couple words on heartbreak from the perspective of a boy who knows
the meaning of losing everything important.
was at a close friendís theater performance a couple weeks ago.
I was watching the cast and crew moving props after the show when I
saw the lead of the play and realized that she looked like my ex.
From the audience, she had just appeared to be any other Asian girl.
Up close, the resemblance was slight, but there. A profound,
deep-rooted horror shot through me, a mixture of trepidation and
primordial infatuation that I wish had died. I managed to mask my
surprise when she introduced herself to me, and throughout the cast
dinner I stared at her eyes and tried to identify what exactly it was
that reminded me of her. I never figured it out, and left the Dennyís
feeling unsettled and disconcerted.
I say ex, it is meant to be just that. She was never my girlfriend,
merely a series of months and days and hours and memories I attempted
to cross out when she swiftly pulled my heart from my chest. She
never meant to hurt me, I believe, because to her I was an anomaly,
the x factor: dark matter that she never saw coming or identified
until she was left with the devastating consequences of my loss. She
was my first love since the beginning, my best friend for the brief
moment I had her, but I think sometimes I forgot that she was only a
girl. She was just human, and sometimes that feels like the worse
part of all. I fell in love with someone so volatile and I let her
rip me apart.
met when we were younger, and despite my ephemeral memory, I remember
exactly how it didnít happen. I was walking through the dewy
grass towards the junior high when my best friend acknowledged her.
At that point in time, she was a small, skinny girl with brown hair
and honeyed skin and facial features that reminded me of a mouse. She
wore purple rimmed glasses and I did not want to know her.
we learned of one another through eighth grade English and after
school clubs, and through that influx of new conversation I developed
feelings for her. It was just puppy love, so I did not think much of
the butterflies or the thoughts of holding her hand or kissing her.
Things were simple: I had a crush and she had no idea. I was content
to admire her secretly.
talked occasionally, but it wasnít until sophomore year of high
school when we became close. She joined winterguard, and I was one of
her only friend on the team. We formed a tight camaraderie that
stretched, grew, and expanded at an exponential rate. It was one of
those annoying friendships where the two participants are close and
create many inside jokes that make it seems unwelcoming to outsiders.
The only flaw in the plan was that I was falling in love with her
while I was seeing someone else, a girl named Jasmyne. We werenít
officially together, but I knew I couldnít continue things with
Jasmyne while I had other feelings, more intense feelings. Jasmyne
was the better person: she said that she understood, and even though
I had hurt her deeply, she still wanted to be friends. It felt like I
was being let off the hook, but her words soothed the guilt that had
been eating at me and I was free.
I told the first love of my life that I had a crush on her. Every
person that has ever confessed their feelings knows that pause, the
silence, the hesitation, as you wait for the other to respond. It
loops between two people like a conscious, physical thread. You dream
hopelessly that they will repeat the same words back, sometimes to no
avail. The void hung between us until she said, ďI was jealous
when I saw you and Jasmyne together. I didnít understand why.Ē
That felt weirdly cryptic to me, and the space between us rippled
strangely. I knew, I was certain that she wouldnít reciprocate,
that she would diffuse the situation and return us to our normal
world. Instead, she kept sending me mixed messages. When we went our
separate ways that night, I was bewildered, but glad that I had
gotten it off my chest.
unfolded during the next couple of weeks I donít remember, but
eventually she admitted that she was falling for me as well. She
quickly followed up with, ďBut we canít be together,Ē
and I felt those words crack against my jaw, a physical hit. It
wasnít like I hadnít seen it coming. I had. Thatís
why I was so convinced she wouldnít like me back, why I had
beaten down the hope. She had brought it back out of my chest just to
slam that optimism down. It was circumstance, it was her upbringing,
it was her morals. She was from a good Christian family, strict with
stereotypical Asian expectations to get good grades and go to a good
college. It would be disgraceful and disobedient and against her
religion to even have feelings for me. We were impossible from the
not a bad person, I promise. This makes it seem like she didnít
want to date me because I was a drug addict or an alcoholic, or
worse, an atheist, but I wasnít. I was a good kid, just a
little bruised and a little dark inside, like the ugly fruit they
wonít sell in grocery stores. The reason why she wouldnít
date me wasnít because of anything I could change, technically.
