The day I first met her feels like ages ago, but the pain is still fresh. I remember the damp summer morning before the sun rose over the eastern horizon - me standing at the back of the band room and her sitting in the first row of the concert arcs. Her long black hair flowed down her spine in luscious curls. I'm not sure what caught my attention first, her silver flute, or the glitter in her dark brown eyes. Whichever it was, the outcome is inevitable - a broken heart.
It's approximately eight in the morning. Mr. Santos, our middle school band director, stands on the conductor’s podium, yelling something at the clarinets in front of him. I'm bored out of my mind standing wearily behind my gold-plated snare drum. I see the quiet girl sits just in front of my music stand, fiddling with her fingers. I blow a steady stream of air at her. She turns and gives me a puzzled look. Who is this girl? I don't know, but I want to be her friend. After all, no harm comes from being friends.
Several months later, I'd call her my girlfriend. The jazz band also happened to be on it’s way to the Windy City. The chill of the frozen Chicago winter was no match against the warmth of the blood that raced to my cheeks whenever she was around. After our performance, our group spent the rest of the week sightseeing and touring the city. The Christmas lights twinkled amongst the snow-ridden evergreens. Lake Michigan lay silent before the menacing Willis Tower. I loved the night we visited the Navy Pier. I remember how I couldn't decide what was more astonishing, the view of the Chicago snow at night from the top of the ferris wheel, or the smile she couldn't hold back gazing at it herself.
I distinctly recall the scent of salted sea waves that radiated from the silver necklace I bought her at the aquarium the next morning. The eye of the sea creature on the necklace was a dark sapphire that one would barely have noticed over the soft curves of her facial features. “Happy anniversary,” I said passionately. Her response consisted of nothing more than “thanks.” By the end of January, she had already sent me the text saying it was over. My heart deflated, but did not break. This eighth-grade relationship was nothing more than child's play.
A year later, freshman year, she reeled me back in. Spring had begun to set in, and so had my obnoxious teenage hormones. The following six months rivaled that of seeing her for the first time. The thrill of holding her hand in public, hugging her every time I walked her to class, and the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach when she laughed at my humor made every day exciting. I miss the talks we used to have until four, maybe five in the morning. We talked about our dreams, of faraway places, of the names of the children we were going to have after college, and of the way we'd spend our weekends on vacation. Naive hopes and dreams, I know, but how I longed for that sweet, sweet reality.
I will never forget our very first kiss. The night I realized I loved this girl was also the night that our relationship was first tested. In short, an acquaintance of mine had attempted to kiss her in the stairwell that day and she came to me sobbing. She trusted me with her problems and that meant more to me than any trust I had ever been given prior to that moment. I can still feel the moist tear on my thumb that I wiped from her blushed cheek. “Everything is going to be alright,” I said as I embraced her, “I'm never going to leave you.” My heart sympathized with hers until the words, “I love you,” echoed from where her head was buried in my chest. She then looked up at me and pressed her lips against mine, at which point my heart rate surely surpassed hers. “I love you too,” I said. For the first time in my life, I immediately knew what it was like to fall in love.
The last two months of our relationship went downhill faster than I expected. She began ignoring me over text and in person. I tried desperately to salvage what I had cherished for so long. Nothing worked. She let her friends get between us. She rejected several dates I had offered to take her on. She, most painfully, stopped holding my hand. I can't remember the last time I kissed her, but I can remember how she drove a knife into my heart when she pulled her fingers away from mine. This would be the last time I held her hand, for the next day would be the day she’d finally break my heart.
She refused to talk to me about it, but my heart could not take the torture of being rejected so often and so easily. I forced her to say the words “we're done” for the last time over the blue light of my cell phone screen. She said she just didn't love me anymore. There was nothing I could do about it. It was over, only this time, the breakup would be permanent.
I devoted three years of my life to this girl. It's been quite a while since the night I cried myself to sleep over my first real love. The void she left in my heart physically pained me. This void, however, healed in a way that made me realize something about myself, about who I am as a person. This dark and empty feeling was filled with love again, only this time a love that poured into those who needed it. Although I'll never forget how my heart felt the moment I fell in love, I learned that no one falls in love once. Afterall, my heart found someone new to love this past summer when I saw the person standing in the fourth row of the marching block.