The first time I truly loved someone.
We see love expressed on many mediums. On TV, love is a grand gesture or a game of bachelors and bacherettes. In books, love is a handwritten letter or a connection that happens the moment you lay eyes on someone, in real life . . . love is messy.
When I was little, I thought I had a pretty solid understanding of what love was. Love was chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day and a spontaneous date to the movies. I wanted to experience this first hand. Many people do. Love is all part of being human, and often times it can’t be avoided. As that saying goes, everybody wants to love and be loved. But everything changed the moment I met him. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Sam.
It was a Friday night around 12:00 am. I planned on meeting a friend at the beach and was on my way there. We talked online for a month about things we enjoyed and endured like nihilism and depression and about how we both grew up in extremely religious households and hated it. I arrived at the beach thirty minutes after he got there because my Lyft was late dropping me off. I was nervous about being late and about meeting him for the first time in person. My palms were sweaty although it was sixty degrees outside and extremely windy. I haven’t had a good friend in a year and I didn’t want to blow anything or come off as weird. I was going over what to say in my head, how to introduce myself and wondering if I had wore something nice enough because I wanted to leave a good first impression.
When I got to the beach, it was so dark that I could hardly see the waves in front of me. There was nothing but the faint light of the pier to my right and the streetlights from the road behind me. I spent about five minutes looking around for him. I could make out a couple people there, a man fishing to my left and further down near the ocean was a body sitting down facing away from me, watching the waves in front of him.
I figured that had to be him so I approached cautiously then tapped him lightly on the shoulder. “Are you Sam?” I asked.
He looked at me. I was genuinely surprised by his appearance. I saw a couple of pictures of him before, but he looked different. He was smaller than I imagined, a little bit taller than me, and despite his young age he had a beard that was thick and black just like the curly hair on top of his head. And his eyes were wild and round, studying me curiously in the dark. Finally he said, “Nope you have the wrong person.”
I opened my mouth to apologize, but then he started laughing and informed me that he was joking and that he was indeed Sam. I sat down in the cold sand right next to him and introduced myself. He was shy and quiet, despite his little joke earlier, but I didn’t mind because so was I. Throughout the night we talked about things like the isolation of stars (from where we sat we could see the Big and Little Dipper) and how they reminded us of how little we are. We talked about our lives. He grew up as I did. We both suffered from some sort of depression brought on by the troubles that we faced growing up and the troubles that we were still facing at the moment. We spent the whole night there by the water. Talking and laughing and smoking a roll of weed that he had bring with him.
We then decided to stay a couple more hours to watch the sun rise. I’ve never seen a Florida sunrise despite me living here my whole life, so I was pretty excited about it. I was surprised about how easy it was for me to talk to him. It’s never easy for me to have conversations with people I just met, but with him words just kept pouring out of my mouth and I loved every moment of it. Around 6:30 the sun finally came up and I finally got a good look at this mysterious man.
I think this was the moment that I realized that he was going to be in my life for a while. The sun light up his face and his hazel/green eyes became warm and inviting. I could now see the smallness of his smile and the olive tone of his skin. I thought he was by far the most beautiful human being that I ever laid my eyes on. I was self conscious. I wore a beanie and an old T-shirt with flip flops that exposed my horrible toes. I looked away from him and studied the sunrise and all the shades of pink and orange that it created in the baby blue sky.
Then I noticed he was staring at me. I turned towards him again and before I could apologize for my appearance he said, “You look so beautiful.”
We started hanging out more. We went to places like the movies and art museums down in Miami where he lived. Everyday we would talk to each other. Every time he texted me, I got a warm feeling in my chest. He was someone who replied with full paragraphs and proper grammar which was entirely unheard of to me. He also texted good morning each morning and told me goodnight before I went to bed. If I couldn’t go to sleep, we would both stay up for hours talking on the phone. Then a couple weeks later he invited me over to his place. He wanted to introduce me to more of his world.
I spent a weekend over at his house. While there, I went to a party with him (where he introduced me to his friends as his girlfriend). It was the first time I saw him dress up neatly to go anywhere. Usually he would just wear a tank top and some shorts, but that night I waited in his bedroom as he showered. When he came out his curly hair was jelled back and he wore a clean ironed red flannel with dark jeans. My heart literally skipped a beat. This was also the first time he kissed me.
During the party he took me by the hand and led me to his car where we could talk. We had a short silly conversation before he leaned over and kissed me. I’ve been kissed before and I used to think that kissing felt like two lips pressing hard against each other. I didn’t get what the big fuss was about. But when he kissed me it was different, I disappeared into a safe warm place where my heart felt exposed. I felt myself light up and relax into him. He lifted his hands and placed them on my face gently as we kissed. I felt protected. I felt happy.
The next day we shared an even more intense experience. It was night time and his friend had left to go get some food so we were alone. He told me that when he kissed me he felt what I felt. He told me that he’s never felt so close to anyone before in his entire life and that I was simply his home. It was the first time that I cried around him. I didn’t grow up with affection and love. I squirmed when people tried to hug me, but with him I felt as if I could trust him with my life. I was developing deep feelings for this guy and it was happening fast. I didn’t know what to do.
The last night that I spent with him, we were laying on his bed. He was lying on his back looking up at the ceiling and I was on my side looking at him. My heart had this weird feeling inside of it. It was a mixture of wanting to protect him from ever feeling harm again and the fear that he didn’t feel the same. I was anxious. And I guess it showed on my face because when he turned to face me, he looked worried and asked me what was wrong.
