“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind;…but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” – Rainer Maria Rilke “Letters to a Young Poet”
The hardest plan ride I’ve ever taken was during the summer of 2008 from Lubbock, Texas to Portland, Oregon. Resolute in my affections for my then boyfriend, I had made the not so grand plan to fly to Lubbock and spend the summer waiting patiently in his apartment, book in hand, too hot to go outside, while he went to and fro from summer classes at Texas Tech. At the time, I was aware I was more or less wasting what’ve could of been a purposeful summer building my resume but those motivations gave way to sweet whispers and warm embraces, and so there I was…in the middle of fucking nowhere.
When I look back on that summer, five years past, I hardly feel surprised by the narrative unraveled. At the time, it left me breathless and stunned, almost incapable of rationalizing or understanding why things were the way they were. I dated Jim (name changed to protect the rather bland and blameless other end of this story) from my junior year of high school circa 2004 to that summer of 2008…virtually forever in the lifespan of a 21 year old. I quickly learned a month into my bored and restless time in Lubbock that Jim was cheating…of no surprise in hindsight, we were 2600 miles apart, 11 months of the year. I quickly bought a ticket to my grandparents in Oregon minutes after finding out and bided the three days till the flight actually was scheduled with a flitter of young love spats and emotional turmoil.
In these three days, Jim and I went through phases of denial. Anger gave way to resentment gave way to discussion and finally to acceptance. By the time that Jim drove me to the small town airport, we were again in love…but changed. We cried and embraced while I picked up my ticket. Exchanged vows of love and memory all while knowing I was leaving, forfeiting my right to be at his side, to sacrifice my life for his in the traditionally conservative way that Texan girls are wont to do. We said our last goodbyes as I went through security with tears.
The entire plane ride to Oregon, I cried the kind of dry, heaving, helpless sobs that make people stare. I was very aware that in leaving Lubbock, I left first love. In the years since, I’ve talked with Jim maybe three or four times. I honestly don’t really remember. I don’t know what’s come of his life but I do know what’s come of mine: the understanding that I can’t sacrificially give of myself in hopes that another returns the charity. Life is just about coming and going to and from those that matter, growing and changing sometimes towards and sometimes away from one another. Unrequited devotion is what first love is all about, isn’t it? When I left Lubbock, I left behind the misunderstanding of love as consumption.
Jonathan Lethem writes that it’s often this way. “Life consists of a series of false beginnings, bluff declarations of arrival to destinations not even glimpsed. Seemingly perfect arrangements dissolved, stories piled up, exes amassed like old grievances. Always humorous in retrospect how important they’d seemed at the time.” Jim exists as one of those stories, of people and places left behind. I’m sure in my coming years I’ll amass more, both platonic or romantic, human or topic, gently but vastly…so humorous how important they’ll all seem at the time.