Remember that feeling of falling in love for the first time…
By Emilia Schmidt
I was 13 when I first fell in love with a girl; just like any 13-year-old, I had no idea how to handle such emotion. The girl, let’s call her Carol, was one year my senior and scored the most on my hockey team. She was the run-of-the-mill, black-skinny-jeans-and-plaid-shirt type of pubescent lesbian. I was infatuated with her. Every time I passed a recycling bin, I would fantasize about writing “I love Carol” on a piece of paper and tossing it in – my declaration lost forever, yet still existing. Once, Carol said she was upset, so I made her a stress ball out of a disposable latex glove and baking flour. In order to cover up my want to ease her pain, I also made a candle for another girl on the team…who, as it turns out, was secretly dating Carol.
Later in the hockey season, at a tournament in London, I found myself laughing in the rain with Carol as the two of us ran through the unfamiliar town in search of soy sauce. We planned to pour it into a Coke bottle and trick our teammates into drinking it. The fun of our adventure seemed promising; I thought it could be the start of something. When we returned to the hotel, Carol went straight to Candle Girl’s room. In that moment, I finally understood my insignificance to Carol. It was the first time I had felt the sensation of knowing someone doesn’t love you back. It was excruciating.
The following year, I started high school. I had stopped fantasizing about gifting Carol the soy sauce bottle as a romantic gesture and convinced myself I was straight. On my second day, I saw Carol’s bike locked up to the school’s perimeter fence. I knew it was hers because I had once stood in her sunroom for 20 seconds and absorbed everything the space contained. Including her matte black fixie bike. When I recognized it, I got so overwhelmed that I ran home and cried. I had lost autonomy over my body.
I was 17 when I fell in love with a girl for a second time; just like any other 17-year-old, I thought she was the one. The girl, who I’ll call Marianne, was born 13 days after me, to our hockey coach and her husband. We’d been on the same team for four years but didn’t become friends until the third. That year we were always the last to sleep and the first to get up, often drinking coffee together, talking, at six in the morning. In moments like those we grew slowly towards inseparability. By the beginning of the 12th grade we were calling each other and talking for hours most weeknights and having drunken fun every weekend.
One Friday in October we met up, bought spray paint and vandalized trains. As we walked along the tracks, Marianne told me she wanted to be a psychologist who specializes in helping teenagers with eating disorders. She said her personal experiences made her passionate to help kids who struggled with similar issues. On the way back to my place, Marianne gave her change to a homeless woman standing outside a 7-Eleven, and the woman kissed her on the cheek as a thank you. Marianne pretended she didn’t mind, but after we left, she obsessively wiped the left side of her face with the wrist of her sweater. A few minutes later we decided to buy a pumpkin, and carved it when we got back to my house. The noise that came from cutting the hollowed orange shell was so absurd that we laughed so hard that we both peed. That night I realized I was in love with Marianne.
In mid-November, Marianne, two teammates and I got drunk and high before watching the Frozen sequel in a theatre. Marianne and one of the other girls – call her Bobbi – laughed obnoxiously throughout the whole movie. I was embarrassed to be associated with them. After the movie we went back to Bobbi’s place and drank more. Bobbi felt up Marianne, whose body language seemed to encourage the attention. I lay three feet away pretending to be asleep. I wanted to run home and puke. I felt the same sensation from years ago in London, only amplified.
The first weekend of December, at a tournament in Pittsburgh, both Bobbi and Marianne took to separately talking to me about their want to make out with each other. I indulged them both and genuinely tried to put aside my own feelings for Marianne. In the end, Marianne was too timid for Bobbi’s aggressive confidence. I found out many months later that Marianne was in love with me too and in our conversations about Bobbi she was really fishing for hints of reciprocation. Instead, she led me to cry in my hotel shower and admit to myself a need to get over her.