I wasnít born male, I was born biologically female. It went
against everything she believed, for girls to be in love with girls.
Back in high school, I wasnít out as female to male
transgender. At that time, I hadnít even entertained the fact.
I was just a lesbian that wore guyís clothing. My parents
hadnít even let me cut my hair short until I was a senior.
Sometimes I wonder if things could have been different if I had come
out as trans earlier. Would she be willing to commit a similar sin in
the name of love?
that awkward conversation, we were seemingly okay. Everything
returned to normal, or as normal as two teenagers can be when theyíre
secretly, not-so-secretly, in love with each other. I was trying to
come to terms with being just friends, but it wasnít easy. We
would brush against each other during practice, and I would get the
ache in my throat to just kiss her. There was an instance during a
guard competition that we fell asleep on the bus, and when I woke up,
her head was on my shoulders.
would remind me again and again that we would be together if I was a
real guy. Recounting each memory is reopening old, old wounds, but in
the end it makes me wonder, was I imagining the whole thing? Did
these things ever happen? Was I merely twisting her words,
misinterpreting her emotions, altering our past? She told me not to
tell anyone about us, or what we werenít. Only a couple people
knew, including Jasmyne, who was respectively not a dick about it. My
friends commented that we always looked happy when we were together,
and I guess it was because things felt different with her, like we
were lifting the weight of the world off each otherís shoulders
like a conjoined Atlas.
we continued on like this, flirting and being friendly and constantly
reaffirming that we were ďjust friends.Ē I went to San
Francisco for a band trip, and the entire time she texted me to say
how much she missed me. I looked out the window of the charter bus,
thinking about how much better things would be if she was there with
me. When my aunt died of liver cancer, she sent me a video of her
playing my favorite song on piano. Over time, however, she found that
her surmounting emotions towards me were getting dangerous, and she
initiated a series of ďbreaksĒ where we cut off all
communication in order to get over each other. The first time we
lasted a day. The second time a week. The third time two. The fourth
time a summer.
third time we werenít speaking to each other, we were supposed
to work on our group project in AP European History. She and her best
friend would talk and I would sit behind them, all of us avoiding eye
contact, until her friend texted me later to tell me what I had to
do. I was so angry about everything that was happening, that she was
breaking my heart and being a terrible friend and not speaking to me.
It was encompassing. I couldnít contain my rage until I got
home. I would punch the brick walls outside of the band room and
pummel the metal doors in the empty bathrooms. My fists were always
bruised then, and I saw her pointedly ignore the ways that she had
summer was equally as hellish. I went from talking to my best friend
all the time to nothing at all. I went from her telling me how much
she loved the smell of the night, to falling asleep dreaming about
her hands, her tangled brown and silver hair, her eyes when she
smiled, and the curve of her chin against my fingertips to the
deafening silence. I took everything she had given me: small notes
and letters on my birthday and a paper heart and a snow globe, and
destroyed them all. I burned the papers with matches in the barren
dirt of my backyard, and shattered the glass globe against the side
of my house. I wasnít angry anymore, just hollow and
shell-shocked. She blocked me on all social media, and I had to hear
from my best friend Ė the same one that had tried to introduce
to her the first time Ė that she had a new thing with some
stopped actively loving her the summer before our sophomore year and
ended up doing it passively when we were juniors. I was still in love
with her despite every conscientious effort not to be. With the new
school year came new changes. She traded me for studying,
well-rounded academia and interests. I traded her for another
girlfriend and a renewed passion for color guard. We progressed
through the most important and viewed year of our high school careers
pretending that we were good with each other, even though everyone
knew the truth by that point.
was difficult at times, because towards the end of the year we
started to slip back into a comfortable place that once again blurred
the lines between friendship and something more. Only this time, it
was unspoken: a whisper of a touch or a smile or eye contact here or
there. One day, I stole her umbrella and left her stranded in the
rain on the way to class. She screamed and chased after me, and
inside attempted to smear the wet sleeves of her clothing on my face.
