First Love

The Thong Song came on in spin class tonight. It took me straight back to 2001. I pictured myself on the dance floor at homecoming. I felt a rush of blissful nostalgia as I thought about dancing and sweating my ass off in the Rio Americano Small Gym. My mind traced my favorite memories from my Senior Year. Throwing my first party when my mom was out of town. Listening to Incubus at my friend’s cabin in Alpine Meadows. Cutting class. The cold plastic seats at Jimboy’s tacos. Each image came and went quickly until I flashed on the night I met my high school boyfriend. I smiled. Relaxed. and soaked up his memory.

He was infamous. I knew of him long before I met him. He asked a girl to a dance by putting a giant banner across the biggest freeway overpass in my hometown. I was so jealous. And so impressed.
He had wild blonde hair and a tongue piercing. He was five foot six with the confidence of a man ten inches taller. He oozed teenage boy sexy.

He was yelling about something in the middle of a crowd of Senior boys on the side of a steep, grassy hill. I was aware of him immediately. Captivated. Intimidated. Totally enamored. It was October in Sacramento but unusually warm. The air was rich with the smell of fall and the energy of adolescent hormones. I remember everything about that night.

He grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye. “I’m Brad.”

“No shit,” I thought.

I was already in love.

That night, we had three, short exchanges. For the next four or five months I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I did everything I could to run into him, without telling anyone I was trying to run into him.

Finally, I caved.

We had dinner with a group of friends at Chevy’s. I ordered a cheese quesadilla and a diet coke. I wore my favorite light denim jeans and a striped yellow and blue polo shirt. I showed off my fake tan and flat stomach. We laughed hysterically about everything.

We watched reruns of “Friends” on VHS. When he left, he kissed me. On the street. By his car. In front of my friend’s house. It was soft and slow. When it finally ended I just about exploded from the excitement. And disbelief.

We had a beautiful, innocent, pseudo-grown-up love affair.

He lifted me off the parking lot pavement, whirled me in a circle and kissed my forehead the night I got accepted to UCLA. He was greasy all over and caked in mud from his rugby game. It felt perfect.

We were inseparable.

We ate huge plates of Mexican food and drank Venti Frappucinos. In large groups of our friends we disappeared into a secret bubble of intimacy and connection.

He loved me for my intelligence. For my funny, outrageous behavior. He thought I was beautiful and perfect and lovely. Throughout high school, I’d struggled to love myself. I battled anorexia. And perfectionism. and all sorts of judgement about how I didn’t live up to the unattainable standards of beauty, wealth and achievement in my community. When we met, I’d been starving for two years.

In his presence, I felt comfortable, appreciated and understood. Safe. Satiated.

We were partners. and best friends.

A decade later, the memory of him still fills me up. The way it felt to love and be loved. To listen and be heard. Witnessed and protected. The bliss of love without expectations, or baggage or fear.

First Love. Self Love. Beautiful, beautiful love.

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