Sometimes you find yourself in your childhood bedroom in New Jersey, sitting cross-legged with your back against your bed like you did almost every night when you were growing up.
The old books, magazines and yearbooks that surround you seem to chronicle just how far you’ve come. Sometimes, what starts out as an innocent walk down memory lane develops into a full-blown, ugly cry session, during which you re-live your first love, one journal entry at a time.
The pages overwhelm you with old feelings; your handwriting has barely changed so you’ll sometimes feel as though you just wrote the entries. It's as though you just experienced those old days in the city, frolicking, holding on to each other and eating picnic lunches on a rock in Central Park. It will all feel real again.
You’re smarter than that, though; you know your feelings are deceitful. The lamp on your nightstand provides just a soft enough shadow through which you read your memories back into existence. It’s bittersweet and self-sabotaging, and you do it almost every time you’re home.
You begin to feel like a closeted sadist. The tears and hurt offer a sense of comfort, no matter what else your heart or head is focused on. The punishment of reliving the sweetness; the genuine playfulness and the ease with which you spoke to each other and then the dragged out, painful end that you caused, feels justified.
It acts as a reminder of the errors you made and of the mistakes you could have avoided if only you had been less careless. You keep that box filled with the journals and the dried up flowers and the ticket stubs and the photo strips. These things serve no purpose now other than to self-inflict pain, but you keep them anyway.
There are other mentions in these pages, of course, but during these self-destructive sessions, you skip mainly to those that concern him, which are the majority. The girl writing was so in love, so aware of how lucky she was to be knee-deep in such love, and so mindful of when it was over.
You let the tears flow freely, stifling them only slightly so as not to wake or worry your mother who is sleeping in the next room. You let the angsty music of your teenage years serve as a soundtrack to your breakdown.
Maybe it’s your love of movies or your desire to experience life as a movie that makes you gravitate toward this torture. Maybe, more simply, it’s just true that you never forget your first love. Maybe you feel — despite the fact that you know better — that what you felt then, what you still feel now when you choose to, happens only once, if that.
And now, when you are slipping slowly but surely into a similar tangle of emotions for the first time in a long time with somebody new, your heart is bursting with premature pain.
Revisiting him is essential to your well-being, despite the harm that it causes. You are wise with sorrow, yet overcome with joy and gratefulness nearly every day. You straddle the line between happy and unhappy so gracefully that few even realize your awkward stance.
Nights like this soothe, yet bruise you. You feel your eyes well up, and it offers a comforting rush throughout your body, a transformation to a simpler time, where even though pain existed, love still rattled around every corner of you. It makes no sense to your rational self, but she wasn’t invited to this pity party.
You prepare for these nights; you count on them. They break and then mend you, like all good stories.
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