I left New York at the age of 15. I remember feeling like I couldn’t trust many and I was going to figure out things for myself. I didn’t trust my parents. I didn’t trust love. I didn’t trust religion. I didn’t trust life. There really wasn’t much that I was sure of at 15, but then again, I can’t honestly say that was new. I had felt that way before, at 6, and at 12. I ran. I ran to figure it out. I needed distance from all the things that confused me. I ran to my mothers, not because she would save me, but because I knew I would be left alone and I would have space to figure it out. At 15, this made sense.
I fell in love for the first time in my life that year.
I met Michael across the street at a friend’s house. He came to play basketball outside.
He was tall, had black hair, and green eyes.
His story was similar to mine; it was far from perfect.
He lived in the projects. He didn’t know his father. His mother was self-absorbed and not really what either of us considered ‘good mom material’.
We immediately connected.
There was no chaos with him. The hurricanes settled when we were together. We tried to figure it out; two people trying to understand love, family, and life.
We lived in the moment, in the present. We let hurricanes fly as we grounded each other.
He said from the get-go that I was his soul mate.
It’s an interesting concept, though I was never convinced, and still today I’m not.
The night I ran hard in Virginia, he was the one I called. He met me at the corner and we spent the night at Gosnold Hope Park in Hampton, Virginia. We never slept that night. We talked about life, ideals, how we would raise our children one day, what we learned from our parents, God, and life. We tried to figure out a way to run from it all.
I’m fully convinced without a shadow of a doubt that had we ever come up with a way to make it on our own at 16 & 17, we’d have run like a bat out of hell. We went over all the scenarios.
I think my mother may have called the police that night that I ran. I didn’t care.
We ran a lot of nights that year. Two kids running from all that they knew and wanting to know something different.
I didn’t care much about school that year. I remember the day my mom got called into the school to examine my ‘excuses’. She sorted through her own hand writing and mine. I skipped about 42 days that school year. About 5 of the excuses were hers, the rest were deemed inexcusable.
It was hard to care about school when everything else was upside down and inside out. School really didn’t matter much to me that year. Hard to care about homework or being in class when you feel lost and you’re just trying to figure out the world, who to trust, and what to believe in.
I chose to be with the one person that made sense, whom I trusted, and believed in. To this day, I don’t regret that.
Relationships at 15/16 go through a lot. It’s rare when they last, though they may have a lasting impact.
I didn’t always make good decisions, neither did he.
We broke up about a year and a half later; though we never disconnected.
Every trip to Virginia, no matter the circumstance, we sought each other out. Time always stood still for us. It was magical in a way.
I left Virginia after 10th grade. It became too much for me. I wasn’t strong enough to withstand the hurricane. I left.
He came to my high school graduation. It was the first time he ever saw life outside the big city.
I went to see him before I joined the Navy. I told him I enlisted. He cried. He asked me to marry him. I’m not sure if I ever told anyone about his proposal.
It’s hard to describe, but it was completely bittersweet. Had he asked me a year before, six months before, three months before, or even a week before I enlisted, I probably would’ve jumped. But he didn’t and I said no.
I hit a fork in the road a few months later. My life nearly ended and somehow I survived. He came to see me in the hospital.
I was 19. He was almost 21.
I had met Eric in boot camp and he had started dating a girl.
We both knew what coming to see me in the hospital was. It was a final goodbye; I’m happy you lived, but this is goodbye.
It wasn’t final though. About every 7 years throughout life we connected. Where did you go? What happened? What did you learn? How are you doing? Are you okay?
We took a journey once, down every road we took once upon a time and reflected on how much life has taught us. The projects were torn down and replaced. The little house that I lived in still stood. There was a lot of silence when we drove by. We visited Buckroe Beach. That beach brought a lot of joy to our lives when we were young. When we got there, both of us took a deep breath and thought about where we came from and how far we’ve gone. We had a lot of memories from that beach. I remember I took his hand and I looked out at the ocean. I was glad he made it. He was glad I made it. Despite the fact that we didn’t make it together, we made it still.
He is a thread in my tapestry of life. Our lives took different paths, but I will always love him. I have loved three men in my life. He is not the man that I will grow old with, but he was my first love and I will always be grateful for the role he played in my life.
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