On a night back in early December it was snowing. I got off work at 10, it was dark outside. The street lamps illuminated the falling snow and I felt like I was in a low-budget indie film on my way to self-discovery.
I talked to my mom the whole way home. We laughed a lot. I remember the happiness as I reached the couch. We said I love you, goodbye. What we always said. And it ended with a laugh. I looked out my window. The snow was still falling. Did Robert Frost write that moment?
I can’t remember what I was thinking, what I was listening to, or what I was feeling when I saw your face again for the first time in four years. I hadn’t thought much about you for awhile. When I opened my computer you were the last thing I thought I’d see. And the words were nothing I’d expect to see next to your face.
I think that night was the closest I’d ever felt to my heart physically breaking. My chest was heavy. I couldn’t breathe. I started to cry. But a different kind of cry than I usually do. I was empty. I was lost. I was sad. I was confused. I was everything and nothing. Four years without seeing you, how was I feeling this way. I called my mom and cried for an hour.
You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. I laughed nervously. Besides mine, of course. You smiled and laughed. God, that smile. It was the most beautiful thing in my small, small world. It made me feel so much, so hard. We talked about things I can’t remember anymore.
This was you, always. Charming, smug, confident, intoxicating. You said I’d see you soon. You put your hand to my face. Laughed at our matching dimples, and walked your way. You looked back and smirked. I gave it back to you. The start of something that stayed forever.
The night you took me to the beach doesn’t seem real. To this day. You still seem so fucking elusive. How it happened, how I ended up with you, on the sand, with the lanterns floating into the sky above our heads, never makes sense. My arms wrapped around you in your jacket. You staring at me with your green eyes. The kiss that lasted.
We were at the park a few nights later when you braided my hair. They laughed and told us we made sense. I looked at you and stuck out my tongue. You kissed my forehead and that was it. You solidified your place in my life all the way to the end. My first love. Your forever title.
First love is a form of dying and being reborn, Chloe Thurlow.
I have never felt a grief like I felt the night I heard of your death. Not even when my aunt-but-basically-grandma died. That was a different kind of loss. You were a loss of a part of myself. A part of my past. A part of intimacy. A part of my heart. A part of my identity. To say I’ve ever felt heavier or emptier would be a lie. I’ve never.
I never got the chance to say to you I loved you. I think you knew. But in five years I never said it. My parents always taught me to tell someone you love them before you go to bed because you never know what will happen when you wake up. I never took this advice when it came to you. You were the unpaved road. Undiscovered territory. Everything new.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and it made me think of you. I’ve been thinking of you a lot since that night, actually. I think of your smile and your eyes and your laugh. I think about how talented you were and how fast you could run. The way you filled an empty room. How easy it was to love you in every possible way.
I’ve been lonely lately. I miss feeling something for another person. I guess I’m only 20. I shouldn’t feel empty in that sense. But I miss being fifteen. I miss being naive and young and experiencing love for the first time. I miss how small the world was and how much larger it grew because of you.
You showed me the duality of love, the simplicity and complexity. You made me grow. You changed it all.
My first love. Forever. I hope everything’s well up there, wherever you are.