As a 23 year old female with very little to show for in the department of love and relationships, reflecting on my first encounter with the L words—Love and Lesbianism, in case that isn’t made clear… which it isn’t — is a bit frustrating. And perhaps juvenile.
But on a not-even-the-tiniest-bit-special Saturday night such as this one, I find myself (unusually) sober and reliving my past, and how I fell in love for the first time. And how I didn’t stop falling until rock bottom cushioned my blow and scraped my knees and elbows raw. Honestly, I wanted to write down an article worth reading. As an aspiring writer, what I’m told is to write what you know.
I want to write about a girl who I knew, and who helped me know myself.
To spare you the details of our non love story, I’ll just say that we met at grade 5 in an international school in Saudi Arabia. We were two sheltered girls stuffed in an all girl’s section, in a city so closed even wind had a hard time penetrating the vicinity at times. Because of all the sandstorms.
I hated her the first time I met her. Now, you don’t know me, but you should know that I don’t just say “hate” every time I get the chance to. I’ll say it about ginger tea or when I’m given 10 cents for change, but not easily when in reference to a person.
She was too noisy, too vibrant, too blindingly colorful for the monochrome world I had been surrounded with. Little did I know that this Crayola box was about to color me out of my mind later in my life. Which I will now skip to; freshmen year.
I had taken an interest in music and by some twist of faith—and perhaps also by my own volition—I was put into a rock and roll band with her. I was the vocalist, she was the drummer, and everyone else in the band began to blur in the background the more band practices came, the more time I spent with her in her house with her family, the later it got in the night and it was just her and me waiting for my dad to pick me up. She was suddenly high on the totem pole, the focus of all my attention. It was between the lame jokes and failed drum lessons (courtesy of her) that I slowly began to feel that drop which started from how high I suddenly set her up on a pedestal, all the way down to the bottom of the pits. It began as an orb of warmth, pea-sized and barely visible within the pit of my stomach, slowly growing the more I fed it with the sound of her laughter or those times I’d see her nearly trip and fall on her face yet she always managed to catch herself last minute and I thought she was some sort of super human.
Sophomore year, high school: being oblivious became a mundane affair. And though I had this reputation for being the friend that showed love through the cold shoulder and evading all sorts of affection, for the first time when she asked to kiss me goodnight that one faithful night during camping, I said yes. I even reciprocated. The best part was seeing that glow in her cheeks when I did.
Growing up in a family of practicing Christians, I was always taught that a man was for a woman and vice versa, no gray areas, no room for explanations. Before her, I only had one little crush on a girl in our class when I first moved to the school, but I chalked it up as nothing more than an experimental phase of my life. Because who doesn’t go through experimental phases at age 10?
Despite this knowledge and the idea of Satan making room for me in hell, I saw nothing wrong with the way I felt. I doubted myself in the beginning, not because I was having such feelings for the same sex, but more because I knew for a fact that she was the enemy. Gradually, as though Rumplestiltskin had grabbed a handful of my hate and turned it to gold, finding reasons to hate her further was like grasping at straws.
What was crazy about this was that I was sure that she felt the same. This wasn’t an overnight analogy. It was a culmination of comparisons, of hidden touches that were just for us and no one else, of weird notes and looks passed in the middle of class, in calling each other best friends and smiling right after because it had an underlying tone of ambiguity.
One faithful phone call was all it took to tear all of it to shreds. I was at home, probably on the computer, when she called with questions about homework, and then stayed with stupid questions about life and us being friends forever. Somehow, the conversation took some very flirtatious turns and I was feeling spikes of electricity at the thought of her on the other end, even just the thought of her hand being exactly where mine was on my landline. And when confession o’ clock struck, she refused to make anything official and basically said, “I like you too, but I’m not gay.” When I asked her what she thought to do about that, she said she’d wait until her feelings faded. And that’s when I hung up because it was my cue to cry. Suddenly the orb of light turned into a monstrous sun burning up my insides.
It has been 10 years since that night. We still see each other sometimes and I think I’ll catch a glimpse of that goofy 14 year old girl who used to write me cards for Valentine’s Day and call me hers, but it’s all tucked safely within the shadow of the dimples framing her smile. Over the years, the most important thing that I have learned about that night is that I don’t regret it. Though I lost the private jokes and the handholding, I also gained perspective. And I found out that I was capable of loving someone in such a way, and that I should be careful the next time I do.
I’ve learned that love, like most people say, is not what hurts. Rejection hurts and so does the steely cold blade of betrayal against your backbone and being told that what you feel isn’t enough to change anything, but love is what helps you back up on your feet. This may not mean finding love with someone else, but loving yourself too much to prolong your demise.
I’ve learned that I am not the type of person to deny myself pleasures that I find simple, like being attracted to someone regardless of gender.
And that orb of light she colored so brightly is still here somewhere, always testing me to find someone more deserving of not just love, but who I would gratefully accept all that pain all over again from.