They say no one ever quite forgets their first love. Maybe because long after it ends, our first love holds some type of power over us.
A haunting, bittersweet grip on our psyches, pulling us back to what was —what could never be again. But why?
Why should this one lodge in our brains be any different than the others? Even when the others were longer, better, more right?
Probably because nothing is quite as intense as our first. For me, it was Friday, October 20, 2006. I was 17 years-old about to meet mine.
Close to everyone I knew had a boyfriend. Except for me. I always felt like a permanent third wheel. But all of that was about to change. At the time, my high school best friend, Hannah was dating this guy, Lee. Technically, he was a freshman at some local community college. Formally, a high school senior, Lee was always a year ahead. But now that his grade was out, mine was officially in.
I couldn’t believe it was finally my last year at Cherry Hill East.
It’s like, I knew we’d eventually get here. But it always felt so far away. I didn’t think the time would actually come. It’s weird thinking about that now. And rather hard to explain. I’m sure you know what I mean. Anyway, Lee and I were friends. All of us were. My group —about eight gal pals and I used to hang out together on random drunken-fun school nights —basically, all of my junior year. Weekends too, of course. Lee had been trying to set me up with one of his friends.
But so far, none were up to par. I wouldn’t call myself picky.
It’s just, back then, I was still a virgin —something most girls weren’t. It was senior year, after all. And a lot of people I knew had lost it years ago. I guess I’ve always been a late bloomer. Because I had just started getting boobs —something I longed for as long as I can remember. Now, I was not by any means a prude. But as non-traditional as I’ve always been, I kind of wanted my first time to be with someone special. And it seemed like that someone was also very far away. There was this one guy.
But he was only nice to me behind closed doors.
I knew my first could not be with him. He was from the other side of town. An innate bad boy. A player for sure. But for some reason, he seemed to like me. Because we had been on and off for the past three years. And since you know I was still a virgin, you also know we clearly never slept together. That made me think he liked me for me. But you’ll later learn, it wasn’t so black and white. Nothing ever is. And at the time, I hadn’t heard from Troy (his name) in a few weeks. And so, Lee promised he’d find me, someone, better.
Thus far, he wasn’t having much luck.
He kept saying I was too pretty for most of the guys he knew. But he wasn’t about to give up and I was more determined than ever. So one night, a week before Halloween, Hannah and I are at Lee’s parent’s house. That’s when this guy, Lee’s friend Zander comes by. Apparently, this kid had his license taken away (too many DUI’s). Lee also said he had to get a new cell phone —basically every other week because he’d get rage drunk and throw it against a wall. So yeah, keep that in mind.
Because Lee didn’t think I’d want another bad boy.
Except at the time, I didn’t know what I wanted.
I remember saying, “I’ll know when I know.” Because I felt that with Troy. But he was not the relationship type. At least at the time. Plus, I had made out and rounded most of the bases. But those guys weren’t relationship material either. It was more of your high school drunken fun than anything else. But I definitely had some sparks with a few of them. So I knew what I was looking for. And when Zander and I first met, for whatever reason, I felt those sparks fly. There was just something about him.
Something about him that made me want to know more.
I think it’s important to mention here that two years prior, my parents got divorced. My family home went into foreclosure. And I hadn’t spoken to my father since. I totally had unresolved daddy issues. Seeing that my mom and I were paying for his mistakes, Long story short, he forged my mom’s signature on a bunch of credit cards that he purposely maxed out. And when the bills came, all addressed to my innocent mother —well, that’s when things got really twisted. After that, she hired a private investigator.
I mean, she wasn’t about to fork over nearly a million dollars that she clearly didn’t have. So she had to figure out what the fuck was happening. Because she didn’t know where these bills came from. All she knew was that they weren’t from her. So the PI does some digging. Turns out, my big-wig father, her husband of 30 years —senior partner at this prestige law firm in downtown Philadelphia was the man behind the masked bills.
Because six months prior, he got fired. Like all year he was pretending to go to work.
It was business as usual. Except, it wasn’t. As a result, we were unknowing living off maxed out credit. Because the real cards would only go so far. And that’s when and kind of why he thought it would be a good idea to create a few new accounts (12 to be exact) —all in my mother’s name. He was an attorney, after all. So he knew what he was doing. In this case, I’m referring to a bunch of legal loopholes he imposed to ensure he wouldn’t be the one liable.
Because he thought his wife was too naive to figure out that her husband was, in fact, a liar. Meanwhile, the mortgage hadn’t been paid in months. And when he starts receiving a bunch of foreclosure notices, instead of doing what he could to bring us back afloat, he digs himself deeper and deeper —pretending nothing was wrong. And when he couldn’t pretend anymore, he decides to flee the state —leaving my mom and me to pick up the pieces.
That’s when I started to rebel.
Because those pieces were my childhood McMansion —the only home I had ever known.
