, January 23, 24 and 28.
You were the first one I loved.
Sure, maybe we were only six at the time, and to me love meant sharing nicely during play time and agreeing to use the seesaw together and not let each other fall, but isn't that a pretty solid basis for love even later in life? You were the first one I loved, and the first one I could share with and support. I didn't even share with my cousins like that. I couldn't trust my own brother on a seesaw, and I had the scars to prove it, but you didn't hurt me.
I slipped away from class every day, too smart for the A-B-Cs, and I sat tiny and brave in with the second graders while you and everyone else puzzled through 'cat' and 'hand', and when you're six years old no one knows hate well enough to hold that against you. When I was six, I was cool because I was smart.
When I was seven, I was in a new school, the one that picked the smart kids out of other schools in the city. By the time I was eight, I hardly remembered my kindergarten friends, too busy with new ones, and no one ever teased me again about my little Asian boyfriend with the name of a kitchen spice. I heard you moved to Canada, to England, to Texas; I heard that you never left New Bedford. We never really said goodbye, because who thinks that summer vacation means goodbye? It's see-you-later, even kindergardeners know that.
You were the first one I loved, Basil, and everyone knew it. You were the first one I left, all wide-eyed and ready for a new adventure, and moved on from sharing and playing nice to chasing scared boys around to threaten them with kisses. It didn't take long for affection to become a weapon, for closeness to be used in all the wrong ways, for the lack of spice in my life to turn bitter from blandness.
When I was little, I thought that a house with a library room, a big yard, a dog and a pool and someone to love were as good as it got, the image my parents set out for me an unsurpassable ideal. When I was little, all I needed to fly was a swingset, or a seesaw, and someone to help me into the air.
I've lowered my standards since I was a kid. I can settle for an apartment, a bookshelf, a window flower box and a bathtub, a cat for company. I'm scared of flying, too big for swings, traumatized from being let fall from seesaws too many times, too scared to let anyone try and help me up. I look back on where I've been, everyone I don't know any more, and I try to convince myself that sometimes it's good not to dream too much, not to care.
I don't know what you're reaching for any more, Basil. I just hope that you've let yourself flourish. I hope you still trust people to balance you out, still believe in see-you-later and not goodbye. I hope you're happy. And I hope that if your parents made you get braces like mine did, that you actually wore your retainer like I didn't, because even with baby teeth you had a beautiful smile.