Want to hear a story, baby girl? M’kay, I’ll tell you a story.
I’ve had my first love. It’s odd to think, because it was never something I looked for, never something I saw, never anything I’ll have again. Only something I knew in hindsight. He had wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled, and freckles in the summer. He was always steady, clear, shallow-water blue. I met him when we were eight and loved him until we were sixteen. I met him when his mama was pregnant with his youngest sister; you’re in the fourth grade now. Nine-years-old. I hope you know how excited he was to trace your little baby hands. To love your little baby lashes.
I never told him. He never told me. We didn’t have to, because we just knew, baby. We never kissed in the school yard, or held hands under desks, or touched at all. Just talked, talk, talking. You learn the smallest things with (for) your first love. You go out of your way to find out the middle names of everyone in their family. Connor. Patricia. You want to know what they’re thinking, all the time, what wishes and thoughts and sorrows are spooling ‘round their thrumming little heart. You think, they’re the most beautiful thing you ever saw. And they are, baby, they really are. Until the next beautiful thing.
The summer sun sets behind a powdered sky, and you see the same moon. You talk well into the night, when he’s in dust-red Utah and you’re here, and you’re both exhausted, but you’ll stay up for always if it means you get to keep talking. You won’t realize how fast always runs out. Don’t let it run out, baby girl. Don’t let it take your shine.
And something else happens, too.
Loves don’t begin or end in a moment. Loves are timelines without dates. Everything is ebb. Everything is flow.
You won’t ever really fall out of love with him, or her, or them, just learn to love someone else in a different way. You’ll feel guilty about that, but it’s okay. You never love the same way; it – the loving, the unloving – morphs each time, into its own lovely, pained shape. And you won’t be able to look each other in the eye anymore, because if you do, you might see that lovely, pained shape tucked away in the greener side, pooling beneath a mirrored pupil. And you’ve worked so hard and long not to see that shape. An aching long time, baby.
And trust me, you’ll both wanna talk afterwards, when it’s ended, but you’re not sure what that means. Ended. Ended. How can something end when it never really began? You want to ask him. Her. Them.
But fear’ll hold your tongue tight and whisper untrue truths, and so a not quite something fizzles out into a not quite nothing. That will be with you forever. Beautiful, and sad, and it all really depends on what forever means to you.
He’s taller than me, now, baby girl. He’s stronger, and smarter, and he’s loved more and hurt more; you can see it in the way he holds his shoulders. Taut. Tense. Collar bones and cotton. You see? How his writing’s a little narrower, his beautiful mind, a little broader, and the world’s a little scarier. The wrinkles around his eyes (steady, clear, blue) are deeper, now.
I smooth them with my thumbs, just like this, baby girl; they melt into the miles of his skin. You feel it? Let it (me[us]) go, I whisper. Go to sleep. I hum (him, you, me, us) a lullaby; he wraps us in stardust. And in the nighttime, we fly away to where the remembered things go.
It’s quiet there.
Maya is a past tap dance princess, present book monster, and future movie maker. She believes radical empathy and pumpkin bread can heal the world.