When I turned fifteen, I experienced a sort of blossoming year for boyfriends. One boy I dated was a musician. He was two years older, a senior, and already accepted into a prestigious music program at an arts college. He lived in another town, went to a different high school, and our paths crossed by coincidence. He didn't normally hang out with our crowd, but for some reason, that night he decided to come to a party my friend hosted at her house.
I was a little annoyed that night because a boy I didn't like was paying too much attention to me and the boy I did like wasn't paying any at all. I blamed the first boy for co-opting all the space around me. I escaped outside to get some breathing room.
The weather was in that mellow, between seasons stage: a little cool, a little crisp, but not so much that you wanted a jacket. I find this sort of time invigorating, stimulating, a time when something is around the corner, and like a child at Christmas, I eagerly awaited the surprise.
I ducked around the corner of the house and leaned against the fence, just breathing. My senses were so tightly strung that they hummed, the way I think most teenagers are, but I knew enough to calm them down. I tilted my head back to stare at the stars. After a bit, I felt a part of the dark and the solitude, and then I knew I was about ready to go back inside to the party.
That's when he spoke to me.
"Please tell me you didn't come out here to cry," he said, disdain soaking the word cry.
He'd been standing deeper in the shadows, further around the corner, past where I was. So he'd been there the entire time. I hadn't been there alone. I felt a start of self-consciousness.
"Cry?" I asked witlessly, trying to get my center back.
"You like Robert, right? But he's hanging on that girl, the little blonde, what's her name?"
"She's hanging on him, she's a flirt."
I tried to figure out how to salvage my pride. I felt ashamed that he'd observed me so closely, and so accurately. I felt ashamed to like someone who didn't like me. I decided to try to redirect.
"I didn't come out to cry. I came out to get some air. I like the night, that's all." I told him, my voice defiant.
He stepped closer and I saw he was the new girl's older brother. The one who never came out with us.
"What are you doing out here," I challenged.
"Getting some air. I like the night, that's all," he said, slightly mocking.
We started talking. He was different. His hair was a little longer than other boys, his clothes more rock than prep. He was a slightly broody, intense musician type, interesting and intelligent. He drove me home, and we sat under a fat moon on the front lawn. The past summer I'd attended a special program for gifted kids at a local university. One course I took was astronomy, so I talked about the stars. And he listened. He didn't mind that I was smart, he was too. He didn't mind that I wanted to talk about real things, he did too. He told me about his music and I was intrigued. When he leaned over to kiss me, I didn't pull away. He told me he'd call me. When he did, I agreed to a date. And then he was my boyfriend.
For a while.
The intensity became overwhelming, the broodiness suffocating. I was fifteen and not ready for too much of anything. I got the feeling that no matter what, his feelings would always be stronger and more intense. His life was already over an edge that I couldn't completely comprehend yet, but what I did scared me in a way.
In my heart, I knew we needed to break up, but, as teen girls will do, I called a war council with my best girlfriends. They agreed.
I decided to do it over the phone. So, with my good friend beside me (I know, horrible, but I was fifteen), I dialed his number. I nearly chickened out when he answered, but my friend poked me (her job) and I plunged into my careful speech about what a great guy he was, but we both wanted different things and I thought that we needed to break up. We argued, but I stuck to my key phrase. My free hand twisted my bedspread into a crumpled wad, my knuckles white with suppressed emotion and words, things I kept back to not wound him worse. By the time the call ended, I thought he'd hate me forever.
I had no idea what this would set in motion.
He never spoke to me again, but he spoke to plenty of other people. He smeared my reputation, and shared private things. The things he said...they made me horrible. His sister helped.
I decided to confront him, get this to end, but he wouldn't speak to me. His sister would, though. She told me he was leaving early for college and that broke her heart, and it was all my fault. She ended by saying I was a bitch who'd ruined her brother's heart and she hoped I would die. She told me I'd get what I deserved, and hung up.
She had the reputation of the sweetest girl, so popular.
A month later, a friend tentatively called me, one of the few from that group who still spoke to me.
"He's written a song," she said, nervously, "It's about you. It's ummm pretty sad. I think maybe you weren't that nice to him. We're all a little worried about him."
And I realized then that those he hadn't turned against me with his anger would now be gone from his sadness.
My only crime? Not liking him as much as he liked me.
That song haunted me more than anything he or anyone else did. He played it often, in many places. People told me he used my name in it, too, so everyone would know who he meant. It was a good song, I heard, although I never heard it myself. It would be good, of course, he was a talented musician, already accepted into a prestigious music school. The school, I heard, he threatened to not go to because what was the point.
I began to get angry. Nobody had any right to do any of this. Couples broke up all the time. I quizzed my girlfriend who confirmed that any breakup is sort of heartbreaking but that I hadn't been cruel or vicious. I'd even agreed to let him say whatever he wanted about the break-up, she reminded me. To my horror. I'd never meant any of this. I'd meant say it was mutual, to save face.
My one attempt to defend myself was so abysmally received that I dropped it. I realized he didn't own all of my life. I lived in a different town, went to a different high school. So I pulled back, focused myself locally, and thank goodness for that option. When he went to college, things died down pretty fast and fortunately teens move on to something new fairly quickly.
Believe it or not, I had sort of forgotten many of these details, until I read Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin's new book, Dedication.
In the book, Katie's first love took their relationship---and all of its intimate details---and put it to music, becoming a super star. It made me stop and think. My old boyfriend never became a pop star (that I know of. In fact, I have no idea what happened to him) but what if that song...what if it was playing on the radio, his face and his words in magazines?
Who was your first love and how did it end? Or did it? Or your first break-up? Did it affect the world around you, or only you?
If you want to know what I think about the book, click here to read my review!
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products