So hell yeah, I was trying to escape the reality I didn’t want to accept.
Because I was used to a certain type of life. A life we could no longer afford. And as a teenage girl, living in an affluent suburban town, I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that my old self just wasn’t real anymore. TBH, I don’t think it ever really was. But that didn’t really matter. At least not anymore. And that scared the shit out of me. It scared my mom too. I mean, you don’t go from being happily married for three decades, having two kids and devoting your entire life to something, just to have to it taken away as if it never existed.
So hell yeah, she too was looking for some way to cope. In this case, coping meant talk therapy, Xanex and socializing. Socializing meant going out with her newly single girlfriends to this local bar and grill where other divorcees, ate, drank and danced —while possibly talking shit about their ex-spouses. So hell yeah, I knew she deserved to have some fun. She needed to escape just as much as I did. But that didn’t come without a cost. Because when she starts going out more and more, I started having less parental supervision.
Something I thought was a good thing at the time. It wasn’t.
Because a sad, confused girl, left to her own devices isn’t necessarily good. Because I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I did, however, know that Zander and his on-again-off-again girlfriend finally called it quits. That’s what Lee said before Zander walked in. And when he walks in, I pretended I didn’t know who he was. Truthfully though, I did. I mean, we went to the same school for the past three years. I remember seeing him sporadically in the hallways of Cherry Hill East.
But he never acknowledged little ole me —who at the time, didn’t acknowledge him either. So we’d walk past each other never really saying a word. Until now. Because at this moment, he’s officially inside. We’re standing face-to-face doing some lame introductions and then we start talking. Lee and Hannah were doing their own thing. I was OK with that. I was enjoying some one-on-one male attention. And after a few pre-game shots later, he asks if I smoked cigarettes. “Socially,” I reply.
I play it cool as he hands me mine. I place one end in my mouth and when I do, he leans in to light it. I liked that. I thought it was hot. So we’re standing out there and this is where I learn, he was supposed to be a freshman at the same community college Lee went too. But he decided he needed to work more instead. Because he lived with grandmother —on the other side of town. Something we now had in common. He confesses that his mom is a drug addict —living on and off the streets of Camden, New Jersey.
And sadly enough, his dad was dead. Freaking murdered. Like shot and killed, point blank range one morning when Zander was a kid. He said it was really traumatic. And because of that, he had some serious rage issues he was trying to work out. Makes sense. He goes further to tell me that they used to be a fairly happy family. This was until his mom went over the edge. Do you blame her? I mean, her husband was gone. Never coming back. And I think, she couldn’t come to grips with that either.
It seems as if we’re all trying to escape something.
Damn. Shit just got deep. But I liked that too. “After,” he continues. “The 911 people came and then child protective services took me away.” That’s when they arranged for him to live with his grandmother. And that’s when Lee yells from inside, “You guys are gonna have to pick this up at TJ’s.” Zan and I look at one another and I blurt out, “Fine by me. We’re coming.” Meanwhile, I’m dying inside —loving every second of this; still trying to play it cool. So we get up. We’re heading for the door.
And that’s when he whispers something in my ear like, “You better not ditch me at this party.” Heck no I will not ditch you. I didn’t say that, of course. I mean, I probably wanted to talk to Zander more than he did me. But I wasn’t about to let him know that. Because I liked his vibe. Probably a little too much. But I will say, it felt like he was digging me too. I was usually pretty good at reading people. But I was being cautious. Because you never really know. Especially because I didn’t have too much experience on this side of things.
More specifically, how to play hard to get. So far, so good. I think my charm was working. And now that we’re officially at the party, we walk in and decide to start it off with another drink. And that’s when I see Zander whisper something in Lee’s ear —telling him something he seemingly didn’t want anyone else to hear. I later found out, he was telling Lee how hot he thought I was and that he wanted to hang out with me again. The night wasn’t even over and he wanted more?
I’d say that’s a win.
At this point, most of everyone is also in the kitchen (where the drinks were). It seemed to be going well. Beer pong. Flip cup. You know. Your standard high school drunken fun shit. If I can be honest though, I was still feeling a bit awkward around Zander. I mean, tonight was our first official hangout. Yeah, I was buzzed. And it was definitely going better than I thought. But I was mostly pretending. Because as outgoing as I am, I also have social anxiety. So yeah, I can get weird. Luckily, his weird seemed to match mine.
Because this is when he asks if I’d be his partner in the next round of beer pong.
Which is basically an invitation to make out. Heck yes, I’ll be your partner. “Looks like we’re up, Mace.” I was nervous. Because I was either really bad or really fucking good. I was hoping to be the ladder. And after Zan shoots to see which team would go first, he wins —meaning it was now my shot. So I dip the white pong ball he just handed me into the spare water cup, cross my fingers, and pray to GOD I get it in. Holy shit. I did.
