When I was in the second grade, I started a journal. Back then, the entries all resembled something along the lines of: "This morning I played with Sarah, then I ate lunch, then Mom made me do my homework, then I went to bed" (very insightful, I know). I started my most recent journal—the one I still haven't filled—on August 23rd, 2002 (I should really write in it more often).
Last weekend I was flipping through some of my old entries when I came across a looseleaf paper stuck in the middle. The sheet had no date, no title, and no full sentences, just random words and phrases.
I got about halfway through the first line when I realized this was my homage to my first big relationship (before Alex). I had written it right after breaking up with my high-school/early-college boyfriend. The page listed our memories together—private jokes, scenes that stuck in my mind, and phrases like "dowel rod" that mean nothing to the casual reader but still trigger vivid images for me.
I read through them all, pausing each time to let myself fully appreciate the memory. Some struck a chord, while others I couldn't even remember. For some of them (like "perfect sandwiches" and "coconut kisses"), the memories simultaneously feel so fresh that they could have happened yesterday, and so distant that they might have taken place eons ago.
When I finished, I had a huge smile on my face. I can vaguely remember writing this list, sitting over the page with a broken heart and tears streaming down my face, but now I was all smiles. This was my first love (if you can call it that), the first time I really tried making a relationship work. This was the guy I took to my prom, the guy who I spent Valentine's Day with while I visited him at his college. I may have left the relationship broken-hearted and spent a year getting over him, but when I look back on it now I feel nothing but happy nostalgia for the whole fiasco.
After reading the list, I sat down to make a new one for Alex. I struggled to think back all the way to our first meeting and first date, almost three years ago. For the most part, I organized the list from the beginning of our relationship to the end, and I couldn't help noticing a clear distinction between the early memories and the later ones. They took a turn for the worse right around the year-and-a-half mark. We probably should have thrown in the towel earlier than we did, but I'm still glad we put up a fight.
Looking back on the early memories is like remembering a dream. It's all blurry images and feelings—none of it seems real. But it was. We really loved each other once. All the pain in the end, all the fighting and anger, kind of covered up the fact that at one point, we had something real together. We were happy.
Finding my first ex's list gives me hope that one day, I'll be able to look back on these memories with Alex and smile. Just like the pain of breaking up superseded our happiness, eventually I know that time will cover up the scars and I'll have nothing but a goofy smile for the whole thing.