This piece was written for Elle magazine’s writing competition 2012, the prompt was ‘Let me tell you about my first love..’ in 900 words. Please let me know what you think, how would you have approached the brief?
Let me tell you about my first love. Let me recollect a hazy image of a time long passed.
But please, scan your eyes across the page, do not fully consume the words, for as much as I’d like to share this memory with you, a sickness in my stomach is yearning me to stop typing.
We’re often reminded that our memory isn’t accurate; that what we now perceive as happiness was once often fraught with anger and arguments. Perhaps I am a victim to memory’s vicious games, but is it better to search out the truth, scrape through the details buried in our mind, than to retain a partly constructed memory that is cherished like no other?
How do you know it’s love? It’s a feeling we take for granted in our youth. ‘Everyone will fall in love’ – is the truth imprinted on our consciousness. Our freedom from considering practicalities and an unrivalled eagerness to experience life makes our susceptibility to love greater.
And yet, years on from what can be described as my youth, there are notions that others dismiss as ludicrous that I still hold onto. I still firmly believe in love at first sight. That incomparable moment in which your limbs are immobilised and you drown in the eyes of a stranger. Foolish perhaps, but in my life of sensible decisions, it’s a belief I’m happy to be swept along with.
It wasn’t until months after we’d decided that we could no longer work as one unity. Things always happen at unexpected times. We were saying goodbye, and in that moment free of expectations and complete trust, I recognised the feeling as love.
And so, you’d probably expect that I’d be eager to commence a reunion. However, on that dark evening as the bus trundled forwards, I was overcome with calmness and an inner peace.
It’s part of my personality to quickly dismiss a task that I feel nonsensical or I just can’t complete, and on the other hand completely give myself over to something in which I can excel. Looking back, this is possibly a flaw. I couldn’t see the relationship as completely succeeding so I let it go.
Winter faded away and throughout the spring we kept in touch through unexpected texts, phone calls sprinkled with laugher, and tales of important news. No longer tied up in relationship conventions, we had stopped taking each other for granted and were beginning to forge a friendship that was stronger than anything we’d previously had.
We could spend hours in each other’s company, eating up time in nonsensical chatter and, as lovers do, gazing into each other’s eyes. The soft cusp of a hand around another could feel like the safest place in the world. Long after it was over, this is what I missed the most.
In the midst of love, when other people felt like mere blurs on our landscape, it would have been abhorrent to question whether my love was truly requited. It was an automatic assumption that he felt the same. However, in a state of reflection, doubts begin to impinge on my memory.
Could it be that, in addition to conveying a story I never wanted anyone to hear, I am also conveying a story based upon a person who didn’t even reciprocate my love? Surely it would be better to quickly swallow up my emotions; erase the words, and instead construct a story based upon my love towards an inanimate object, something that could never have loved me back and therefore not risk the horror that the love was all one-sided.
No one begins to love with the intention of being gratified by its return. It’s something we later hope for. My feelings cannot be altered or invalidated if they stand alone. I still felt love. It’s still mine.
The details of the rest of that summer pervade me, as if my mind is trying to trick me into believing that’s ‘THE END’, no more words and nothing else will have happened. Two lovers eternally trapped in one scene as Keats so desperately wanted in his Grecian Urn, or the scriptwriters of the Sex and the City Movie who perpetually retain Carrie and Big in their shared apartment, stuck in the movie, knowing there need be no sticky conclusion for now, who wants an end, an ‘it’s over’, goodbye folks and don’t let the cinema door hit you on the way out.
As it goes, there was a conclusion; I struggle to blame anyone but myself for smudging the picture that was being made. Being my usual melodramatic self, I remember overreacting to something; most likely because I was again becoming comfortable in our relationship, and with comfortableness sometimes means treating those closest to us in a lesser manner than we rightfully should. As we were both too proud to admit our faults, nothing was resolved.
My main regret was not realising until it was too late, that in all the jovial comments about once more cementing the status of our relationship, while I was enjoying the freedom of our friendship, there was a truth and a need for reassurance in those words.
My first love will always hold me in its claws, whether it is the person or the purity of those feelings that grasps at my heart reins. In either instance, it is an experience for which I am eternally grateful. Can we, will we ever love in the same way again? If we allow ourselves to do so, to give ourselves to someone completely, unconditionally, inexplicably…perhaps.