2007 PAST LOVES STORY CONTEST
Facing the Fall
by Autumn Conley
I can still remember his eyes in the dark — like tiny sapphires dancing in the moonlight or headlights of passing cars. It's strange the things you remember about your first love. His blonde hair wafting across his forehead…the scent of Eternity cologne…his strong, gentle touch …
My first love started off as my best friend. He was younger than me, but we had everything in common, as if we were meant to complete each other, and we had fun together. I was naïve to think that it would remain platonic. Because it didn't.
One evening, over fast food pasta, he simply said, "If I were older…" I was completely thrown; I'd never had a boyfriend before, there was an age gap, and I knew it would not be accepted by our families. But, I gave in, and the months that followed were the most heartwarming and heartbreaking of my entire life.
We remained "just friends" in the eyes of everyone around us. But we spent every waking moment together, stealing private ones when we could, daring to flirt and cast wanton glances at each other. We were so close and had so much in common that it seemed I had found a piece of myself that I didn't even know had been missing. He woke me up from the shy, dull girl I had been, and I lived. He became my solace, my project, my reason to laugh or cry or feel anything at all. I am not much of a romantic, and never really understood why people refer to it as "falling" in love. But I fell, and I fell hard. We laughed all the time, we knew what the other was thinking, and we did sweet things for each other when no one was looking. We were, as far as I understood it, in secret love, and I felt so happy, young, full of life and invincible. I never wanted that feeling to end.
The problem was, it did end. Inevitably, painfully, and bluntly and with few answers, like being robbed of all your dearest possessions and never finding the thieves. I spent two days sitting in my closet, snuggling the stuffed dalmation he won for me, playing "our" songs, staring at his picture, and crying my eyes out. I remember physical pain in the pit of my stomach, as if someone had ripped my insides out. I didn't know what to do the next day — I had forgotten how to live without him.
When I think about it now, I realize we never could have lasted. But he taught me how to love better…how to feel more…how to live instead of just existing…how to deal with pain…how not to be afraid of falling in love. My past love, for all of its ups and downs, is what gave me the courage to face the fall again and love someone else. I remember it with smiles and tears, which is what love is all about.
by Katherine Johnson
The first night we slept side by side, he hooked our sleeping bags together and we held each other near. There was no sex, only the feeling of closeness and comfort — friendship that connected at the soul level. I felt as if we had known each other forever — that we had been friends from childhood, boyfriend and girlfriend in our teens, and lovers in our twenties.
Yet we had only known each other a few weeks. He taught me things that night I'd never dreamt. As we lay down on our backs, cocooned in sleeping bags on the cool earth, he pointed to the open, clear black sky. "There it is — the first star in the night sky!" He kept me up far into the night, talking of so many things, pointing out constellations, and the miraculous shooting stars. Early the next morning, he woke me from a groggy sleep state, "Wake up — there's the first bird flying!" This was a new pre-dawn wonder that embodied the sense of awe he brought to me. I began to see and feel this sense of awe for myself.
After an early morning camp breakfast, he told me, "I have a surprise for you. Meet me down by the river behind the old lodge in fifteen minutes." I, being a woman who loves surprises, couldn't wait, and as the appointed time approached, I circled around the old chinked log structure and found him waiting for me on the rough-hewn, weathered porch that hung out over the river. There was a dark brown, almost ebony wooden chair with a cracked leather seat that he patted as an indication for me to sit. His blue eyes twinkled in merriment. I noticed several pitchers and bowls on the brown planked floor.
As he poured water from a celadon ceramic pitcher over my hair, I could feel the warmth, and then his hands caressing my scalp. The shampoo must have been an aphrodisiac. Later, when he poured clear water from an old stoneware jug and rinsed the shampoo from my head, I knew that this was the stuff of movies. Something had shifted — one of life's magic moments, when friendship turned to love, and playfulness transformed into sensuality. My hair sparkled in the morning sun.
A new awareness filled me, the awareness of beauty all around me. From now on, I would notice the first star of evening, the first bird of morning, and the miracle of life lived fully in each moment.
THIRD PLACE WINNERS: Three Stories
Until the Twelfth of Never
In a small mill-village town, about the only place to hang out was the corner drugstore, and that's where I was, when I met Howard. Having led a rather sheltered life, as the daughter of a minister, I was surprised that anyone could be interested in me. To think he chose me, even though I was not as pretty as the girl I was with. Imagine that!
His intense blue eyes held a depth of surprise that I'd never seen before, and I knew he liked what he saw in me. There was an immediate connection. As fate would have it, his brother was with him. That meant my friend, Susan, and I could double date, (which was the only way I would be able to go out with him.) In retrospect, I think we were dazzled by men in uniforms. They were Marines, and handsome, to boot!
That summer night began a whirlwind romance that changed my life. He was experienced; older than I, but very respectful and intuitive . He recognized my immaturity and naivety. I knew he wanted me, but he never pushed the envelope. Why, I'd been taught that having sex with anyone, before marriage, was the "unpardonable sin." I didn't dare, but I experienced feelings I'd never had before.
