First Love— Remembering what was, not what could have been.

She had loved him the moment she met him. He would always be the one that got away. 9 years had passed since she had seen him. 9 years since he broke her heart. Yet it felt like yesterday. He had been the first boy to know her intimately, on the bleachers of the local junior college—a story she would laugh about years later. He had swept her off her feet.

Their romance started when she was 16. They dated several months before he went back home to live with his mother after being in a group home for months. At the time, neither had a car and the thought of a long-distance relationship at 16 seemed impossible. So they parted ways. The girl then went on to date another boy that abused her (When her world fell apart, he was there). She never stopped loving her first. Even when she was with John, she missed her first. When she finally had the strength to leave John, she reached out to her first love. She had a car now and could make the 2-3 hour drive to see him. They reconnected and their romance started again. But it was different than before.

Much had happened in the months between them being together. She had gone through the trauma of facing her father, being forced to testify, being abused by John. She wasn’t the same girl she was before. She had becoming controlling and manipulative. She had lost the ability to trust.

For a time, the relationship was good. He loved her and she loved him. He’d ride the bus for hours from his home to hers just to see her. They were close, but everything started to change. When she didn’t hear from him for days, she drove to his house and waited for him to come home. She was in a constant state of fear. Her period of time with John had changed her. She started acting obsessive. She needed to be with him all the time. She thought this was love, but it was fear— fear of losing him. She clung tighter, afraid that if she loosened her grip, he’d be gone forever.

She did what John did to her. She started controlling everything he did. He had to check in with her or she would lose her temper. She told him he had to quit drinking and smoking. She needed to be in control. Another blow came when the girl ended up in the emergency room from a freak accident. While visiting him, she had gotten her tongue pierced. That same night, they had sex and he had a sore on his lip. He said it was just a cold sore and nothing to worry about. What they both failed to understand was that the cold sore was from herpes and that it could be transferred to other parts of the body. After returning home, the girl started getting sores on her genitals and her tongue had swollen up. She couldn’t eat, drink, breathe, sit, go to the bathroom, or do essentially anything without pain. After nearly a week, her mother took her to the emergency room. Her results came back that she had strep throat in her tongue piercing and HSV-1 genital.

This was a major turning point in the girl’s life. In her mind, she now had no choice but to be with him forever, who else would ever love her if she had an incurable STD? He gave it to her, so he owed her. He had to stay with her. She convinced him to move in with her at her mom’s house, after manipulating her mother into agreeing because her brother had a girlfriend live with them before. He did as she wanted and things went downhill even faster. She became even more controlling, even hitting him once when he came home high. When he left that day, she performed a half-hearted suicide attempt. She knew what she had done wasn’t enough to kill her, but she manipulated him into coming back by saying she was going to kill herself.

Eventually, the girl went off to college. She missed him dearly, he visited once. With her gone, it seems he finally had the strength to leave her. She had lost her control over him. He broke up with her the week of her 19th birthday. When she tried to beg him to come back, he admitted he had cheated on her. It was over. This heartbreak never really left her. Sitting here 9 years later, he still was the one that got away. She had been horrible to him. He had taken the brunt of her internal psychological warfare.

Despite the bad, she could remember the good for what it was. The afternoons making out in the hall at the junior college, sending cheesy e-mails to each other, the willingness to travel hours to see each other, the pure innocence of first love not yet tainted. She had loved him, but she had also been cruel. He hadn’t deserve that. She recognized the strength it took for him to leave her, just as it had taken her strength to leave John. She was broken when she went back to her first love. The abused can become the abuser if not helped. 9 years later she is still learning how to trust, how to love and not obsess, how to be loved. She is not the same girl she was then. And he is not the same boy. He did well with his life, is now married with a son. While this crushed her to find out, it also relieved her to know that she didn’t break him. He wasn’t another casualty of her dysfunction. She hoped one day to make amends with him, but could at least be at peace knowing he’d made a good life for himself.

She’d never forget the feeling of driving home from seeing him, pouring rain, listening to “If It Means A Lot To You” by A Day to Remember. Crying her heart out over not being with him. First love never leaves you, she thought. But you can appreciate what was without clinging to what could have been.

She let him go and wished the best for him. Now she could be free to move forward.


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