One Love, One Lifetime
In the sixteenth summer of my life I fell in love for the first time. Naturally, I had no idea what I was getting into. Youth, for all its freshness and vigor, does not have the wisdom of past experience. And so it was that I was very ill-equipped when Cupid's arrows first struck. I still had fairy-tale notions of love: Boy likes girl, girl likes boy, boy and girl pledge undying love for each other, and they live happily ever after. I only had to find my Prince Charming, and everything would be smooth sailing. I was young and invincible. No sadness could touch me, especially in the arena of romance.
To young people finding themselves drawn to someone for the first time, everthing is wonderful and new. I once read that love is like God's finger on your shoulder. Every beautiful thing in the world feels like it was made solely for your enjoyment, like a gift chosen with only you in mind. Perhaps the greatest of all these gifts is the sound of your heart catching in your throat at the sight of a boy smiling at you as though you, too, were a gift he cannot quite thank God enough for.
When I look back athe days when I was all giddy with that first discovery of love, I find that the grass was greener, the air was fresher and even the sun was kinder, not sending its rays down to punish my back on sweltering afternoons, like it does not, but bathing me in its radiance so that I had the morning sunshine in my smile. The splendor of creation, the marvel of life -- I had never tasted them more fully than when I had a heart grateful for the first touch of love. It felt like I had the whole world in my hands, the power to do whatever I pleased, in my own sweet time as soon as I had finished attending to greater things at hand, such as the business of love. My prince had come on his white charger, to rescue me from my ordinary, solitary existence. Suddenly, I had someone to hold my hand. It was bliss. It was ecstasy. I was madly, deeply, truly in love.
I thought my happiness was without end. I thought that since we had naturally gravitated toward each other, it would be a simple thing to get together and be sweethearts until our hearts gave out in our golden years. Of natural causes, not of exhaustion, like I don't feel like loving you anymore. Of a coronary disease, maybe, not some mysterious happenstance, like where is the love we used to know?
Where did it go? I don't know. Maybe it was too beautiful to last. Maybe the deities who bestowed this wondrous gift on me decided they could not extend their generosity any further. Maybe it wasn't love at all. Maybe it was merely a sweet but insignificant friendship, that in my romantic delusion I had exaggerated into a grand love affair. Years of sleepless nights, countless tears and endless soul searching have given me no answers.
But if it wasn't love, what could it possibly have been? What was it that made me feel his present like no other, day after day, month after month, year after year? He would walk into a room and my attention would immediately be riveted to him, like an oarsman in the dead of night fixing his eyes on a lighthouse miles and miles away. I would see him come out of a building, and my eyes would light up like incandescent bulbs. He would smile at me and I'd melt, quicker than you can say quickmelt. He would grant me the privilege of his company, and like a kitten I would purr contentedly in my master's lap. I would see him over the weekend, and no amount of stress could ruin my happiness for two weeks thereafter. He would talk to me for a while, and I'd panic for lack of something appropriate to say, and my toungue would fall back in my throat and stay there for the rest of the conversation almost asphyxiating me. He would narrate some anecdote, and I could recite it from memory many months after everyone else had forgotten it. He would crack one of his numerous jokes and I'd laugh like a hyena, loving the sound of his voice, more than the sound of my own laughter. He would open his mouth to say something, and I would hear the loveliest music and feel my face glow with intense satisfaction, like when my father used to take me to the supermarket to pick as many Dole pineapple juice an off the shelves as I cared.
Even to this day, when I have successfully convinced myself and unsuccessfully convinced my friends that I have fallen out of love with him, I cannot help but cast one last glance in his direction every time he says goodbye and starts to walk away to an existence entirely separate from my own. I keep my eyes on his until the last hair on his head is out of sight, trying to preserve every detail of his appearance oin my memory until the time I will see him again.
I loved his smile most of all. It must have been the same smile NOah had upon seeing the rainbow after the Great Flood. Swirling masses of dark clouds and slowly, one by one, little fingers of light coalesce to reveal a brilliant arc of colored light in the sky. I remember how he used to smile at me when we'd pass each other in the school corridors. Reflexively I'd smile back, grinning like silly, my meager dimples stretched up to my ears, my face dangerously close to splitting. He'd give me that dazzling smile of his and everything would stop just like that. It was as if the world had cesed to exist; it was nly me and him: his glistening retainers the vertiginous dance of my heart. When they said money can't buy happiness, they must have meant the happiness that comes with first love.
He gave me the greatest happiness as well as the greatest sadness of my young life. The times when he made me feel most loved will always be like commemorative gold coins in mint condition in my mind. When you hear your beat in unison with another even for the most fleeting moment, that's one moment you will never forget.
I fell apart when it finally became clear that we weren't getting anywhere, at least not together and that our great love affair was only being carried on in my imagination. Love is a woman's existence, and mine became totally disordered. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I could not study. I could not do anyhting but think of him. I cannot imagine it now, but there was a time when my every thought was of him. I would be praying and I'd think of him, and then I'd pray, "Please God, I love him. Please let him love me again." I would be eating, and then I'd recall somemeal we had taken together in some restaurant I cannot enter now without him beside me again. I would be studying, and I'd remember mechanically doing my homework. I would be sleeping, and if I so much as dreamt of his shadow, I'd be sleepless for days afterward. I would be looking at the stars in thesky, and then I'd recite that childhood rhyme: Starlight, star bight/ first, second, third, ad infinitum star I saw tonight, please grant me his love anew. I would be living my life in the present, then I'd think of him and suddenly I'd want to live the past all over again. Once I nearly tore off the tuning knob from the radio, switching stations because one song kept on playing on the airwaves, telling this is your story, when I was desperately trying to put a semblance of normality in my life (and trying to cram for my finals).
