When I think of bleaching my hair for the first time, and my first crush, and finally coming to terms with my queerness, and that age where your whole life revolves around experimentation in alcohol and drugs and love, there are a variety of songs and movies and images that come to mind, but truly there is only one thing that everything else is anchored to, and she is a girl I used to know. Honestly, at this point almost five years on, she is less a person and more an abstract concept; a wildly intelligent and mesmerizingly beautiful abstract concept. Perhaps that’s cruel, but if I’m honest, so was she, and so was I, and so we were together.
Sometimes I think it’s strange that I refer to her as my ‘first love’, because while I have no doubt that truly I was deeply and hopelessly in love with her, at the time I think I confused it with a different kind of love where we were simply two souls who found each other when we were both in exactly the same place, at a time when we could cling to each other to keep ourselves from drowning, and that was beautiful enough for me, even if eventually we began to drag each other down. How could I have avoided loving her? She always spoke so confidently about everything, she exuded maturity, she wore composure and impulsiveness like a hazy perfume I would never tire of smelling, and every once in a while she would get her hands on a carton of cigarettes and she would give me half of them in a plastic bag.
We would skip class and lie on our backs in the park, looking up at the sky and talking vaguely about the future, about how important we were to one another, about how important we could be to the world. I remember once we both had too much to drink at some party and we were both put to bed facing away from each other in a double bed. When we woke up our noses were touching. She woke up giggling sleepily, blissfully unaware of the lipstick on her teeth. I could never help but smile when I heard her laugh.
It’s strange because yes, we were connected by mental instability, by self-destruction, by a longing for recklessness, and yet everything that always felt out of control and chaotic felt calm when I was with her. Her touch was like taking a deep breath after uncontrollably sobbing, her words were like a soothing balm on festering burns, the smell of her hair was like a long drink of water after unbearable thirst, and I loved her for it. Worse than that, I felt that without her there would be no hope for my survival.
Well, it’s been a few years, and I am okay. Better than okay; I have fallen in and out of love with others, loved them all in different ways, each of them as important as that first love. And still, I think of her. I think of her not in the sense that I wish we could have continued, or that I wish nothing had changed, but in the sense that I am grateful to her for opening me up to the concept of love. And it is not her, the girl around which it all centred, that I feel nostalgic for, particularly, just the concept she has come to represent. It is a funny sort of nostalgia wherein there is no longing involved whatsoever; I do not ache to revisit that time and change certain things to make it ‘perfect’, I do not ache to revisit it at all. It belongs there, absolutely, in that space in time, and it is precisely that fact that ensures I will treasure it for exactly what it was, forever.