Your heart races as they approach, and your hands gets clammy. You had been obsessing about them for the last few months, and you knew they felt the same about you. You were probably in High School, or, like me, one of the few who fell in love in the glorious years of middle school. Eventually, one of you made a move, and you began calling each other every night, making promises you sincerely intended to keep, and staying up late looking at the stars with them. You felt like they were your one and only. They were the only one you would ever love, and you thought you were going to marry them. You went on dates, then talked with your friends about them for weeks afterwards. You never had to worry about another person ever liking you back, because your relationship seemed so solid. They said they’d be with you forever. You believed that, and even though they’re probably long, long gone by now, and even if your relationship ended on bad terms, you probably still have a spot in your heart for the first person to take it. A part of you is still a giddy, dorky fifteen year old kid who just got asked out by your crush. You grew up next to someone else, someone who loved you as much as you loved them. Or maybe you dated for a few months, then called it quits. It doesn’t matter. You’ve probably had that first relationship. I haven’t. My first love never loved me back.
I was possibly the most awkward preteen girl on this planet. I saw him in the hallway, I stared at him from across the room, and every day, I’d sit next to him in band class. We played the same instrument, so I’d always have a great chance to talk to him. It started in the 6th grade, innocently enough.
Sam was the pretty boy. You know the type. The one with the swoopy brown hair that every girl in the school fawned over. The one with the mesmerizing eyes. The popular one. The one I knew I wouldn’t have a chance with. The one we all knew was untouchable. The one who never dated, simply because he couldn’t find as beautiful and good of a person as he was. He could’ve had any girl he wanted. He knew it, the girls knew it, I knew it. Most of their crushes on him lasted for a few weeks, or, as one other girl I knew, perhaps even a few months.
We were eleven, and he was the most beautiful boy I had ever met. Everything he did caused me to smile. His fingers, moving so precisely on his trumpet, made my heart melt. Every time he smiled, I beamed. Most would call it obsession, I wouldn’t agree.
It was in the seventh grade that I realized I might have more on my plate than a crush. At the tender age of twelve, most tween girls were “dating” boys they hardly even liked, or at least having a few meaningless crushes. Sam, however, had managed to capture my heart for more than a year. I’d lie in bed, yearning, hoping, aching. That winter, Sam got a girlfriend. She was obviously his first love. He had found a girl that was as amazing as he was. Ironically enough, she had the same name as me, and I remember that pissed seventh grade me off to no end. What made this girl, who stole MY name, as she was born later in the year, so much better than me?
I tried to talk to him. Really, I did. But, eventually, I just gave in and went awkward. He’d talk to me, and every time he did, I wanted to cry. At the age of twelve, I was crying myself to sleep every night because of a boy. I should’ve been playing with barbies and hanging out with my friends, yet I was sobbing over Sam, who hardly even knew of my existence. My friends asked me what was wrong. They didn’t realize that it was possible at that age to feel that much emotion. In a way, I feel as if Sam took away the innocence I had about the world, the feeling as if everything would turn out all right.
In the eighth grade, I decided I’d tell him. Right before I did the deed, someone had (falsely, yet I had no way of knowing that), told me that he also liked me. Imagine. An extremely awkward, shy thirteen year old girl, who hardly ever even spoke to this boy, walking up to him proudly, looking at him dead in the eyes, and telling him she liked him. What did he do? He said “Um,” and walked away. After all these years, I still remember that sinister word coming out of his mouth. “Um” is the bane of my existence.
That was in September of my eighth grade year, and nothing changed for the rest of our time in middle school. I said little to nothing to him, and he said nothing to me. Until the day I realized I loved him. I was feeling like crap, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him the person I loved didn’t love me back, and he talked to me more in that day than ever before. He had also liked a girl since the beginning of middle school. She also didn’t like him back.
I saw Sam at his most vulnerable that day. Tears were forming in his eyes, and he looked as awkward as I felt. And then, I got the answer to the question that every little girl asks sometime in her life. What is love? I realized, as I looked at that beautiful boy cry, that all I wanted was for that lucky, lucky girl to like him back. That’s all that would heal my broken heart. I needed him to be happy, and most would claim that I didn’t feel love at the age of thirteen, but I’m certain, even years later, that I did. It’s possible.
Near the end of that year, I gave Sam a love note telling him almost everything. I figured it would be a good end to middle school, and in a way, I think part of me was saying goodbye to him. I loved him, and I needed to let him go. He deserved to be free.
I still love him. He’s now a pretty good guy friend, and we talk freely about people we’re interested in. The difference, however, is that now, I couldn’t ever be attached to him romantically. I still love him, yet this time it’s different. I certainly wouldn’t date him if he asked, despite the numerous letters from my twelve year old self about how I’d always be his.
Now, I joke around with him. We’ve known each other for years, and we act like it. He’s a strangely brotherly figure in my life, and he gives great advice when I’m sad. We have the same sense of humor, and I can hardly believe I came this far. Sam is no longer my Sam, yet in a way, he’s mine more truly than he ever was back in middle school. If we had “dated” in middle school, he probably wouldn’t be my amazing Sam now. My first love never loved me back, and I’m glad.