first love.

I miss my first love. Very much.

This is for you, D.

I miss your warmth next to me in the study room as we crammed for the same exams.

I still remember, so clearly, the moment you caught my eye. You weren’t the first, and you certainly wouldn’t be the last, but in that moment, I felt my world tilt. I never thought that you’d reciprocate my feelings. I was ready to just ride the wave, let those feelings seize and swirl and die down.

I wasn’t ready when you walked in the study room in our estate.

My mind kind of shut down, in the way it does when something that I never considered happens. My heart stopped, then started in triple-time. I fought hard to both look at you and not make eye contact. I was so nervous I started sweating, but I refused to take off my jacket in case it sent the wrong message. I wanted you to think I was the perfect girl.

And you did.

You walked me home every day we studied together. You dedicated minutes, hours, days to studying me, my idiosyncrasies, my habits. We took walks when the books threatened to strangle my sanity. You asked thoughtful questions and noticed my every reaction. You picked up every call I made to you, and sacrificed your sleep to listen to me breathe on the other end of the line when slumber evaded me. You paid attention and, most of all, made me feel loved.

I regret letting you go. You did nothing wrong.

All you did was ask me out on a date, a proper one, and I ran for the hills. I was scared. Scared of the unknown. I didn’t know what a date meant, and my anxiety-riddled brain sounded the alarm. I grew up looking out for myself, and that meant potential threats to my safety as a young girl and as a woman. Coupled with my headstrong refusal to ask for help, I abandoned all hopes and fled. I broke up with you the best way I knew how – face-to-face, and with assurances that it wasn’t your fault. I hoped you believed me, because I still love you. To this day, and probably forever. What Mik Everett says about writers is true – “If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.”

I don’t know how true this is, but when I had my heart broken for the first time, I was 18, and I felt so weak and helpless. I hope you didn’t feel like that, and if you did, I’m so sorry. It is the worst pain in the world, and it never goes away. A stray thread on conversation overheard or a strain of a melody brings it all back in an instant.

You are the best man I’ve ever met, and I thank you for everything you gave to me. To us. I’m sorry I hurt you, and I wish I could take it all back.

That said, though, I’m not sure that you’d like the person I am today. I can curse like a sailor. I wear short shorts and crop tops. Sometimes I don’t wear a bra. I drink alcohol for fun and take the last bus on days I’d rather spend more time with my friends. I don’t care about being ladylike or girly. I laugh with my head thrown back and my mouth wide. I’m happy being single.

I remember you from a time when I wasn’t who I am now. As much as I’d like to go back, I like who I am now. I don’t know if you would.

I’ve spent nights pondering ‘what if’s. What if I’d never broken up with you? What if we went on that first date? What kind of date would it have been? I imagine you would’ve been the gentleman I remember you to be, pulling out chairs and fussing over whether I was cold. You were caring to the point of doting. Where would we have gone? Would we have had dinner and watched a movie? Or maybe a café and some interesting conversation?

I’ll never know, and I hope never knowing won’t kill me.

All my love,

Joelle

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