I did my lips up red for our first date. He told me they were pretty, and he bought a red rose at the restaurant. He smiled, and he said that it matched so well. He told me about how much he liked things that matched — his favorite thing to match, he said, was shades of purple. He said in the future, he wanted to paint everything in his life purple. It was a weird thing to say, but we were clicking, and I thought it was endearing. And I honestly do think that I fell in love with him just a little bit on that first night.
He tried to kiss my rose red lips after the appetizer course, but I didn’t let him. He said it was fine, and that he was willing to wait, but he said it in a way that still made me feel sort of bad. I tried to shrug the whole thing off.
He ordered for both of us, and while he got chicken, he picked out a salad for me. It was a little weird, but I didn’t say anything. After all, I supposed, most highschool girls liked salad. I guess.
I decided he had tried his best (well, he didn’t actually ask me what I wanted, but he did everything short of it). It was a lovely evening. He checked all the boxes: he complimented me, and gave me a flower, and bought me a meal.
Later, my best friend told me that it was a big cliche and didn’t mean anything, but I didn’t listen to her. Which was fair. She wasn’t all the way right. She was some, though.
My hands were stained orange after I worked at my parent’s peach tree orchard over the summer. The sun shone down warm, and there was something special about the texture of tree bark against my fingers.
He kissed me behind sweet fruit trees and he watched the sunset with me on the barn roof — and I only fell off once. He laughed with me, and we played with the cats, and we took silly pictures with the scarecrows. We gave them all names, too.
But when I told him that I wanted to take over this farm when I grew up, he couldn’t look me in the eye and tell me that he thought that was a nice idea. He told me about the cute, colorfully painted apartments in New York City, and about how nice it was to ride the subway into town.
He didn’t ask me to move to the city with him, and I didn’t ask him to stay here with me, but the unsaid words hung in the air, and we both felt their presence.
He bought me yellow flowers for my birthday, and he made me a little card with hand drawn bumble bees on it. He told me that I was his honey. Or something like that. It was sweet (ha).
To celebrate me getting my license. It wasn’t the sort of sweet 16 you would see in a movie, but I had a nice time. We sat on the swings and told silly stories and talked about stupid stuff. I figured that’s all you could ask for when you were 16.
I think that’s what I remember most about that day. The whole “the best you could ask for” feeling. We drove my second hand car to a park with chipped, faded paint. I sat next to a boy that I guess I loved, but I think I might have chosen him to love because he lived one street over and it was convenient back when I couldn’t drive.
We weren’t struck by passion the first time we met, but he was nice to me, and he laughed at all my jokes, and I think that’s good enough when you’re that age.
We played tennis through the summer on the neighborhood court. I wanted to play properly, but he just wanted to mess around.
I never got any good at tennis, but I still had a lot of fun.
We sat at the edge of the court making tiny, lime-green dandelion crowns for our tiny, lime-green tennis ball (I wanted to make bigger ones for me and him, but there weren’t enough dandelions). We raced circles around the net, and we climbed the big tree next to the court. He made silly comments about my tennis skirt, and I teased him about the pink polo he borrowed from his dad.
We didn’t do anything different in the summer than we did for the rest of the year, but we had more fun together in the summer. I think everything we did just fit more into summer. It was silly, and bright, and meaningless. It was hard to think about, but in the summer, it felt just fine.
I was Daisy and he was Jay, but I don’t think that we realized yet that we were just waiting for our clock to shatter.
His bed set was a dark, navy blue.
I lost count of how many times the words “I love you” left his mouth that night. They spilled past his lips as he touched mine, and he yelled them loud enough so that the whole world got a sneak peak at our private moment.
On one hand, I didn’t want him to tell me that he loved me before, because what if he was just saying things until he got what he wanted? On the other, though, I didn’t want him to be unable to say it until after. I didn’t want something like that to be the determining factor.
I had never banked on the fact that he would say it for the first time during. I don’t know which option I thought was best, but that was certainly the worst. It made me feel dirty. It made me feel very blue, to say the least.
I bought a book with an indigo purple cover, which I’ve now read over four times, and I realized that I wanted to be an author.
And I took a drawing class at the community college and I rediscovered my love for art.
And my dad bought a coop of chickens, and I helped take care of them, and I fell in love with them, and I wanted to buy a whole barn of animals.
And really, stuff like that had been happening for the last three years, but I don’t think I saw it before. I was blinded by bright streaks of reds and yellows, but finally, things had cooled down enough for me to realize that there were other things to see.
I realized that there were a lot of things I loved, not just him.
I’m lucky that the community college only offered art classes in the winter. The timing worked out perfectly for me, because my eyes are always strictly shut in the summer.
My parents didn’t find out that they weren’t meant to be together until their Green, and my best friend didn’t realize that her girlfriend wasn’t the one for her until their Blue. But for me, I think I realized that something was wrong all the way back at Red. I just didn’t do anything about it.
And I don’t know if I regret that.
The thing about high school boyfriends is that I don’t think anyone could get everything right. It’s just not possible. We didn’t have enough dating experience; we were still in the stage where we needed to do trial and error to figure out what’s good.
I didn’t marry him. I think I might have, if he had proposed. But I broke up with him instead.
Some of my friends say that if you don’t marry the guy, then the whole thing was a waste of time. But I don’t know if I would call it that. There were a lot of good moments, and I got to learn from a lot of trial and error myself. But I don’t know if I could call it a “good” relationship. What percentage of a relationship needs to be good in order to call it that? 50% good? 60? 70? And what percentage do you need in order to put a relationship over everything else? 80? 90? 100?
I don’t know. And I don’t think he met any of those goals anyway.
I guess what I’m saying is that he had some things to offer, and it was good enough for me when I was 15, but it isn’t enough for me now. I was willing to settle, but I realize now that I don’t have to. There’s a lot more to life than the promise of violet-purple apartments in New York City, and I’m ready to see it all.