Turns out, this was my good night. Heck yes. Because after that, I was basically unstoppable. The drunker I was, the better player I became. Zan loved it. He literally said, “I love this right now.” And after we won our first game, I think he purposely lost the second. Plus, we were ready for a break. A smoke break to be exact. Because I recently came to the conclusion that smoking enhanced my alcoholic buzz. And I was ready for some enhancements.
And now, we’re standing in that kid’s backyard as he starts to inch closer. I remember thinking how unbelievably cute he looked. He had brown hair with a buzz cut. And the most captivating eyes I was secretly crushing on. It’s funny because I didn’t think he was that cute before. I guess what they say about beer goggles is true. But seriously, there was just something about him that made me want to lose control. His bad boy swag intrigued me. His skater boy vibe infatuated me. That shit made him almost charming.
I remember getting cold. Yeah, my buzz was keeping me warm but without a jacket in late fall probably wasn’t the smartest move. Or, maybe it was? I think he could tell I needed something. Because this is when he puts his arm around me. He didn’t have a jacket to give. “But body warmth may help,” he offers. So he leans in closer. As we stand there shoulder to shoulder, with his arm still around me, he slides his hand underneath the strap of my black halter top —starting at my neck and shoulders —making his way up and down.
I think I got the chills after that.
And as he pulls me in even closer, I knew I wanted something to happen. This is where I lose control, I thought. But in a good way. Because he turns me around. And now, we’re facing each other. “You know what Mace?” Before I could even answer, he says, “You’re cute as fuck.” And then, he passionately pushes my long brown hair that the wind had spun across my face, tucking it behind my ear as he longingly looks up at me again.
I couldn’t look away. I didn’t want too either. Apparently, neither did he. Because he inches closer. And closer. Before I even realize what we were about to do, he kisses me. And I kiss him back. Hard. A few minutes later, we come up from air as they say. And that’s when we realize we weren’t actually alone. There was a huge window, which happened to be directly behind us. Inside, everyone at the party was officially staring. He didn’t seem to mind. And neither did I.
It looked like there was a dim lite shed just a few feet to the left of where we were standing. So we walk over. He stopped every other step to kiss me. And when we finally get there, he pushes me against the wall of whatever shed-like-house stood behind us. The push was gentle, suggestive and sexy. The perfect combination of all three. I think we got lost in the moment. Because what seemed to be just a few more minutes, turned into nearly an hour. We only stopped because Lee and Hannah make their way over.
“What are you guys doing?” Lee asks. Come on, dude. Read between the lines. Zan and I look at each other without saying a word. And that’s when we bust out laughing. I was surprised when Zan tells them the truth. Another cigarette later, Hannah asks if I needed to use the bathroom. Code for you better come with me now you slut. I was dying to tell her what had just gone down. I look over at Zan. He nods in approval and says, “Hurry back Mace.”
That’s when I whisper to Hannah, “I already had a nickname.”
Trying to reel me back in (because I was on a mother fucking pink cloud), she laughingly insists, “I call you Mace too. You’re wasted… And really freaking cute. So I’ll let you have this one, MACEEEEEE!!!” Emphasizing that last syllable on purpose, I playfully tap her booty and we laugh a little more. “Okay spill it,” Hannah mutters as we make our way into the bathroom. “Dude, I can’t explain it. But I swear, I could kiss this kid forever.”
I remember thinking that kissing him made me feel like nothing else mattered. “I’ve never felt this feeling before. And holy shit, it’s crazy.” I knew I wasn’t making much sense. But she knew exactly what I was talking about. She felt that way about her boyfriend Lee. I, on the other hand, had not. Until now. I’m still rambling as both of us take turns peeing. And at this point, I’m basically just repeating myself. But I couldn’t stop. You know, word vomit. Luckily, there was no actual vomit (Mean Girls reference).
“I feel like I could kiss him forever.”
“I literally feel like I could kiss him forever. I don’t know what it is. I’m not even that drunk anymore. I swear.” Listening intently, she starts laughing at me. “MACEEE, you’re amazing. This is amazing.” She didn’t think it would be going this well. “But holy shit, I’m so happy. I want you to crush on someone who isn’t Troy.” I did too. And that’s when she hints that it’s pretty obvious he’s into you. I give her a “Dude, what the fuck is happening?” —thinking, I don’t know. But I like it.
And then, there’s a knock on the door. “MACEE, you guys still in there?” Jokingly I tell him, “No!” —laughing as the words come out, “Just kidding. We’ll be right there.” I take one last look in the mirror hanging above the sink —just to make sure I looked OK. And then the two of us make our way out. At this point, a bunch of people had left. Our two guys were chilling on two couches in the next room over. Hannah sits down on top of Lee (Zan and I weren’t there yet obviously).
So I make my way over to Zan who was sitting on the second couch as I have a seat next to him.
