The first time I was asked out on a date is when I was around 17.
I was working a summer job at a small jewellery store. A guy summoned up the guts to come into the store and ask me out.
I said no, which sounds kind of mean. In my defence I did have a big crush on another guy at the time.
And when I say big, I mean earth-shattering.
Unrequited love is the worst
I was crazy in love with a guy that was a friend of my big sister’s.
This guy – let’s call him H – was two years older than me. He was cute and funny and (to me) incredibly sophisticated.
He was way out of my league but sometimes I’d go to his house and hang out and he’d flirt with me a little. This went on for a few years but he had lots of girlfriends and nothing ever happened.
Then, when I was about 17, I had a house party. In a move I’m sure they regretted later, my parents made themselves scarce.
I’m not saying there was streaking at the party. But I’m also not saying there wasn’t streaking…
Stop the universe
My older sister was installed as a “chaperone” and she brought along a few of her friends, including H.
That night, at my party, H kissed me.
I think my heart stopped.
Wait, that’s a lie. I know my heart stopped because everything stopped.
Time. The world. The universe.
All of it.
Young, dumb and naive
I remember that kiss as if it was my first (though I’m glad it wasn’t because my first was an awful sloppy mess).
I would love to tell you that kiss was the start of an amazing relationship. That we were meant to be. That we fell crazy in love.
Nope. Not even close.
Instead it we had an awkward “get together every now and then mainly when we’ve drunk too much” kind of fling. It was always on his terms.
And although he was never cruel in a mocking or bullying way he was cruel in his carelessness.
Our “relationship” came to an abrupt end when he broke my heart in the most devastating way possible.
The cruelty of carelessness
H was living in a share house with my sister and a few other people.
I was hanging out there on a Friday night – I often stayed at her place for the weekend – and this particular night my sister’s friend Z was also visiting.
It was late. I was on the mattress on the living room floor, where I slept when I stayed over. Everyone else in the house had gone to bed except H and Z.
They flirted. They giggled. They murmured.
And every tiny sound shuddered like a sonic boom through my head and heart while tears streamed down my face in the dark.
I didn’t let myself sob until they left the living room, went into H’s bedroom, and he closed the door behind them.
Our scars are our stories
As an adult I’ve been through a lot of crappy things in my life, including some messy and heart-wrenching break ups.
But the betrayal of what H did to me that night has never left me. Not because he got with Z – they were together for a couple of years – but because he knew how I felt about him.
And he knew I could hear everything.
Yet this emotion that I can still draw on is so important when I want to get into the head of a character who is struggling with the way they feel about someone.
The awkwardness of being a teenager never really leaves. It lives on in the life scars we bear inside our skins, and authentic writing comes from mining our scars.
So for that, I have a lot to thank H for.
I am grateful for the experiences – good and bad.
But I still hope he’s lost most of his hair and his teeth.
Tree image by Paul Hudson (creative commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)