me. Christian became a marker with which other loves would be judged. The flush of first passion became a standard for subsequent relationships to meet, a guide stick with which to test their emotional depth.
Christian. Fourteen years on, his name still whispers and resonates like a melody in my head. If I close my eyes, I’m sure I can smell him. And if I think hard enough, I can almost capture the exact shade of his green eyes.
Not a happy story. Nor a sad one. Love, in real life, it’s like that.