Lee and Hannah start making out. Then, Zan and I do too. I liked that he knew how to take charge. He knew what I wanted. And wasn’t afraid to give it to me. So I gladly let him lead. And I didn’t have to say a thing. With my legs entwined in his, I remember thinking, damn. This shit was happening —I don’t mean sex, people. I just mean he was giving me attention in all the right places. And that right there was a big turn on.
I think that’s because bad boys tend to be more assertive than the nice ones. Since most chicks like me want a man to pursue them, it’s really nice when it actually happens. And like I just established, this was, in fact, happening. A few makeout sessions later and my favorite song comes on whatever music device was playing throughout that kid’s house. I remember playfully giving Zan half a lapdance from our spot on the couch. He told me not to tease him. But that he liked it.
And then an hour later, Hannah announces that she had to pee again. So her and I leave the living room and head back into the bathroom. I guess we get lost in conversation because eventually, Lee, who thought his girl was off with another guy starts freaking the fuck out. I think it was the alcohol more than anything else, but once they started, it was hard for them to stop. I mean that in a bad way. Because we’re now out of the bathroom. And the two of them are screaming at each other. I think Lee had a guilty conscience.
Because he had this ex-girlfriend who was always trying to wiggle herself back into his life. I think he may have given her some ill-prompted attention a few months back. So he was nervous she’d the same with someone else. She didn’t. She never did. I think Lee was finally seeing that. Because the two of them were starting to calm down. Not done yet but getting there. That’s when we realize it was also getting late. And this lull in conversation between the couple previously going at each other’s throats was our cue to leave.
“I think it’s about that time,” Zander says.
He was trying to stop that shit before it escalated any further. He was being a good friend. “Bro, let’s go. It’s time to go.” Lee and Hannah eventually stop long enough for us to get our shit together and acknowledge that Zan was right. So we say our final goodbyes to whoever was left. And head for the door. We pile into Lee’s car —who was somehow sober enough to drive. Or, was it that we were drunk enough to let him and not care? Nevertheless, Hannah sits up front, which left Zander and me in the back.
That’s when Zan invites me to go chill at Lee’s place for a little. I wanted to keep him coming back for more. We had such a good night, I thought, better quit while I was actually ahead (probably the best decision I made all night). Because me saying no basically translated to where is this chick going?
And now, I see that we’re about to pull into my development. Zan was about to ask me for my number. I had been waiting for this moment. And it was finally here. Because the best date nights end with plans for another one. So I thank Hannah and Lee for everything —telling them to get home safe when Zan follows me out of the car. This is when he says, “You’re not leaving without giving me your number.” And so, I take his cellphone out of his hand where I quickly add my number into his contacts.
And then toss it back to him when he kisses me goodnight.
Not before long, I slowly inch away. He tells me he’ll text me tomorrow and to have a good night. At this point, I’m walking with my back facing his front. And I swear I could feel him staring at me from behind. I refused to turn around though. It took a lot of self-control. But when Lee says, “Bro, let’s go already.” I knew he was, in fact, staring. Hashtag winning. I was silently beaming with excitement. He wanted more. And that was my confirmation.
So I’m about to slide my key into my front door and go to bed gushing when I hear my phone ring. It was a text. A text from Troy. You know, my on-again-off-again boy (that I mentioned once or twice above). It seemed like this kid had some sort of radar. Like whenever I’d stop thinking about him, he’d insert himself back into my life. And for whatever reason, I let him. Because I didn’t have to answer. But who am I kidding? I did. I thought if all I thought about was Zan, I’d eventually lose the mystery.
I wanted to keep my options open. You know, not put all my eggs in one basket.
Because as much as I liked Zan, I was scared I liked him too much. Plus, there was also something about Troy that kept me coming back for more. And from the looks of it, it seemed like he felt the same way about me. Because now he was calling. What the fuck did he want? Nothing good happens after midnight. And nothing good comes from dating two guys at the same time. Because eventually, shit gets pretty twisted (quite literally). Because a few weeks later, and I’m basically dating them both.
But things for both guys end up escalating rather quickly. And one night, the two of them end up at the same party. That’s when they get to talking. And also when they figure it out. Because that’s the night, I get a phone call. A call from Troy’s phone but Zander was on the line. That’s when the two of them start screaming at me, which prompts me to start crying. After that, shits the fan and gets even more complicated. What did I get myself into? How would it all play out? Would I be forgiven?
And just how far was I willing to take it? Because ultimately, I leave high school with a broken heart and a first love. So yeah, I end up making it official with one of them. But who? Who do I choose? Would he still choose me? Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until my next blog post to find out. But I promise to give you all the gushy details. Until then, I’ll leave you with this (a quote I wish I knew back then) —sometimes, you have to forget how you feel and remember what you deserve.
Because things tend to get worse before they get better. But they will get better.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.