Sometimes I’m left with only memories, while sometimes I have physical mementos. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve loved again. I’m resilient and roll with the punches, but I’m sentimental. Sometimes to a fault.
In 2009, I fell for a man who only strung me along for the next few years while he finished medical school. I was an option when he was the one I was sure I wanted to be with forever. They say love is blind; in my case, it was also very delusional.
When that man graduated medical school in 2013, I went to his graduation and met his parents who had come in from across the country. I finally got to be around him for one of those seldom quality moments. But it felt different.
Maybe it was the fact that I had done some growing up during the time I wasted wishing he would decide to love me back. But I had a bad feeling underneath all the giddy feelings.
His mom seemed to love me; in fact, she talked to my mom about how she wants grandkids (hint, right?) and how nice of a girl I was. She didn’t mention his and my 8 1/2 year age difference, but it came up with him when “talking about our relationship.” Mind over matter!
That night we celebrated his ascent into the professional medical community at a restaurant downtown with delicious, Chicago-style food. It reminded him of his Chi-town childhood. The restaurant had a beautiful mural on the wall, overlooking a table set for 8-10 people. We sat there, ate, take pictures and made memories that stuck in my mind.
After dinner, we talked nonchalantly about my visiting him in his new city, 150 miles away. I was more than willing, but it never happened. Now I’m glad.
I watched him walk down the alley outside of the restaurant. It was the last time I ever saw him. I had a feeling it would be. I said “goodbye” in my mind, but I wasn’t ready.
I looked back at pictures taken in front of that restaurant mural, trying to think so many things at once. Everything came back to how I knew I had to let it go. Let him go. I eventually did. But those memories still stuck.
Until they were rewritten.
As it turns out, I now work in the same area where I last saw that man. In fact, I pass that alley at least three times a week while doing my work. I pass that restaurant. I can look in and see that mural.
One day this week, I happen to be finishing a cleanse to lose weight. I was awfully hungry and all the restaurants downtown were closed because the lunch rush was over…all except one restaurant. It was the fourth place I tried and I was just so relieved to be able to pay for food that I didn’t care where it was or how much it cost. It was the restaurant that hung in my mind as the place I last saw the man I loved so much.
It’s weird how sometimes things can change in an instant. While waiting for my food, a man came to the front to ask me if I had been helped. I had been, but I sat there in utter shock, saying, “No. Yes! Are you…?”
It was the first boyfriend I ever had. Someone I counted as my “first love” the way some 12-year-olds can do.
I was crazy about this boy. We “went out” middle-school-style from the ages of 10-14. He was a huge part of my small world at that age. He made my heart skip a beat, jump, and pound all at the same time. The excitement that would rush through my nerves was as if a tsunami and earthquake would overcome me at once. My scalp would sweat, my voice would quiver, and my hands would twitch. But with all of that, I had the sweetest memories.
He came over to me, recognizing me almost immediately. We both look the same that we had when we were those little 5th and 6th graders, except taller, bigger, and better-looking. When he hugged me, I remembered how afraid we were to even touch each other back then.
In an instant, that restaurant went from being more bitter than sweet, to being an amazing place. Whether or not the “first love” is any part of my life anymore, well, that’s whatever. But I’m grateful that the old and sour memories were erased and rewritten.