I expressed to him how scared I was of what was happening. I told him how other men used me primarily for sex and how I never felt like this toward someone before and how it was scaring me. He held me in his arms and reassured me that he wasn’t going anywhere and that he was going to be there for me. He told me not to worry. We kissed and I felt that warm magical spark again. I guess he felt it too because he then asked if he could make love to me. I’ve had sex before and didn’t enjoy the experience, but I agreed because I trusted that he wanted more than my body. He was gentle and passionate with me. In fact, this was one thing that I enjoyed doing with him often. He was self conscious about his body, but I adored every inch of it and liked letting him know. But the way that he held me and looked at me and kissed me made me afraid. I didn’t know that it was possible to enjoy sex with someone so much and to feel so close to them while it happened. Afterwords he held me and kissed me on the forehead. That night he told me he loved me, and with out a doubt I told him that I loved him back.
But love isn’t so black and white. There are complicated gray areas in between that no one wants to feel or talk about. You’ve invested time and committed to one person who brings so much joy into your life, how complicated can it be?
I realized Sam was cutting himself the first night we met at the beach.
I didn’t see the white scars until the sun was up and he had pointed them out, not wanting me to discover them myself and get scared away. I sympathized with his pain and couldn’t judge him for something that he felt shame for doing. I told him that he could talk to me about anything without judgement before I said goodbye that morning. A couple weeks later he called me. I was having a pretty shitty day so when I saw his number I immediately picked up wanting to hear his voice. But something was off. He was crying. I asked him what was wrong and it took him a good thirty minutes before he could tell me that he cut himself again and went to far. I told him to send me a picture, that it couldn’t be too bad and that even if it was he was a good person and I wasn’t going to judge him for it. I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw next.
I couldn’t wrap my head around how someone could do that to themselves and the kind of pain that they had to be feeling to want to carve up their skin that much to mask the feeling of it. I had a slight understanding because two months prior I was diagnosed with MDD (major depressive disorder) and this is what made me closer to Sam, knowing that I understood his sadness and that he understood mine. But I thought that with his cutting, me understanding him and being there for him was going to be enough. And that was stupid of me to think.
Before Sam met me, he had a life without me in it. And in that life he experienced extreme abandonment, betrayal, and neglect. The stories he told me made me want to break out into tears and hold him. And I did hold him when it became to much to talk about. I held him against my chest and stroked his hair. I experienced the same thing before meeting him. I was in the foster care system, my mother was (and still is) dealing with extreme kidney failure and my dad verbally abused me and my siblings. Our stories shared something, but they were different in their own way. Sam experienced heartbreak before falling for me on top of everything he went through growing up and because of this, it was hard for him to trust others and hard for him to love himself.
So here we were. Two people, troubled, who ran into each other’s aftermaths, trying to see where we fit in. He was like a star in the sky that I had discover. I could see him, experience his beauty and track his age, but I couldn’t experience the journey he took to get to me. When he was sad he called me and I told him that everything was going to be alright and that I was there for him, when I was sad he did the same thing for me. By the time we had told each other that we loved one another, there was a history of hurt flowing between both of us.
I wish then that I’d met him in another life where he never experienced the things that he went through and where I never experienced the things that I went through and where we loved each other, and was fully able to express it.
After the weekend that I spent with him at his house, things gradually started to get worse. My love for him grew no matter what I went through but I could sense something was wrong with him.
I conditioned myself to believe that he wasn’t going to leave me. I’ve had many people leave in my life and this was one person that I wanted to stay. I conditioned myself to believe that I was in fact his home because he was mine and because he told me so. He was my shelter. I conditioned myself to believe that he truly was in love with me because I was in love with him and I planned on being so until I died. But that wasn’t the case.
He might’ve loved me at one point and then stopped when things started to get more serious in order to prevent himself from getting hurt or he might’ve never loved me to begin with. The latter was hard to come to terms with because we shared many intimate moments in which he told me he loved me and in which he displayed actions that conveyed he loved me. We made plans with each other for the future and promised that we would help each other grow into something better. I was looking forward to growing with him, but somewhere down the line he decided he didn’t want to do the same.
I became his “friend” and his “homie” and hearing him refer to me as those terms felt like a hot knife through my heart. As if everything that we were never happened. He told me that he wasn’t in love with me and that he was simply lonely and needed something to feel. He told me that it didn’t mean that he used me and that the moments that we shared together were genuine.
But I felt empty and lost. What went wrong? What did I do? I knew that I was no longer his home. To me, I was more than a friend to him but to him he was perfectly capable or looking at me with that title. I was convinced that this was a coping mechanism for him, that pushing me away hurt less than the possibility of me breaking his heart in the future, but over time it dawned on me that maybe he didn’t love me as much as I loved him, maybe he didn’t love me at all.
During the course of three months he would call and check up on me. When I didn’t break down and tell him that I missed him, I told him about the date that I was going on or the gift that I was buying for someone. He would ask me questions about who I’ve been with since him and if I was seeing anyone. I was convinced that this meant that he still loved me and I was ready to drop everything in a heartbeat to test if this were true. But in doing so, I only ended up getting hurt again.
Still this day he has a place in my heart, but I’m slowly learning that just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you’re meant to be with them. I didn’t understand this at first. It didn’t make sense. It was simple, if you were in love with someone and they were in love with you, it only made sense to be with one another.
I learned that love is peculiar and that Cupid sometimes drops a couple of loose arrows just to fuck with you. I learned that you have to love yourself (if not fully, then enough to walk away once things become emotionally/physically abusive). I learned that I would probably not love anyone as much as I loved Sam, but that it was okay because there was a chance that I would experience new love again and that that love would be greater.