by Amina Sage
How does one begin to recount bygone love? The pitfalls, the joys, and the sweet but excruciating aches of romance somehow intensify in retrospect. This is the magic and pain of rumination. The past enters in bursts. It flares the sky of memory like a firework, its noise startling but its image brilliant. The words we exchanged return to my mind in snippets.
"There's more to me," he said as he looked deeply into my eyes, then proceeded to make another dick joke.
"Go Knicks," he reminded me. He grabbed the remote and flipped to ESPN.
“You can tell a black guy chose this music,” he grinned.
Indeed, the funk of James Brown filled Chipotle during our first dinner together. I watched my perceptive date wipe his soft lips of guacamole and take a sip of his Sprite. If you had asked me in that instant if I had found my soulmate, I would have said yes. Why? Perhaps the naivety of youth. Perhaps the intangible sparks of feeling the two of us shared as we sat side by side. Perhaps because I had never even kissed a boy at this point and thought:Yeah, sure, he’ll do.
I digress. We sat by the window that fateful evening. Outside, autumn leaves blew in the wind. Inside, the heat of sexual tension and the smell of imitation Mexican food filled the air.
“I’ve never actually been here before,” I confessed.
His eyes widened in disbelief. “Hold on.” His loud, deep voice had grown on me like erotic mold. “I’m going to Tweet this.” He hunched over in his chair as the bluish glow of his cell phone illuminated his face. In that light, I could more clearly see the postpubertal hairs on his chin--the slight crust on his eyelids--the messiness of his drooping brows. As any red-blooded young woman would, I shifted my gaze down from his face.He had the physique of a limp noodle. It made me wish we had gotten Chinese instead. But I was hungry for more than lo mein. I shivered. My mouth began to water. I was not sated. Ready to rid myself of my innocence, I leaned towards him.
“What did you write?” I said.
With pride, he showed me his tweet:You never forget the first time. #chipotle #blessed
Was that a double entendre? Could he sense my inexperience? Did he really think he was funny? These all seemed unlikely. The conversation shifted to common interests, or rather, our lack of them.
“Isn’t that the movie about the dude with the stutter?” he said in response to my referencingThe King’s Speech.
He went on to further assert his tastes:
“The best rap album of all time is The Eminem Show.”
“I like pulp in my orange juice. ”
“Dane Cook is a great comedian. ”
After we had finished our burritos, we set off into the cool night. He reached for my hand. The tango of passion had begun. We strolled on like that for twenty minutes until we reached a park.
“Wanna sit?” He pointed to a bench. Finally. My time had come.
“So what are you doing after this?” He began to lean in closer to me.
I grew flushed. “Uh...h-homework, p-probably.” Embarrassment filled me. Why had I told such a dull truth?
“That’s cool.” I breathed a sigh of relief. He breathed a sigh of lust. I blinked and his face was an inch away from mine. After an excruciating pause wherein destiny suspended and my heart raced, his lips met mine. His spit was colder than I expected, but exactly as wet as I had predicted. The faint squish and smack of our colliding orifices was almost melodic. Then, suddenly--unexpectedly--I felt his tongue enter my mouth.
“Ow!” he cried.
I had bitten his tongue.
Clamped down on it.
Sunk my teeth in.
“Why would you do that?”
“I didn’t mean to! I just--I wasn’t...it was a reflex. It was an accident!”
“ Have you never frenched before?”
He cocked his head to the side and studied me. “Oh shit. You’ve never even kissed anybody, have you?”
“This is the first date I’ve ever been on.”
He visibly recoiled. “You’re not gonna, like, get weirdly attached to me now, right?”
“Of course not,” I lied.
He looked down at his lap in deep thought for a moment. He turned towards me again and shrugged. “Okay then.” He proceeded where we had left off.
For two subsequent weeks, he continued to guide me through our stiff and mystical make-out sessions which ignited in me the throes of womanhood. But as the days waned, I sensed a shift in him. He grew frustrated, uninterested, and distant.
“Is this it?”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Like, is this as far as we’re going to go?”
“You mean with the relationship?”
“No. I mean can I at least take your shirt off soon?
“I--I just learned how to not bite your tongue.”
“Ugh. Whatever. Listen, I have to be real with you. I’m thinking about getting back together with my ex.” I felt my stomach drop. “But you can convince me otherwise.” I noticed a glint in his eye. I froze. I understood what he was insinuating-- the lover’s bargain that had materialized before me. Thoughts of our multitude of differences went charging through my brain. One in particular stood out. I had previously ignored it. I had buried it so deep within me that I forgot that it existed. But the truth is inescapable. I clearly remembered now what he had said to me one day over a lunch date as the songIrreplaceablecame on the radio:
“I think Beyoncé is just...okay.”
The room spun. The ground shook. How could I had been so blind as to not see the inevitably ephemeral nature of our relationship? There were qualities in this boy that set my spirit ablaze, but his youthful ignorance clearly knew no bounds. How misguided he was. How lowbrow. How unsavable. I could not take my shirt off for someone such as him. He had once whispered in my ear: “Ball is life.” I could care less about sports. Orange juice with pulp is disgusting. Most importantly, Beyoncé is the queen. My decision was painful, but obvious.
“I’m sorry,” I said through the lump in my throat, “It’s over.”
And so I walked away. Yet the heart, of course, rewinds the scenes of lost love. For months following our separation, I paced my room in my black hooded cloak, listening to Gregorian chants and thinking of the past. I lit incense and prayed for my inner turmoil to cease. Would I ever love again? To my surprise, the answer was yes. But love, as it is wont to do, never comes to us in ways expected. Soon after I had fully moved on from my breakup,a strange new fire had been stoked within me. I was hesitant at first.But the heart wants what the heart wants.Love is love. It comes in many forms. It can catch us off guard. I realized that I had fallen in love with another woman. But when I approached her, my forehead banged against the glass. Now I have to buy a new fucking mirror.
Amina Sage is a writer and improviser in New York.