A first love: Watching it grow and fade

A student describes how she first fell in love when she was 18, and how it ended.

Romantic comedies aren’t real. 

I’ve watched marriages deteriorate at a young age. I’ve witnessed love fade and felt the true pain of a dying relationship. I hated the destruction it caused. 

So, I always told myself I wouldn’t be a victim of Cupid’s lethal arrow. I would never sing love songs or hand my heart over to a stranger. I saw what happened to others, and I didn’t want that for myself.

Of course, I’ve had crushes. I fixated over cute boys, kissed them, even entertained the possibility of love. I drowned myself in sonnets, sappy movies — even my own poetry was romantic in tone. I loved love in theory, but always from afar. I never wanted a relationship. I played the game, but I played it too well. I kept myself guarded, my heart safe.  

I was successful for more than 18 years. But then I fell in love. 

It was everything I was afraid of. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever been — but also the most unsure. I was confronted by a lifetime of suppressing love. All at once, there was a stranger choosing to love me. I forgot where I was and who I was. 

I recall the smallest things; laying in the grass, swapping secrets and pretending like we were above everything and everyone. It felt that way, and no one could convince me otherwise.

There was nothing more important to me than protecting this little life I had made with this man. It was the most glorious pain I had ever felt. Whole weekends spent in bed weren’t enough. Hours on the phone felt like seconds. Kissing was my source of energy. 

It was cosmic.

I forgot my childhood fears and released myself into pure bliss. My confusion and fright melted away with each touch. I was putty; impressionable, easily manipulated. So naive. 

I thought I had been foolish for banishing love all my life. I had miraculously found the exception to the rule on the first try. How amazing! We were of the chosen few to find their soulmates.

That was what we thought, what we said: soulmates. It was insane to say, which also made it feel so real. How could I, a logical and skeptical person, make such a claim if it weren’t valid? It must be true.

I accepted the weight of the heartache that often accompanies young love. I made excuses. 

“No, he didn’t mean that. He was just angry.”

“They told him to say that. It’s not in his control.” 

“He loves me. Of course, he loves me.”

My first relationship felt like I was nursing an animal back to health knowing it would bite me when it regained strength. I couldn’t ignore the purity in its eyes even though there was venom in its teeth. I just couldn’t let it die.

But something gut-wrenchingly beautiful isn’t so without a little gore. And gore there was — plenty of it — chaos mistaken for passion. There were whispered lies, caresses that left unseen bruises, too many tears and broken promises.

It was pathetic devotion, void of reason. 

But I slowly began to remember why I feared the feeling. 

The year was speckled with moments of clarity, immediately clouded by a hug or a rose — moments of question were quickly answered by an afternoon in the park, where we’d keep saying,  “I’m sorry, I love you.” 

“Come back.”

“I need you, but I can’t do this.”

There was always an excuse, like, “I’m going to marry you, but I think we need to see other people.” This was his reason for neglecting me.

I explain our expiration like this:

One night, the sun set as usual. We got into bed, listened to music and fell asleep, blissful as ever. 

But the night never ended. The window was stuck open, the heat stopped working and we couldn’t keep from shivering. We bundled up underneath a mountain of blankets, drank cups of decaf coffee and held each other like our lives depended on it. 

But, eventually, our body heat failed us. We just lie in bed until hypothermia took over. 

Poet Robert Frost once posed the question of how the world might one day end: Fire or ice — which is more bearable.

I’ve felt the fire before — licked by the passionate flames. The fire, though it burned, always lit my way. The ice, however, was all-consuming. 

My world has ended in both fire and ice. There is birth from fire though; the phoenix rises from the flames, forests still grow after a volcano erupts. But ice kills all — and it froze me.

1 Comment

  1. Oh Darci. I am SO saddened to read this, your story of fire and ice. Even the strongest, healthiest, and sweetest relationships must end one day, for no one lives forever. Try to remember that while both fire and ice destroy, ice also … preserves. It can preserve that best part of you, if even so microscopic, to live again. And this part of you has been through the fire, which burns away impurities. As that ice thaws, a new and even better thing can grow from it, if you take a chance on it. I am much older than you, but have been through my own fire and ice days too. Like you, I am currently encased in my own personal block of ice … waiting for it to thaw. But I believe that it will one day and that, better days are coming. Like this great city of love, we are in winter right now. Just remember … spring is coming, and OH how lovely it will be.

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