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The first time I fell in love I was 19.
I was naive, a bit lost, and especially innocent—as most young adults assumingly are.
He was engaging, original, and beautiful—absolutely beautiful.
Our first few phone calls were electric. Seeing his name appear on my phone was like kissing someone for the first time—when your chest is pounding, and you’re hardly breathing, and it’s as close as you can get to floating.
It only took a couple weeks for me to fall in love. It was a Tuesday evening, the room was dimmed to a soft yellow, and we were lying beneath his freshly washed black sheets on this awful shaggy rug that he insisted was “gangster as hell.” I was in front of him, his arms wrapped around my waist and my head resting gently on his chest. I remember casually turning over so that my legs were draped over the left of him, my arms encircling him and my face buried deep into his neck. As we sat there, chest to chest, I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t be with him.
He was arrogant, intense, stubborn, and offensively blunt.
Yet, in that moment, all I knew was that I never wanted to untangle myself from his grasp. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could be completely raw. I didn’t pretend to be anything. I not only told him my flaws, but felt comfortable showing them. I expressed my opinions, controversial or not, and stuck by them. I didn’t alleviate any aspect of my life, but instead told truths I had never admitted before. I felt safe with him, and because of that I had zero intention to manipulate his image of me… I was just me.
And for that, I loved him.
I loved him because if he wasn’t making me laugh, he was arguing with me, and if he wasn’t arguing with me, he was provoking my most intricate thoughts.
I can confidently say my convictions are rarely challenged by others, and if they are, I am quick to end conversations, folding into myself and re-constructing boundaries. But he changed that. He challenged me, and I loved it. My perspectives were stretched. Even the perspective that I could fall in love with someone who thought fundamentally different than I do.
Before him, differences were disturbing, and grey didn’t exist. He showed me reality and the growth that comes from an open mind and an unconditional love for others.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I was always well aware that I didn’t develop mental habits of being loving and understanding to others because he was a loving and understanding person. He was an asshole, and he embraced it. Then again, so did I—training my mind to accept the unfamiliar and sometimes the uncomfortable.
But it was also the zeal he carried with him and instilled in me that made me fall so hard so fast. I was in a constant whirl of animation with him. I found myself incessantly excited to see him lying next to me, to feel his energy, to catch his gaze.
Gosh, that gaze was magnetic.
And at 19, I lacked the vigor to resist its rapid pull.
His gaze captured me, and before I knew it, I was suddenly luminous and liberated.
It wasn’t until I was unlatched from his gaze that I saw what was really there: eyes that I once thought were looking into me, but instead were looking right through me. As luminous and liberated as I was, it didn’t diminish what became reality—that my gaze didn’t capture him, because hers already had.
As much as I want to believe his heart was ever mine, I know now that it never was. I belonged to him, but he belonged to her. It’s easy to say that it was always right in front of me, that I should’ve known he still loved someone else; but when someone is opening doors for you that you never knew existed, you aren’t worrying about the door shutting behind you and locking you in. No, the only thing you can focus on is the door ahead, the knob that could twist and reveal yet another room with shaggy grey rugs, and dimmed lighting, and black sheets, and a boy and a girl embracing, and passion encompassing their world. All you can focus on is everything you’ve ever wanted—love.