I wasn’t yet 21. I’m not even sure if I had actually had my 20th birthday even. Not all that long ago, and yet with all that has happened since, the time blurs gently. Like those novelty Polaroid pics that fade so quickly until you look at it, knowing it captured something special, just not quite certain of when it was taken.
What I do know, is that at the time I was living in a crappy flat in Van Nuys. All I could afford, and there by the grace of an onsite manager who had a crush on me and accidentally “lost” the result of my credit check and moved me in to the building on a “good vibe”.
It was a turbulent time, having recently left the first love of my life. He had been a man 13 years my senior who would bestow upon me a zest for adventure, and the freedom to love and be loved after a lifetime of imitation love. The breakup was dramatic as such things are; but time has allowed me to look back with a smile and simply shake my head at our nonsense.
“What?” I laughed boldly into the depths of these glaciers still holding my gaze hostage - chained to his luminous lasers. I was flippant, the way one is when confronted by such a presumptuous remark. Who says such things? Especially when young.
“I see you,” he repeated. And when he smiled, it was no wonder that I can’t remember where I was, or even his name, because he lit me up like an illegal firecracker set off under moonlight.
Our first date I got lost driving to him. I kept missing exits, being misdirected by detours that didn't show up on any maps, distracted by the beauty of the setting sun glowing in the sky. Hours on and off the wrong damn freeways trying to find the place we were to have dinner. I was fiercely independent and insisted on meeting him at the retro indie hole in the wall establishment that he promised had the best food.
He almost gave up hope, but stayed waiting and waiting. I was so late, the kitchen was close to closing. But the owners looked at his pleading face and caved. They eventually joined us for dessert. He had such a winning way, and he delighted in how easily I also got along with strangers. First date and we were already creating a warmth together that brought others into our fold.
This relationship was fast and impulsive like our meeting. Making love on my lumpy secondhand mattress on the floor of my always too warm bedroom. Movie nights where we never actually watched a single scene. Him cooking me scrambled eggs so spicy that for once my need for hot and sizzle and the exotic was - almost - satisfied.
He forced me to be present. To not let the twelve movie theaters of my overactive brain, prevent me from being here, always right here, with him in the “now”. When I tried to look away from his eyes, he would laugh and gently turn my face back to his. I wasn't used to someone being this deeply invested in who I was, and so adoring of it. But his fervor excited me.
And after a while I would climb onto his lap, hold his face in my hands, and bring us nose to nose, until one of us broke the moment by making ridiculously silly faces. Then passion would strike again, and he carried me back to the most uncomfortable mattress on the planet, or held me up against the wall, or made me face the mirror and watch as we made love over and over and over again. He marveled how I never seemed to get tired.
He loved my crazy and my wild. We danced on my balcony playing music way too loud for the neighbors. But they smiled at us. Maybe, just maybe, recognizing that some love is meant for loud music and kissing under stars. Perhaps they watched us from behind blinds on the nights we skinny dipped in the pool to cool off from the heat of sex and passion and a not-so-well ventilated flat. I hope we gave them fuel for their lives to be a bit more romantic too.
When inevitably he was tired, my hyperactivity still charging through my veins, he would carry me off kicking and giggling to our floor kingdom to teach me what snuggling was. He knew to leave a light on for me to read as he rested, his hand on my thigh, always wanting to touch me. He claimed my energy fueled him while he slept. And that on the weekends he stayed with me, he felt recharged for anything life might throw his way.
I relished that he adored me with a passion that seemed to have no end - leaving me funny gifts and messages until...I grew afraid.
I’m not sure I understood love at that point. Love was still new to me. I thought I knew love. But all I knew was what I was used to, and it sure as hell wasn’t the love he showed.
True my first love - the man before him - may have taught me to open myself to love. But he couldn't erase the toxic poison that had permeated so much of my life. It still infected my heart-space in ways I didn’t understand. I had so much yet to learn. And so now, with this new love, I tried to make it fit into the confining box that defined my past.
In hindsight perhaps I should have known better than to have doubted. His actions were so innocent and pure…so genuine in a way I had not experienced from someone who spoke those words.
And spoke them he did. Often. Seriously. Intently. Loudly. Softly. As though he knew I wasn’t convinced and wanted to make me believe. He had such faith in me.
I hadn’t yet put trust in feelings though. Not my own or those expressed by others. I didn’t gain such innocence in my outlook until much, much later. Who knew that a girl with such wide eyes was so jaded? Who would have thought that it would later take being stripped of everything, to allow her to find the purity in this world.
He was simple in his life view. A former gangbanger (his words not mine) who had “something” happen that shook him to his core. He never quite explained what it was, but sometimes when I watched him sleep as he held tight to me, I caught glimpses of the story in his nocturnal mutterings of things he had done or seen.
Whatever the truth was, it woke him up to the fact that the world could be so much more than death and drugs. He once told me that “fast” could describe how you feel in love, how you moved through life experiencing all of it. But that he was grateful that “fast” no longer meant to him how quick you were to burn out...
And so when he said he “saw” me, I didn’t realize that he saw me with hope. He recognized my light.
He saw strength I didn’t even know I had, and would forget to tap into until years later when I thought that love and light were gone from my life. He had seen darkness and I - with all my family shit and heartbreak - still had not an inkling of such a void until much much later…
A time would come when I felt darkness creep into my world so completely, I was afraid I would never see light again. And it was then I found the courage that he recognized deep within me. But that was still in my future.
In the present though, I was drowning in a love I couldn’t accept.
The day I broke his heart, I remember his face looking at me with such kindness. He seemed much older than I was, or than he was at that moment. Yet we were only a few years apart. He kissed me and said “Remember that I see you for who you are...and I love you as you are. Even if we never see each other again, you will always be loved.”
It was the most wonderful and the most horrible thing he could have said to me. I was fully ensconced in my fear that he would one day wake up and see me for who I was - unlovable. I knew if that happened, he would leave. So I left the relationship first - even though I hated how much I was hurting him.
See the gift he was giving me, was too much for me to accept. Such riches were beyond my comprehension. Now though, I recognize the treasure of his love, and how it sustained me in times he would never know about.
Because one night, not all that long ago, when terrible things happened, I woke up from a dream in which his parting words echoed through my head. And I swear I could still feel the intensity of his love from wherever he is now.
The truth is, I don’t know what happened to him. Our lives never crossed again. But I like to think that someone now looks at him the way he looked at me...and sees his light too.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.