Cigarettes & Summer Air

A lot of people look back on the moment where they knew they were in love for the first time and they can pin point it; map it even, labeling an exact moment in time where they knew that their life had forever changed. “We made love, passionate love, and then I knew” she said or “she came down the stairs in her little black dress and it hit me so hard I nearly lost my breath” he said or “He looked at me underneath a star-lit sky and I felt an undeniable spark”. Almost everyone remembers the moment they first fell in love. And the first time, it’s usually romantic, deep and all-too-soon. You know the stories, the ones that make you want to cry or vomit a little in your mouth. This isn’t one of those stories. Or maybe it is. The first time I fell in love, it didn’t immediately make my head spin. I didn’t dance around in my underwear or sing songs in the shower. Looking back, I can’t even pin point the day or exact moment in time that it happened. It happened slowly and steadily and it was completely out of my control. And then one day, it was gone.

I remember the first time I saw him. He had jet black hair and skin so pale that you could see his veins pulsing the blood through his arms. His eyes were a strikingly unique brown—a deep, thoughtful brown—capable of capturing your attention at first glance. He was tall and lanky, yet had a muscular tone about him. He wore black and vintage clothing coupled with dark-rimmed glasses, a stark contrast to the pastels and primaries that cluttered the world around us. When he walked he looked down, as if searching for something that he’d lost a long time ago, all the while keeping his pace moving forward. He intrigued me, this boy who I had not much noticed before, walking through the crowd yet remaining in his own world. Once the masses left, it was just he and I, sitting outside of the school. I don’t recall the exact words he said to me when he walked over, nor do I recall how the conversation continually flowed. But, there we were: two perfect strangers, waiting for time to pass by, together.

The next day, I found myself anticipating the end of the day. I wasn’t sure why I was so excited at the chance of seeing this boy again, but I knew that I wanted to. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach and I wasn’t nervous. But I was excited. So when the end of the day came and I saw him sitting in the same spot he had taken the day before, I was relieved. I immediately walked over, assumed my designated position, and we picked up right where we left off. It was like opening a new chapter to the same book we’d been reading the day before. We didn’t skip a single page. We went on like this for a few days, talking outside the school and sneaking off of campus to smoke cigarettes without getting expelled. I enjoyed our conversations. They were raw and innocent and real. He told me about his battle with depression and I told him about my rather obvious battle with anorexia. He told me about the first girl who broke his heart and I told him about the first boy who told me he loved me, but the only thing he really took was my virginity. I opened up to him like a sunflower opening up to the sun. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was my sun.

We spent nearly every day together. What began as innocent conversation quickly moved to bare-it-all monologues and tearful recollections. He cried in front of me. I remember it like it was yesterday. The pain in his eyes, the tears flowing down his face, the honest, hard-hitting words that were coming out of his mouth. He was shaking. He was stammering his words. He was bare. He was entirely exposed and his soul was completely naked and laid out in front of me. At that very moment in time, he looked so small. So I held him. And at that moment, I became his rock. He was my sun, and I was his rock. Together, we were beautifully broken yet remarkably whole. To this day, it is a phenomena I can’t quite explain.

He kissed me in the rain. Not just any rain—it was a down-pouring, all-encompassing rain shower in the middle of the summer heat kind of rain. I was completely drenched. My hair was matted to my head and my mascara was running down my cheeks. I was spinning in circles in the middle of the road, allowing the rain to pellet my body like bullets from a firing squad, when he walked up and took me into his arms. He looked at me with eyes as wide as a doe, amazed at my willingness to dance through such a storm. Then he leaned down, taking my sopping wet head in one hand and the small of my back in the other, and kissed me—hard. It was the most passionate, romantic, toe-tingling kiss I’d ever felt in my life. He literally swept me off of my feet and I didn’t even see it coming. Later that night, he kissed me again in my car. My windows fogged and I remember re-enacting the scene from Titanic where Rose lifts her hand up and swipes it down the window and instantly, we laughed. We didn’t have sex. We laughed. We laughed until we cried.

We never did have sex. We talked about it. We fantasized about it. We even wrote poetry to one another about it. We wanted to, but for one reason or another, it never happened. I think part of me was scared to have sex with him. We were two very passionate people by nature that I’m not sure that our bodies could have handled what the sex would have been like between the two of us. The passion between us was built on our words. He painted pictures of me that I was unable to see for myself, and I made his world brighter with my words. The energy between the two of us was undeniably earth-shattering. We didn’t expect it. We never saw it coming. We didn’t even consciously nurture it into what it inevitably turned into. One day, he was just an intriguing stranger walking through a crowd of pastels and the next day, he was my sun. He let me keep the pieces of me to myself that I wasn’t able to share and he took every last inch that I was willing to give. And I did the same for him. He made me feel free. We were free.

He was the first time that I ever felt love. It was raw. It was passionate. It was real. And just like every other first love, it came to an end. It wasn’t abrupt and it wasn’t a clean break. I’m not sure when we decided that it needed to end, but with time, we went our separate ways. Every now and then, we’d reignite our past. We’d call or text or go on small dates to “catch up” with one another. We’d look back fondly on the moments we shared together and how we helped one another heal. Neither one of us could ever fully let go. Every time we saw one another, I instantly became his rock and he my sun. No matter where life took us, the universe always pulled us together, allowing us to pick up right where we last left off. And then one day, unexpectedly and unprovoked, our universe broke into two distinct solar systems with two separate gravitational pulls.

Sometimes, on warm summer nights, if I close my eyes and outstretch my hands, I can taste his cigarettes on my tongue and feel his hand in my hair.

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