Two years down the line, I discovered tennis and took out my frustration on the hapless, fuzzy, yellow balls. In no time at all, I had an excellent serve, but alas, I could not master the groundstrokes.
I pined for him until I could pine no longer. I kept my life empty for the longest time so that he could freely re-enter anytime he wished. Now I realize that this was a great disservice to myself. In my great, tragic love for this person I had forgotten to love myself and became a victim of my own neglect. Buth then in the anguished livesw the young lead, they need drama commensurate to their hormonal levels, and my drama was wasting away for a boy I had lost, I guess, to college education.
Through it all I loved him very much. I love him so much that, as the cliche goes, I could not deny him his happiness. If he was happier with someone else, so be it. If he was happier with me as only friend, so be it. Though it sometimes felt like I had a wound in my heart, it didn't matter, I loved him anyway. After a while, it didn't matter that he didn't love me in return, I loved him anyway. When he'd wonder if there was a girl out there for him, I could scarcely stop myself from screaming, "Here I am, you doofus, no need to go far." When he did ask me for any fabors to my inconvenience, I would whine inside but my brain would be in a frenzy cancelling appointments so I could be at his beck and call. I loved him so much I felt it was such a massive injustice, tyranny even, that I could have have him, when I was probably the one who loved him most, after his mother. I would never let any harm come to him. Touch a hair on his head and I'd metamorphose into the Incredible Hulk and kill you.
Call it stupidity, call it insanity, call it obsession, call it infatuation, call it whatever you want, it was love, sweet bittersweet love. With love, as with faith, if you believe that's justification enough, no explanation is necessary. If you do not, no explanation is possible. When you are blessed enough to love, it will change you in so many ways you can never be the same again.
Love means different things to different people, different things at different times. LIke everything, it changes. It waxes and wanes like the moon.
In all my years of loving one boy with all the love my heart could hold, I learned that no matter where I went, no matter what I did, no matter who I was with, there was only one person for me, no matter if he long ago ceased to feel the same way. It was not his fault that I was so unhappy for so long, it was simply my misfortune, my cross to carry. In spite of everything, I am a better person, and I will forever be indebted to him for teaching me how it is to love. Never mind that his teaching was done mostly in absentia. I madly, deeply, truly loved him. I hope never to dishonor that love by engaging in cheap flings with whoever catches my fancy at the moment.
To me love is not a conquest, much less one conquest after another. Conquest denotes subjugation, a submission to a more powerful will. You do not make a person submit to your will and mold him as you see fit to make him more lovable in your eyes. You love him for what he is. You do not gloss over his imperfections, you learn to live with his flaws. You do not brag to your friends that he is yours for the taking, there is no place for braggadocio in love. You wait instead anxiously for the next time he tells you he loves you, no matter if it may never happen and in the meantime the uncertainty is making you miserable. You do not lead him on with empty displays of affection. You do not boost his ego with false praises, only to give him the ultimate put-down by taking him for a fool. You find yourself sppechless with admiration and fear that the slightest touch will betray the depth of your emotion. You do not cry foul when you see that the course of love has not gone according to your fervent wishes. You do not bawl at him, "HOw dare you tell me you love, take my heart, and then disappear from my life." You do not demand the return of glorious days long past. You do not blame him for your shattered illusions and waylaid dreams and least of all for your broken heart. Even in the lowest troughs of self-pity and despair, you cannot bring youself to cause him the slightest grief. You would rather die than give him the slightest hint that he has anything to do with your unhappiness. Love bears all-- maybe not always with a smile that's big enough for all the world to see, but just one that's brave enough to tell him it's okay, you'll live so he doesn't have to feel bad.
It is never easy to lay open the door to your heart, because love and rejection get in the same way. Love is not for the faint-hearted. I loved once, and years later I am still reeling from it. Having survived one heartbreak has not lessened my fear of going through another. Thus I envy people who can plunge headlong into relationships after but just some tentative attempts at getting to know antoher person. I envy people who can meet strangers and shortly afterward declare that they were meant for each other. I envy those who are not afraid to go after their happiness and damn the consequences. I envy people who can go from conquest to conquest without feeling diminished by it.
I can never be like them. I don't think like them. ONce you've tasted manna from heaven, why bother with bread from the baker? Nothing compares with it.
Until God sends me my angel on earth to love and to cherish forever, I will be content to be alone. I have learned to swallow my loneliness like a bitter pill, hoping that my good behavior will make fate smile at me and say, "Here is the one for you. Live happily ever after, your name is written on his heart."
One love, one lifetime -- that is my hope. Not one conquest after another. As Sting says, that's not the shape of my heart. (June 4 & 6, 1996).
-The Best of Young Blood-
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