It wasn’t long after when I fell in love with a girl for the third time; just like any other 17-year-old, I thought she was the one. The girl, who we’ll call Floyd, was just over a year younger than me. The coaches played her at the end of close games when they needed someone on defence who could make sure no goals were scored. Four days before Christmas, after a dumpling dinner, a mutual friend of ours sat me down on my own bed and professed Floyd’s feelings for me. I hadn’t thought about Floyd much until then. But she was so beautiful and clever that I began to fall for her immediately, with all my energy.
Three days prior to Christmas, the morning before the team holiday party, I bought Floyd a mermaid flask knowing she identified in some semi-ironic way with mermaids. I casually gave it to her that evening, saying it was on sale for $10, in a way that I hoped to communicate “How could I not get it if it was just $10?” It cost $35. In my attic later that night, she said (among other flattering things) that I was the reason she thought she was bisexual. We should have kissed. We didn’t; it was too dark to see her and I was anxious. She called me two weeks later, crying. She said she wasn’t physically attracted to women. I reassured her and told her friends sounded great.
A month and a half after Christmas, Floyd told me she had liked it when a man earlier that day thought we were a lesbian couple. Minutes later, she asked to kiss me. I nodded yes. We made out for a while, pressed together against my bathroom sink. Afterwards, she lay on the tile floor, staring up at me as I sat fully clothed on the toilet reading a poem I had written about her. She told me, as if it was a compliment, that her confusion surrounding me often made her cry. We smiled the rest of the night and tried to watch the sun rise from the back of my family’s van. She fell asleep in my arms with her head on my chest. She called a few days later and said she had feelings for me but that we shouldn’t kiss again until she understood her sexuality. I agreed.
Two weeks later, Floyd and I drunkenly wrote our initials, joined together by a plus sign, on the wall of a bar downtown. We headed to her house at 3 am and, as we rounded her street’s corner, we laughed at ourselves for mistakenly lighting the wrong end of a cigarette. Later that night she read me a diary entry she’d made from October. It followed her time at a school party, where she’d made out with a boy but thought of me after. With our faces inches apart, we whispered words of adoration. Then Floyd kissed me again. She kept getting out of breath, which made her coy. I told her I didn’t mind and traced my fingers up and down her upper arm. She asked me how I wasn’t a narcissist. I loved her for that. In the morning we sat on her porch and talked through the entirety of the Mamma Mia soundtrack.
She called me a week after, saying she was straight.
Less than a month after that, I rode my bike to Floyd’s house at four in the morning. We cycled all around the city and snuck into an empty amphitheatre where the Strokes had performed 10 months earlier. In front of 9,000 empty seats we talked about our feelings for each other one last time. She had written a speech of sorts so she would say the right words. It was about how she couldn’t properly be with me but ended with “I love you.” I told her I wasn’t angry, that she was just trying to do what she thought was best. We left shortly after 10 because a security guard told us to. On the way home, her tire popped and the rubber caught in the bike’s machinery. I found an empty beer can and twisted it until the metal ripped, creating many sharp edges. Together we sawed at the rubber until it released easily from the gear’s teeth. We’ve never been the same around one another since.
The following Christmas, I found myself standing in front of a mirror trying to dress nicely and thought, “Would Floyd like this?” She is still a character in my life, dictating my decisions ever so slightly. I still live near her grandparents, and whenever I walk a few blocks north and am near their house, I adjust my gait to look confident in case she’s close by. When I write, I think of her reaction to my words, wondering if they are good enough to impress her. A small part of me probably still loves her, but we’ve both changed so much that the remaining love feels like mourning for someone who no longer exists.
I am 18 now, and not currently on a hockey team. Carol is living with her girlfriend. Marianne and I barely speak. Floyd ended up sleeping with Bobbi. With time came change, and change is either love’s steroid or kryptonite. Thankfully, for me it was the latter. Time lessened the power that those girls had over me. Still, I question whether love’s ability to consume us whole is destructive or love’s true beauty. I assume it’s both at once, bookending a scale that all people are placed upon. Everyone scattered, moving constantly.
EMILIA SCHMIDT is a Toronto-based ethics student, poet and prose writer. This is her first published piece.
Remember that feeling of falling in love for the first time…