I shook the collected droplets from the umbrella onto her in
retaliation, smiling at her offended expressions. At the end of
history, she stole my phone and hid it in her coat pocket. I cornered
her and wrapped my hands around her wrists until she squirmed into my
grasp. It felt too intimate, like the love we had forgotten. I
dropped her hands because it wasnít supposed to be happening.
knew her when she was soft, partially grown. Her skin was always
clear, and I remembered the puckered flesh of her arms whenever she
would break out into goosebumps. I found it easy to recognize the
emotions on her face, so prone I was to examining her. She had a
terribly judgmental, intimidating face, but the way her eyes
disappeared with the emergence of her smile made her seem like a
different person. I think one of the tragedies of our falling out is
that I never got to understand her now as I did before. It is
saddening to not know how much someone who was vastly important to me
has changed in the span of three years.
funny thing is, she wasnít the first person I fell in love
with. I met someone when I was a freshman, and she was my first kiss,
my first girlfriend, my first everything. So, technically, the girl
who I call my first love shouldnít really hold that title. She
shouldnít mean anything to me. In the time afterwards, I
couldnít justify why the hell she had hurt me so much. Then, I
found a quote from Lang Leav that summarized the entirety of what I
felt. She wrote, ďyour first love isnít the first person
you give your heart to Ė itís the first one who breaks
it.Ē Her words felt like finality, like something being drawn
from the pit of my stomach through my throat. I wasnít alone,
had three other girlfriends since, and every single one of them seems
to relay some kind of hostility or jealousy towards her. I think itís
because in the beginning, Iím honest, and I tell them about the
girl that breaks my heart. I try to tell them that I donít love
her anymore, and I try to believe it because even I donít know
if it is entirely true. For ages, I was in love with her ghost, the
girl that she used to be. I have long since realize that that girl
doesnít exist any longer. The only thing I can honestly say is
that there is a hollow in my heart where I once nursed the idea of
making her mine.
the end, I canít stop myself from telling this story over and
over again. I wrote it in poems and short stories and journal
entries, translating it through the genres to somehow make it fade. I
wasted so much paper and ink and soul to say the same things over and
over again, but on some level, I have to thank her. My best writing,
my best poetry came out of the misery that she gave me. Whenever I
need the inspiration, whenever my mind draws blank, I merely whisk
myself back to the darkest corners of my brain to bring her back to
life. But itís been so long since then: almost four years to
repair. It brings a certain kind of shame to keep thinking about the
girl who doesnít deserve anything, much less the construct of
my poetry or the title of my muse. It brings me a certain humiliation
that I keep beating the dead horse, or in this case, keep loving the
it strange that I keep saying that we couldnít be together? I
think the reason I say that is because everything else doesnít
seem true. She didnít reject me, because that usually implies
that she didnít reciprocate. I canít say that she shared
my feelings, because despite the fact that she liked me, we were on
opposing sides of the same war. I was willing to do anything for her,
but she wasnít ready to do the same.
itís my curse to keep bringing her back. Maybe 3,000 words
about my first love might be enough to purge her from me. I havenít
told the whole, honest story ever since we ended, so maybe this is
what I need to end this. I know she moved on a long time ago, because
she doesnít need me to brighten her creativity like I need her.
we were still talking, I told her that one of my friends had
mistakenly called her Atlantis. She had laughed and said that she
do you want to be?Ē she asked, and I thought for a couple
want to be Atlas,Ē I told her. I didnít tell her that
Atlantis means Island of Atlas, and
I wanted to be the one to carry her burdens. I wanted to be that
person for her, but I think in her eyes I was more expendable, less
important. Or maybe thatís just one of the lies I tell myself
to support the theory that she never cared. Either way, Iím so
tired of being Atlas and carrying these words and her memory along
inside of me.
Salt is 18 years old and resides in California.