To All The Different Boys That I’ve Loved

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Each romantic experience we find ourselves in throughout this life is stamped with the indelible mark of another life that is equally tangled within our own. Worlds are made with other individuals for nights or for years. Some of those stories fade to the back of our minds, glossed over in the passing of time, admittedly forgotten in favor of those relationships that will forever stand out in our memories. Those are the stories that leave their mark permanently, brightly, painfully, as opposed to the merely fleeting mark that is associated with some – though usually nonetheless important, it’s simply a part of life that we all have relationships that are more definitive than others. Some people truly do change you forever, and some loves really do shape your life in ways you never could have predicted. Whether through love, lust, infatuation, or a combination of the three, there are some relationships that won’t ever leave you, that will always stop your heart a little bit when a flashback crosses your mind. These characters all have their specific roles, their designated functions, and their own storyline that is threaded through our own. These are mine.

To the first one:

I loved you in the way I used to love Bacardi Dragonberry in high school – with wild abandon, and the easy innocence of simply not knowing any better. Laying my head in your lap as you drove through dusky summer nights, I still remember through my sloppily made, mixed-drink-clouded mind that I thought it was so appropriate that that silly Lifehouse song was playing as I made up my mind to say ‘I love you.’ More statement than admission, I realize now, and perspective makes me laugh about how utterly, outrageously high school it all was. Years later, you will always have a place in my story, as divergent as ours have become, because you were my starting point, my first foray into what relationships could really be.

To the beautifully disastrous one:

I loved you in a way that was hard and fast, unrelenting and unforgiving. We loved in a way that was destined to go up in flames, taunting fate every step of the way, daring her to defy us. In the end, though, we were the overconfident rebels choosing to ignore all signs of safety from the destruction we drove ourselves into. We were simultaneously doomed and saved by our love. Loving you was like going to war – I had some idea of what to expect, but the reality proved to be so much deeper, darker, and more damaging than the stories we so typically hear. The perfect storm of chaos and calamity; there was never a truly calm moment, which I think is what drove the thrill of it all. You are the love that will always be tinged with the heartbreak and strife that ultimately comes with being a real first love. It’s been two years since the rug burn scars on my back were fresh, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ll ever get rid of the mark you burned into me. At the same time, I don’t think I want to. Like those scars, the worst of you can leave, but in reality, you’re never truly gone. Thank you, fuck you; I will always somehow love you.

To the easy one:

I loved you in a way that was easy, in the same manner that kindergarten girls and boys slip into childish marriages that they look back on fondly in years to come. It made sense, it was expected, and it was, in a word, good. But goodness does not a relationship make, and looking back, were we ever really “good”? I can only wonder now what it was that we really based our relationship on – expectations and convenience? Admittedly, there was affection and true, genuine caring, but those same expectations we were held to ultimately were what ruined us, and ruined you. What was once familiar became so foreign and alien, so quickly and unexpectedly. I think that’s what ultimately hurt the most. We really were only just beginning to live our lives, and as our playing of house went up in flames, we experienced our semblance of divorce that comes from the tangled web of such deeply rooted dating. Silence and screaming and fury and fighting became the new norm, and I wondered how we had ever once meant so much to each other. But years passed, as they always do; and in that time, we grew, as we always must. I can look back now and appreciate the sometimes laughable, sometimes devastating realizations that time brought me in rebuilding from that first pile of ashes. Even though it took three years, I’m glad I had a delayed opportunity – as circumspect as an opportunity as it was – to tell you that I really had, in a kindergarten way, loved you when we were only freshmen.

To the oppressive one:

Loving you, if it can really be called that, was ultimately a facade of pleasing you, a sacrifice meant to appease. You should never be so cruel as to demand that someone love you, never be so manipulative as to claw the words out of an unready, choking mouth. You should never try to shake it out of someone, gripping their shoulders in a drunken fury fueled by self-perpetuated whispers of insecurity. If anything, thank you for showing me what to never stand for again, all under a facade of what you called love. That wasn’t love; it was a bastardization of it.

To the lost one:

Loving you, as bittersweet as it sounds, was like looking forward to something that never quite seemed to work out. You were the one I would drop everything for, in the same way that all Nicholas Sparks novels portray their utterly devoted characters. You were the game changer, which feels like an appropriate allusion. You will forever be my biggest regret in that I never fully allowed myself to seize the chance that was you – and for that, I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself. In our aftermath of distance and miles and conversations soaked in “what should have beens,” I always used to think that if you were to show up on my doorstep at any hour of the day, that I would unquestionably, unhesitatingly say yes; yes to you, yes to us, yes to it all. Four seasons of spring later, and that sentiment still hasn’t changed. I’m just sorry we let the minuscule things we built up in our minds as being so unconquerable prevent us from having that real chance of being together that we’ve so badly wanted. You are the one I shouldn’t have let slip away that first time, and though I never said it, I still love the part of you I once had. In a way, I never really stopped hoping for fate to finally be in our favor. As they say, though, timing is everything. We just haven’t found ours.

The beauty of having such memorable characters in our lives is the lessons we invariably retain from them. Whether they be painful or joyful, there is something to be said for each individual who leaves such a mark on us. It’s just up to the author to decide what lesson is to be derived from each character. It is also up to the author to refuse to stop creating new stories with new characters – the journey is still unfolding, and there is still so much more to learn, and so many more characters to meet. There are so many new characters for me to find, and for us all to fall in love with. There are so many stories left to be written. TC mark

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