The summer wore on, and I supposed those days and nights were going to be endless. He hadn't told me that he was going to be sent out of the states in just a few weeks. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a wonderfully happy seventeen-year-old girl, who knew the meaning of "desire" for the first time in her life. Howard made me feel alive and beautiful.
In the weeks preceding his departure to Puerto Rico, we played in the pool, hiked near a local reservoir, shared peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and I told him every thought I'd ever had. (He was a good listener.) Being an amateur photographer, he also took dozens of pictures of me, which I still have. Some memories were made to be kept forever. I think I loved him, but I had reserved the right to say, "I love you," for the man who'd eventually want to marry me.
On a balmy, autumn Sunday afternoon, which would be the ending of a chapter in an unfinished book, he told me he was leaving. While I sat in his lap, I cried, as the 45- RPM repeated itself over and over, and the words to "The Twelfth of Never" ingrained themselves in my memory.
He shipped out the following morning, with my virginity still intact, and I never saw him again. I'm married now, for 46 years, to a minister who reaped the rewards Howard sacrificed.
But until…"The Twelfth of Never", I'll remember my past love, and in some ways regret that I can't add the "r."
by Dickens Ihegboroh
I spent unusually more time drying the last plate than I'd done its now spanking clean brothers which sparkled with the Palmolive's green apple's freshness, where I'd arrayed them on the dish rack. My hands worked dexterously. It was more of a polishing than drying — a sacrosanct practice in other words, and I handled it with a delicacy and fondness that would 'rub the other plates the wrong way' so to say. Gleaming now in golden-buttery — for that is its color — I wrapped it gently in a soft cloth . . . as a mother wraps its newborn.
Made of ivory, and by at least 5 years older than the rest of the dishes in my kitchen, the plate may not have been of any use in my kitchen, yet I value it more than every of my other culinary items. It is a reminiscent of my first kiss . . . a vestige of Rashiniqua.
Selecting the shelf farthest from the sink — its sanctuary — I, slowly, with a greater cautiousness than I'd done the others, stowed it away. I hung the towel on its rail, and the next moment, I was a 21-year-old again . . . I was taken 7 years back again. It wasn't this same house, much less this same kitchen; but it'd been at this juncture, and that very ivory plate had peculiarly been the last she washed and the last I dried. Having hung the towel over its rail, I'd turned to . . . I couldn't remember what I'd turned to do; but whatever it was I didn't just do it. She was waiting for me to turn. It wasn't brisk, yet it was quick enough that I didn't see it coming: my first kiss. Instantly my lips opened, and my eyes instinctively closed. Our lips, in their utmost sensitivities and hers in its full succulence, as wet as the ivory plate was few minutes ago, glided irrepressibly and inseparably for what seemed like eternity.
What can I say of Rashiniqua? How do you describe color to the blind? Beauty, strength of character, and intelligence are the attributes men usually look for in women. I don't know what I'd looked for in her, but what I found — if actually I'd ever looked for any — transcended all those. "It's because she was your first date," Kay: my closest friend disagrees. But does being my first date explain why dishwashing, and cooking too — which until I met her were things I detested to do — gradually became things I passionately love to do?
Whenever Rashiniqua was mentioned, people usually wondered what the sudden brief silence engendered in me concealed. Anybody who walks into my kitchen, seeing the conspicuously empty space meant for a dishwasher, will wonder why I don't have one; or why I had the inescapable 'KITCHEN: THE HEART OF THE HOME' inscribed on its wall. However, these are but inanimate, destructible reminiscences of Rashiniqua. But my heart, forever, is where she ineffaceably exists.
by Barbara Stanley
He was the first boy to ask me to "go steady". The year was 1969. Tall, dark hair, and yes, he was handsome. I loved him and I loved the way he adored me. Even though my family moved eighty miles away, he drove up to see me as often as he could afford to. As usual, when teens move away from each other and attend separate schools, the temptation to see other people is very strong. I had started dating a young man who made me question my undying love for D. Not wanting to give either one up, I just didn't tell them about the "other boy". Things went well for a few months, but my mother, sister, and friends badgered me to make a decision. I was told that I wasn't being fair to either boy. I chose the new boy. We've been married for 36 years.
Before my wedding, D. wrote a letter expressing his continued love for me with assurance that he would always be a phone call away if I should ever need him. I ran into him once when our children were young. We talked for a couple of hours. He was divorced at the time. As we said good-bye, he hugged me close and told me that he still loved me and would always be there for me. Throughout all the good and bad times in my life, I kept the special knowledge that someone loved me no matter what. I found out a few weeks ago that D. had died several years ago in a tragic automobile accident. For me, it was as though he had just died. It was more than the death of a person I once loved and always cared for; it was the total and complete loss of my first real love and the emptiness of the space he occupied in my life for so long.