Love this girl and tell her you’re going to marry her. Stay up late and plan your life. Name your kids, your dog, and pick out your future house in your dream neighborhood. It has a pool, a massive backyard, and a movie theatre. You can afford it because you fantasize about your careers. You’ll be an actor, and she’ll have a talk show.
Take her to the movies so you can pretend for an hour and twenty minutes that the world outside has stopped. Sit at the very top of the theatre so nobody behind you can see you go to second base. And laugh about it later when the movie attendant walks up to tell you that you can’t lay down. Don’t be embarrassed, he just forgot what is was like to be 16.
Panic a little bit when you walk out into the dim lighting of the food court where her cheeks light the place red because she notices she gave you her first hickey. It’s huge and there’s no hiding it. But laugh at this too, because soon you’ll ask a girl you just met to please not give you a hickey, before you even make it back to your room. They will one day be temporary reminders of nights spent with forgotten names rather than with this girl you’ll never forget.
Find a signature cologne and always wear it. It will become you, and it will haunt her. Years later when she’s walking down the aisle of the grocery store, a man will brush by her and the familiar scent will rewind the years. She’ll flash back to nights spent in your bed, wishing the moon would give the sun the day off. You fell asleep, but she’ll be up memorizing the posters on your walls and freckles on your face.
Discover a favorite restaurant and let that be “your” restaurant. Make sure it’s one that’s open all night so you can get milkshakes and french fries after school dances. She won’t care about her body yet, so order her a hamburger too. Sit on the same side of the booth so she can burrow her head on your shoulder while your cologne fills her lungs and adds weight to her eyelids. Kiss her gently on the top of her head. This is the restaurant where she’ll remember those kisses when driving down the street after miles have been put on the years.
Get jealous when a guy likes her Facebook status about how much she hates studying for the SATs. She’ll mistake it for you being protective, and it’ll make her love you a little more. So don’t be afraid to tell her that the reason you’re angry is because love makes you crazy. Then tell her you love her. Tell her all the time. Put it in writing. Write it in ink, so when she opens her scrapbook only the memory of reading it for the first time will have faded.
Go on vacation with her. You’ll now only be seventeen, but it’ll feel like you’re on your honeymoon. You’ll feel invincible and mature. So act like it’s your honeymoon and order room service while you strip the mini fridge of it’s alcohol. Let your hands burn against the temperature of her skin. Make love. Then do it again. Her body will be your first map of how to love.
Memorize her. Soak her up. Let her tell you that you guys are different. Tell her she’s right. Believe it. Believe in everything she says. Don’t forget what it’s like to love like this and sure as hell don’t let it be the last time you love like this.
They say there is nothing like your first love. But that’s because between the innocence of hickeys and movie theatre kisses, you battled and suffered inevitable wounds. And somewhere during the transition from your first love to the next you confused these scrapes for scars. But these scrapes, too, were innocent.
Time will change you, and pain will scare you, but how sad it would be to never feel like this again. How sad for the one you end up having kids with, buying a dog with, and living in that house with, to never know how you once loved like this. Love this next girl with that same openness and blindness as your first love taught you to do because this innocence was not ignorance, it was just the purest kind of love.