I was four days shy of my 16th birthday the night a boy kissed me for the first time. His name was Dan, and we were on our first date, "Wayne's World" followed by a cheeseburger and French fry dinner. It was February 29, 1992, and as we stood on the steps of my back porch, Dan leaned down and kissed me -- full-mouthed and everything I dreamed of and more. I was so shocked and inexperienced that I kept my eyes open at first, not sure what to do or where to put my hands. All I knew was that a boy's lips were on mine, and it felt good, like eating ice cream on a summer night.
Moments before, Dan had pulled his Toyota Camry over along the curb on 86th street, about a block away from my house. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" was on the radio, and I was convinced he was about to kiss me. Instead, he turned to me and said, "I think you're great, really. I'd like to see you again."
"I'd really like that, too," I said.
Then we just sat in his car, listening to words of the song, me dreaming about when he might kiss me.
Love, I don't like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away.
I had never been kissed before. Not a peck on the cheek. Not a spin-the-bottle kiss during some seventh-grade party. And definitely not lips and tongue and all that other stuff.
So when we finally kissed on the back porch where I used to eat cherry popsicles as a kid and the leap year moon was full, I knew nothing would ever be the same again.
The kiss led to more dates, which led to dating -- which I was equally as new to. Dan held my hand in the halls and placed his arm around me as we walked out of school and the next thing I knew, I had a boyfriend.
Dan had blonde hair, blue eyes and a laugh that made my heart beat. He was tall and handsome, and a year older than me. Dan wrote me love letters that I showed to my friends who called them the "marriage letters." They said things like, "I hope our relationship grows and lasts forever." He loved me before I knew how to love myself or how to let a man love me.
Every day after school, we kissed by the exit on the northwest side of the building, the crisp air on our cheeks, saying goodbye before my mom picked me up and took me away from him. On those spring days, all I wanted was for time to stop, this boy who was about to become a man, his lips on mine, his hands on my hips.
You will never kiss anyone again like how you kiss someone when you're in high school. Remember this. There is something innocent and passionate about the high-school sweetheart relationship -- when your biggest concern is your grade in calculus or so-and-so said whatever-it-was about you. You don't know it at the time, but life is so simple --bills and making breakfast out there in a future you don't yet realize exists.
Of course, Dan and I broke up. We broke up several times. But we fell in love -- and his love caused me more pain than any relationship I've ever had because it was the first pain.
The night before he left for college, Dan and I stood under the streetlights outside my house. He placed a boom box on top of his car and handed me a letter and red rose. In the letter, he wrote, "Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. Whatever it is, I would like to thank you for all the love we shared in the past... and whatever happens in the future we must remember that no one can take our past away from us." And I wanted to cry, but didn't. Then he pressed play and "In Your Eyes" came on and we danced -- right there in the middle of the street, the orange glow from the street lamps above our heads.
love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
And in that moment, I felt the emptiness in that song. Even though we both promised to write, to call, I sensed a shift already, as if he was leaving me behind for something better, someone better, and he would never look at me in the same way again.
"Nice song choice," I said.
"If we ever get married some day, 'In Your Eyes' will have to be our wedding song," I said.
This comment made Dan laugh, but I knew he was imagining that day, too -- me in a white dress on a wooden dance floor, he holding me as he held me in that moment.
The song ended, and Dan kissed me, a long kiss, as if he didn't want to leave, but knew he had to, and then we said our goodbyes.
"Love ya, too."
"Good luck," I said. "College is going to be great."
I gave him one more kiss, and he opened his car door and left me. Three months later, he broke up with me over the phone.
"It's just too hard," he said.
Dan and I stayed in touch throughout college, but nothing came of it other than emails and an occasional summer meet-up to check in with one another. Once, when I was 23 and in graduate school, we tried to make our relationship work as adults. But it didn't last -- as most don't.
Years later, now married to another man who is the father of my two sons, I look back on my first love as the relationship that catapulted me into all the others -- the one that prepared me for all the ups and downs of love and life that would lie ahead.
Thanks to Facebook, I no longer have to wonder about the boy who wore high tops and danced with me in the street the night before he left for college. I see pictures of his wife and children. I see his vacations and his holidays. I don't have to imagine where he is or whom he's with. I know. He's out there, living his life, as I am living mine, as we once imagined we would live together.