It’s early winter, 1989. I’m 17, just about six months shy of graduation. I sit in a car with my boyfriend, my first love, the first one I ever thought was The One. He’ll later become the One who stole my heart (and my virginity) only to dump me just weeks before prom… the One who first taught me what it was like to love but NOT be loved back… the first One to really, truly break my heart into a million tiny pieces. But tonight, he’s just… The One.
We’re at the local mall. When my 6-9 shift at The Limited ended, he was waiting for me at the exit and walked me to his Ford Probe, pointedly NOT holding my hand. We didn’t have a date, no plans for anything fun or fancy, just wordlessly drove to the end of the parking lot on top of a huge hill overlooking the city and… parked.
I’m overwhelmed by my feelings for him. He’s so unlike me – quiet, cool, together – while I’m really kind of a mess.
I’ve dated other boys before, but I’ve never wanted one more than he wanted me. (At least, not since the junior high days of Trapper Keeper folders covered in hearts and the bubbly initials of cute boys… but I’m a high school woman now and those boys no longer count).
Since I started dating, I’ve been the chased, not the chaser. Now, not so much.
It’s a new and very unwelcome feeling. I’m crumbling under the pressure. I want SO CRAZY AWFUL for him to like me as much as I like him; I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more. But we both know he doesn’t, and if we’re being honest (which we’re not), we both know he never will.
It doesn’t make me walk away, though – It just makes me try harder. And want it more.
I actively choose not to think about any of that tonight. No, tonight I just want to kiss him, and have him kiss me, and feel his arms around me while I make believe this is a forever thing. So that’s exactly what I do. Tonight.
I see the cassette tape in the console and ask him to play it. It’s a mix tape I made specifically for him, filled with songs that mean something to me, the only way this teenaged child of the 80s knows how to express her feelings of devotion and hope. He’s had it for weeks, but never plays it unless I ask.
Without a word he slides it into the player, and the song starts. It’s the same song that was playing the last time I left his car, and I know he must have popped the tape out as soon as he dropped me at my door. I pretend to NOT do the math and push my hurt feelings back to the recesses of my heart. I can worry about those another time. Tonight I just want to enjoy the feeling of the song and make believe that he feels it, too.
It’s cold outside, an unusually blustery night for Austin, Texas, in December. But it’s warm in the car, and the windows have fogged up a bit. It’s not that Happy Days Inspiration Point kind of fog — our chemistry isn’t heating up the interior — it’s just fog. As the windshield wipers swish in front of me to clear the view, I wish it was more than just the weather.
The blinking lights of Austin are laid out before us. It’s such a beautiful city at night and we appreciate the skyline together, hands finally locked. He points out one building in particular – a skyscraper with rows of neon blue lines outlining its pyramid-like top edges – and tells me it’s his favorite. He tells me that every time he sees it lit up like that, he thinks of me.
I know this’ll end badly. I know this all means so much more to me than it does to him. I know I’ll come out of it scarred and broken.
I even know that there’s something better out there, waiting for me. SOMEHOW I know that SOMEDAY I’ll find SOMEONE, long after this boy is gone, long after I’ve recovered from the damage he’s caused.
But still I swoon when he tells me the blue building reminds him of me. He thinks of me! I think to myself. That’s something!