You are not the first, you know this. You are not the first kiss — but for this you are relieved — nor were you the first kiss under the scaffolding as you both waited for the rain to clear, nor were you the first to be kissed on the rooftop of the bar looking out on to the Manhattan skyline on a summer day. You are not the first your beloved frequented this bar with.
There is so much that you will not know about the person you love; there is so much that you will not experience with them. Your first time on the East River Ferry will only be their third, or fourth, or fifth, and here your hand will not be the first to have been held. Your enthusiasm and delight in all the new things you will do and discovery will be threefold of theirs — they have been there, they have done that. You were not there when they had nothing, you were not there that fateful night when they gained everything. This was the time before you.
What is more excruciating than knowing that the person you love had loved anyone before you, perhaps just as wildly as they love you? They loved before you in the deepest, most heartbreaking of ways. Without you, before you, they have seen the ocean and the desert, California and Texas. They have woken up beside others, together stumbling out of bars late into the night and stumbling into brunch, bleary eyed, on late Sunday afternoons. Before you, there was someone, baby, darling, sweetheart, someone who occupied the space that you now do, someone else who once slept on the right side of the bed. You are not the first to have had their scrambled eggs, a specialty, soft to the touch, perfect to the tongue. Together you did not experience their first Fourth of July fireworks in New York City, nor their fourth, and with you they will not feel the rush of your first.
When the person you love reminisces of moments you did not share, you will feel as though they have lived a whole entire life without you, and this is true — they lived a life without you. You will not be the first their friends have met or parents have been told of; they knew and loved and loathed those before you. You were not there for their biggest failure and their greatest success, you were not the one to console, or to celebrate with.
You will not be the one to take their shoes in for repairs, unbeknownst to them. You will not be the one they loved in the most maddening way. You will not be the one to have maddened them into being their worst. Together you did not live through Hurricane Sandy with only candles and wine and chips. You were not there for that Halloween, that Halloween they dressed as a cowboy, or for birthdays, so many of which have gone by. You will never have any of these things. But there is so much of the world yet to be seen, and so many firsts you will encounter together, journeys to Coney Island or Rockaway Beach. You will be the one to love them into being their greatest, and though the past is in the past, you are here now. You are the one they love the most.