The fire crackles, and the Target newspaper ad is burning a cool green color and you know you’re breathing in all sorts of wonderful chemicals mixed with the August air. Friendly chatter fills your best friend’s backyard, paired with the sound of beer bottles twisting open and the too familiar scent of whiskey.
You take a sip of Shipyard Pumpkin and you’re in your own personal Nirvana located somewhere between Summer and Fall.
Your ex boyfriend from high school arrives. It’s the second time you’ve seen him all summer, and last Thursday he was the epitome of a drunk ex boyfriend.
“Oh thank you, now I remember why we broke up.” You say, voice drenched in snark when he recounted how you lost your virginity watching Pirates of the Caribbean and cried. Or that time when his sister convinced you it would be funny to draw on his penis with a sharpie because he passed out drunk with his shoes on and you knew it was wrong but she was cool and smoked pot and he looked up to his sister a lot so you did it anyways and have always regretted it.
You knew you’d probably be seeing him again that weekend, and you were not wrong. You coolly stay on your phone, checking twitter for the latest Harry Potter fandom gossip, but really just trying to make it clear you didn’t want to reminiscent with him anymore.
Thursday was full of slight close hugs and good conversation. Until, what it seemed like to you, he was putting you in your place, back on the bottom of his relationship totem pole where he believed you to belong. But you know it’s because all his friends thought you were super cool with Star Wars earrings, and getting your drinks at the bar in a snap, even though it was packed.
Your high school best friend shows up, bottle of vodka in hand. She lives in New York City now, and only drinks from the bottle and ~never chases. She makes everyone aware this is the case.
Shots rip, stories fly, tattoos are compared. Your ex boyfriend is so impressed with her party skills and you’re confused as to what is happening – right in front of you.
You vaguely remember how your ex boyfriend and best friend would flirt sometimes, but he was always good to you. Good defined by your first “serious” relationship, as serious as it can be in high school.
You unintentionally overhear their conversation. Flirty banter, poking fun at each other, reminiscing about high school days spent behind the stage curtains during late night drama club rehearsals. You don’t want to hear, you don’t want to be involved. You hear them decide to go and race. You watch as they get up and leave. You judge their lame attempt at hiding the fact they are just going to make out. You see the looks exchanged around the fire. Everyone knows. Your friend touches you on the shoulder and says, “you’re not wrong to feel annoyed.”
The awkward, zero-confidence sixteen year old inside of you is hurt, betrayed. Layering this behavior on top of his actions Thursday night are confusing the hell out of you. You just want to go home, but you’ve cracked open your third beer and are too poor to justify wasting it.
The twenty three year old you is all like, “Whatever, man.” If they want to act like they are freshman in college, then so be it. What’s it to you?
Sixteen year old you feels jealous, and insecure about every time caught a glimpse of them flirting in high school, but twenty three year old you is absolutely so over getting too drunk and having meaningless make out sessions, but twenty three year old you is actually kind of jealous because your boyfriend and you are past the ‘make out whenever you see each other’ honeymoon stage.
But you look around the dying fire. You see the friends that have stuck by your side through break ups, regretful sexual mistakes, cleansing sexual experiences that they didn’t approve of, but still attempted to understand. The friends that don’t let you go a day without froyo, but still encourage each other to exercise. The friends that truly care.
Embers rise from the fire, ethereal. You are reminded to rise above.
You like to think you don’t agree with the nonsense of girl code, and that you’re feminist enough to let girls do what they want. You know deep down it’s just not about any of that. It’s about a close friend, and your first love, making mockery of something so important in your past. The lackadaisical, unintentional aloofness, the not even noticing that maybe this whole thing is making you uncomfortable. Waiving the freedom around that they still get to hook up with people, and you’re settled down in a relationship and feeling too young. Young and wild and stuck in the cage that is adulthood.
But you shake your head and you think of the way your boyfriend makes you laugh – how you searched for that when you were single and it didn’t exist elsewhere. How even though you don’t feel the need to rip off each other’s clothes every time you’re in the same room, it’s that calm, quiet passion that you’ve been craving your whole life. You can shrug off the disrespect – knowing that you are better off seven years after your first love.