To move forward I have to move back. They say you’re not supposed to look back, I’m making an effort to not do so as often, but back is where it all began.
From ages 16-24, I was in a relationship. Not with the same guy, with four different guys, back to back to back to back.
My first boyfriend was at 16, when I lived in Florida. I cannot talk about him without saying that he died last year. I found out through his sister’s Facebook post. It is a strange feeling, knowing that the person you lost your virginity to is no longer here. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but I knew he was out there.
What I will say about him, when I knew him, is that he was a ball of energy, incredibly charismatic, and loved by many. He wasn’t a “good kid,” he didn’t care for rules and he was reckless, trespassing, skipping school, smoking, drinking codene and doing whippets. I didn’t even drink alcohol until I was 21. I was a bystander to his usage, but it didn’t bother me. I was an intrigued observer; I felt edgier just being around it. He knew that he would not live all of his days as a typical youth could expect to, and so he lived his version of living life to the fullest, then.
It wasn’t visible that he was sick. I knew it, he had told us, but at 16, you are invincible and illness inconceivable. All I saw was this guy with a zest for life. I loved him for that. Even when I found out he was cheating on me, my first heartbreak, I still loved him for that. My friends back home in New York, they didn’t understand me losing my virginity then. They expressed it cruelly. It was isolating. I remember sitting alone in a dark room, having been betrayed by this guy, having no one to really talk to, hysterical. He’d gotten a new girlfriend, too, and I was still sleeping with him. Virgin to harlot, in less than a year. Sixteen, in retrospect, is very-very young.
I moved back to New York from Florida in time to finish my junior year of high school. I had been in Florida for eight months, but the story of how and why I got there, or why I had to move back home, does not fit here. I never did attend my senior year, I had enough credit to graduate with a full diploma from all of the honors and college-level classes I had taken, since I was twelve. My guidance counselor, when reviewing my low attendance and flunking grades from my time in the F state, only remarked “Well, you clearly don’t want to be in school anymore.”
So I graduated early.
Instead of attending senior year I worked at Dylan’s Candy Bar in the mall. I had a lot of fun there. While interviewing a prospective employee, my manager pointed to me and said, “Thats Lily. If you’re ever in a bad mood, go stand by her. I swear, you could put that girl in a padded room alone and it would take her hours till she was bored of herself.”
I liked Dylan’s. I liked not sitting in a classroom, a disinterested teacher dictating old ideas at me. I liked getting out of my house, which wasn’t a house, but my neighbor’s basement that my mom, dad, brother, sister, dog and me were all crammed in together. We lived there as our new house, a purchase made when we decided to fully forgo the Florida move, was being built. It took half a year.
There’s not much to say about boyfriend number two. He was my manager’s best friend. He was six years older than me. He worked the night shift at Target and I would visit him at his parents’ house during the day; coincidentally, his room was in the basement. He nicknamed me Flannigan, not-so-aptly after some bar, Lily Flannigans. I still didn’t drink. He thought men were smarter than women. I got a real kick out of that. We dated for two years. Eventually, we both realized we were just wasting time.
I have no idea why, but he called me at some point, years after we’d split, completely out of the blue, to tell me he was getting married.
“Who knows,” he’d said, “maybe the next time you hear from me, I’ll be having kids.”