The first time I fell in love
I would have told you
I’d been in love before -
with a boy
who taught me to practice patience.
Us with our flashlights
and adolescent grins.
The nightcrawlers would come out
when the rain began to fall,
squirm their brownish pink bodies
through the sidewalk cracks.
and we’d lay
our faces to the ground
and watch them emerge
sticky and wet.
If I listened closely
I could hear the air rise from the ground
up to the surface and pop like
invisible, magic bubbles.
And we’d pick up their muddy figures,
put them in our tin buckets
and collect them -
our little prizes.
He told me
that earthworms were good for the soil,
they were nothing to be afraid of -
they helped the plants grow big and strong -
they should be somewhere they belong.
So we released them.
Watched them inch spinelessly
deep into my fathers garden.
Was it so crazy to call it love?
I still wonder what my life would have been like
without those eight years of adventure.
Sword fights with dead sunflower stalks.
Lettuce wraps filled with nuts and berries
or anything we found growing and edible.
We pretended they didn’t taste like shit.
razor scooter gang rides,
unicycle skinned knees,
radio flyer wagon racing,
dish soap squirt gun fights,
and all of the nights spent out on his trampoline
staring up at a Portland sky
that couldn’t have felt more like home.
It must have been
six years later,
when I was still convinced.
A part of me wanted to keep him forever.
That he was the love of my life.
We were shaggy-haired
awkward early teenagers
struggling to keep back the pimples
that rose the the surface of our
shiny, still-growing faces
trying to keep us
as undesirable as possible.
We were learning how to use limbs
twice their earlier size,
and tripping over everything.
Including the words
that we had every intention of saying
but couldn’t find the the time or comfort.
Suddenly, the boy I knew so well
was someone I couldn’t talk to
and nothing was getting easier.
Digging in the dirt,
building ramps for our bicycles
became childish and unacceptable.
A young lady,
should learn to be a nice lady
or at least be presentable.
Pretending he was gone,
appeared to be the only solution,
the only way that I could let go.
Pretend he disappeared.
That he got on a boat
and sailed away to some other country
and met a pretty girl -
with a pretty face -
who danced in the heat
of a desert sun
and forgot about the pale one
waiting at home in her father’s garden
to grow big and strong.
Waiting for someone
to pull me out of the thick of it all.
Waiting to someone
to find me in the dark
and tell me that I was good for something,
I was put on this goddamn earth for something,
that I came from a place of magic.
to be loved the way
that he taught me love could be.
Without any effort
but fueled by the energy of our laughter
and the speed of our barefoot
concrete sidewalk racing.
There was enough time to wade through the creek
and find the salamanders that hid under the rocks.
There was enough time to lay in the grass
and stare up at nothing
and say nothing
about the horrors that awaited us home.
We could build something better
without the help of anyone else
and dream of a world where nobody
pushed us to be something we knew
we would never be.
There was no wrong in living so simply.
When I met the girl I learned to love,
that the boy of my childhood
would never be real again.
isn’t child’s play.
- a poem by Jill Greenseth