Everything I’ve written below is drawn from my memory, as accurately as I can recall it. Some details may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, but on the whole, I’ve strove to keep things as factual as possible. No names (save for one) have been revealed, although it is possible some of my more observant friends may be able to deduce the people in question.
Alright, Seung. Alright, MountainMadman. Out with it. Let’s talk about love.
Parents, mom, dad, relatives: if you are reading this, prepare your world to be turned upside-down, because most of what I write in this piece I haven’t told anybody – not even you.
I’ve fallen in love three times. The first time was in first grade. The second time was in high school. The third time was in college.
My first love has since disappeared from my life, and enough time has passed, I think, that I feel it’s okay. So:
Alyssa. You sat next to me in first grade. You always had your hair tied into a braid; to me, who had never seen white people before, you simply glowed (there may have been a slight racial tinge to my initial fascination). You were brilliant, you shone on the playground, you could go higher on the swing than any of your friends.
You came over to my house a few times. We ate pizza, played in the pool, got stung by bees together.
You also borrowed my copy of Super Mario 64. You haven’t returned it yet and I still haven’t forgiven you for it.
You taught me English. When I cried because everyone else got their sticker and I didn’t, you gave me yours. I lived in the El Cerrito apartments; it was a five-minute walk to your house. We spent a lot of time together, you and me.
And then, you moved. We promised to stay in touch – so did our mothers – but we never saw each other again, and all I have left to remember you by is a single photo, you on the right in a white sundress and pizza sauce on your chin, and me on the left in a bowl haircut and looking positively demented (as most of my pictures usually turn out).
I’d really like to see you again. I’d like to say thank you for all the times you’ve helped me. I didn’t realize it then – I was in the first grade, after all – but now, I’m pretty sure that my life would have been a lot worse without you. You were my first love, and I’m not ashamed to say I still remember it.
I met you, my second love, in my last year of middle school, when I joined the orchestra. I played the piano, you played a string instrument – what it exactly was, my memory fails me. Through mutual friends, we first said hello to each other, and became friends.
As middle school finished, we scattered. I went to a special high school for the smart and gifted (a horrible decision, it later turned out), you went to a high school for the arts (which, you later confided in me, had also been a horrible decision).
We still kept up contact with each other, the only remaining link in our circle of friends.
You initiated the first spark, the one conversation that set it off. It was during the night, when I was half-asleep and my arms were aching from holding my cell phone above my head for too long.
The months following that were some of the most exhilarating in my life, as I kept repeating to myself – so this is what being in love feels like.
You kept me company through my first year of college, if only via electronic imprints through my cell phone and the occasional Skype chat. I remain truly in your debt; you made my first year in college much less lonely than it could have been otherwise, and it was part of what gave me the strength to adapt to a completely new way of life.
Once again, just as it had in high school, you were my only remaining link to my previous life. Just like a hard-set rock pounded by waves, you remained a constant, someone to always turn to.
Our chats were, more often than not, filled with passion and a desire to be with each other. Texts such as “I MISS YOU” and “I MISS YOU TOO” happened at least twice a night (this may cause some of you to puke up your breakfasts, in which case you shouldn’t be reading something titled “Falling in Love” in the first place).
Although we were never officially boyfriend and girlfriend – which gave me a convenient excuse whenever one of my relatives asked me “do you have a girlfriend yet?” – it was pretty clear, to both of us, that we shared a special bond.
Despite that, though, we fell apart near the end of my freshman year, and the circumstances behind the falling-out is something that still haunts me to this day. Perhaps I’ll talk about it some other time. Not in this piece, though – this is supposed to be a happy post, not angsty.
The most recent one happened just a month or so ago. I’m not going to talk about that because I simply don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet, and also out of respect to the other side of the equation.
Suffice to say that she was – and is – incredibly beautiful, supportive, and a good friend, still.
There have been countless other crushes, of course, some lasting longer than others – Chelsi, Claire, Amy, Jacobie, Katie, et cetera, et cetera. I went to a ball with one; a party with another; Disneyland with yet another. But they were not loves, in the sense that I truly cared about who they were (if any of you are reading this right now, I’m sorry in advance). I cared about the quick satisfaction, the fleeting moment when I could say “I have a girlfriend” or “I stayed up late last night”. Many of these crushes are still my good friends; if you are reading this, and recognize yourself, I hope you’ll be able to forgive me for the way I once viewed you in my life.
Why am I talking about this now? Why am I bringing back old memories, some of which are best to lie forgotten?
Because Christmas – yes, this is how I’m tying everything together – isn’t just about celebrating the end of the year. It’s also about looking back and thinking about everything you’ve done in your life.
And falling in love is, perhaps, one of the most important things you could ever do with yours.