I remember the first time I was love sick. It seems like so long ago by now, but in my mind's eye it is a fond memory that only barely seems like it ever happened.
I think I was about 11, most likely in third grade, the age where unrequited love abounded. At that age, you don't know what the fuck you're doing, and the whole school is talking about who each other "likes". It's funny shit to look back on, because I hear my little brother saying the same kind of crap when he talks to his friends. Before I dismiss it as "little kid shit", I remember how seriously we took that kind of stuff when I was that age... it was, of course, a life and death matter.
Her name was Chloe, as I recall. She came to my Catholic school in third grade, and I was immediately enamored by her. I was king shit of fuck mountain back in those days, the only little rebel who grew his hair longer just because the people that ran the school said it couldn't go past your collar. So I rocked a kind of mullet like it was no man's business... cause... well, fuck them.
We had hit it off from the start, this witty raven haired beauty and I. To this day I remember how she used to immitate the accents of people from other parts of the country, and how outgoing and friendly she was. The first day I met her was some unassuming September day, and man was I in love. We didn't sit next to each other, because my name ended in a "J" and hers in "T", so I would do my best to talk to her across the multitudes of seats between us. Sometims you'd get lucky and a teacher would do the rows differently, seating people horizontally instead of vertically, and I would catch a break and sit next to her.
Every quarter semester, our seats would be rearranged, and according to who talked to much or too little, we'd get adjusted accordingly. Every time this happened, it was one of those beautiful young things where every time our seats were changed, I would hope and pray that I sat next to her. The few times that it actually happened, I would dread the passing of time, knowing that the liklihood of sitting next to her two times in a row was about the same as the Red Sox winning the World Series (in those days, it was a rare occurrence).
Being so young, I had no idea what was happening to me. I knew that I "liked" this girl, but had never had that odd feeling before, that warmth inside when she talked to me. It caught me quite off guard...I guess why that age right before teenager-dom is so fucking hard for kids.
By fourth grade, I was a complete sucker for this broad, but never had a chance to really talk to her. But, alas, one day, the day before our Halloween break (Catholic school gave us breaks for everything), our desks were rearranged in a big semicircle, and I was lucky enough to sit by her for the party. Because it was so damn long ago, I don't remember what transpired between us or the words that were said, but it sure as hell left me on cloud nine. We got goody bags that day, filled with candy and all kinds of little chocksky bullshit that only a kid could appreciate, such as plastic rings in the form of creepy stuff and other assorted oddities. My ring was some kind of dark blue skull thing, and hers was something like a hand outstretched in horror movie fashion. I wish I could transcribe what we talked about on that day, because I'm sure it'd be funny as hell, but it escapes me now.
My parents and I went out for dinner later that night to some dark restaurant with wooden I-beams holding the ceiling up and yellowed walls. Christ, I wouldn't see her for another four days because of the vacation... four days! How was I to live? How could I endure? That was longer than God had been alive as far as I was concerned. Hell, by the time I came back, it was assured that I wouldn't be sitting next to her, and my golden oppurtunity was gone! (oppurtunity for what I don't know, but fuck man, I was 12). I already figured that that little Indian kid was trying to edge in on her, and with my luck he'd be sitting next to her on the fateful Monday that I returned to school. I should have whacked that kid, and showed him what's what, goddamnit...
I fingered that little plastic ring as it slid on my finger, and all I could think about was that goddamn girl. When the food came out, something in my stomach flopped over, and the last thing I could think about was eating. Food? Are you kidding? I'm in Loooovveeeeeee! How could I eat at such a time? Life and fucking death, and you people want me to eat french fries? Really? That little fucker is going to be sitting next to my girl Monday and you're asking me about ketchup? No. None of that.
"I'm not hungry." That was my first taste of love. Bittersweet till the end.
We finished out that year, and by fifth grade both of us had left the school. We went to our prospective middle schools, and eventually met each other again in High school. By then though, the "magic" was gone. She was one of the popular girls, and I was one of the fuckups, and never the twain met. But I'm sure she remembers those days just as I did. They were good.
I tell this story because for the first time since then, I am longing for a girl like I did so long ago. The times have changed, of course. I am no longer young and innocent. The skin around my eyes is beginning to show signs of the abuse of the last ten years, and I know exactly where my wrinkles will come on my face. My beard and sideburns grow in thick, and my dark eyes have a sadness that they didn't have in those old heady days. Being a smoker and a drinker has made me look like I'm ten years older... too much life, I guess, both in the good and the bad ways.
But in my heart, that warmth is the same. I am 23, and still here I sit, a 12 year old fingering some old plastic ring, thinking of some girl who I am madly in love with. As old as I get, as tired as I am, I am still that same eager kid, hoping against hope and praying on first sighted stars that my love does not go unrequited this time. This one is the only one who has the wit that my first old love had, that has the beauty and... that feeling. You all know what it is, that intangible something that you fall for before you know what's happening.
It is all so innocent, yet all so heartbreaking, all so devious. It appears that I have been a hopeless Romantic since the beginning... and old habits die hard.