There will come a time in most girls' lives when a boy will break up with her for the first time. It will never be fun, and it will never be pretty. It will often leave her heartbroken with residual feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Obviously, at one time in my life, this happened to me.
And, obviously, here's the story.
When I was fifteen years old, I had a free period in my day which I spent as an office aide. I filed paperwork and answered phones and wrote passes - and, most importantly, I delivered memos and messages to different classrooms throughout the school. Oftentimes I would find myself making deliveries in the cafeteria, or having to walk through it to reach classrooms on the other side. Early in the semester, I realized that my good friend Denny ate lunch at that time, so I would sometimes stop by and chat for a minute or two before carrying on with my business. Denny ate lunch with a group of people I did not know, but I started to become friendly with them as time went on. A cute boy at the table caught my eye from day one, but I was shy and had a hard time showing my interest. Thankfully, he was outspoken enough for the both of us, and we were good friends in no time. His name, for the sake of this story, will be Jean-Claude. Because that is an awesome name.
Jean-Claude was the dreamiest thing I'd ever set my eyes on in New Hampshire. Sure, I'd had my share of love affairs in middle school, but those were just boys. It was clear to me that Jean-Claude was a man. From the way his backpack was covered in cool patches to the way he made jokes about sex a lot, I knew he was the man of my dreams. Eventually, I was making excuses to find my way to the cafeteria during my free period, and I was staying longer than I should have just to flirt and laugh with this charming gentleman. As the semester went on, I started to be more forward with my feelings - small hints at first, eventually making way for blatant admissions of interest. More often than not he would just laugh me off; lightly though, and without malice. But the flirting continued, and eventually I worked up the courage to ask him to come with me to my best friend's formal sweet sixteen. I explained fervidly that it would not be a date, and he agreed to join me without hesitation.
The day of the party came, and I went out of my way to look gorgeous. I wore a long, slinky dress, I did my makeup, I wore my hair down. I did absolutely everything I could think of to make myself look like a beautiful woman, and not like the goofy, jeans-wearing, lunchbox carrying tomboy that Jean-Claude was used to seeing every day in the cafeteria. Once we arrived, I started to make the rounds with him, introducing him to everyone he did not know. Some sort of courage had come over me, like nothing I had ever experience before, so in no time I was saying, "So-and-so, this is my date Jean-Claude. He is not my boyfriend, but don't you think he should be?" I laughed, he laughed, everyone laughed at how cute I was - until, with one introduction, he interjected and said, "Well... would you like me to be?" Oh, I thought my heart would explode! Yes, yes Jean-Claude! Not one thing in the wide, wide world would make me happier than for you to be my boyfriend!
And so it was. We spent the rest of the night dancing, and during the last song, he held me close and kissed me. It was everything I could ever have hoped for, and it was happening to me right then and there on the dance floor. I knew at that moment that I had found the love of my life, the man I would marry, the father of my children, the piece of my soul that I hadn't known was missing until suddenly I'd found it. Eventually, the party ended, and a few of us relocated to the house of an aunt so the night would not have to end. Jean-Claude and I sat outside in the dark in each others' arms, talking and kissing and being young and in love.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we became somewhat inseparable. I spent every moment with him that was possibly allowed. He often came to my house after school where we talked and napped and kissed and behaved in other inappropriate teenage ways. I continued to visit him in the cafeteria during school, eventually being asked to step down from my aide position for spending too much time out of the office. But it was worth it. He made me happier than I'd ever known I could be, and it was one of the best times of my life.
After we'd been dating for a month or two, my parents informed me that we'd be spending April school vacation in South Carolina with my grandparents. That meant I'd be away from Jean-Claude for a whole week, and I was devastated. He told me that he would miss me and he gave me his favorite cardigan sweater to bring with me on the trip. We said our goodbyes and I reluctantly left with my family.
I thought of him endlessly while I was away. I wore the sweater twenty-four hours a day in sticky, humid South Carolina heat. I wrote him a post card. I called him from a payphone in the middle of an amusement park, since it was the only place I'd been allowed any privacy - but it was so loud there that I could not hear him. I counted the hours, minutes, seconds until I would be back at home, and suddenly, the day was here. We pulled off the highway back into town sometime in the evening. We stopped at the supermarket before finally heading home to pick up a cake for my sister, because it was her birthday - but I could not wait any longer. I got out of the van and ran to a payphone and called him immediately.
He answered the phone, but he did not sound excited. In fact, he sounded sad. Sort of distant? I could sense that something was wrong, but I was terrifed to ask what it might be. I thought that maybe, if I just ignored the fact that he wasn't himself, whatever it was would go away and I would see him the next day and everything would be fine. I tried to say goodbye and that I would see him soon, but he cut me off and said the worst thing a girl in love can ever hear:
"I think we should stop seeing each other."
I was crushed. I physically felt my heart brake inside of my chest. I was certain at that moment that I would never love again. I don't even know if I tried to fight it, or if I just knew that it was done. All I remember is hanging up the phone and standing in front of the supermarket, all alone, crying. I sobbed as though someone close to me had died, or maybe even harder than that. Eventually, I realized that I was standing in the middle of a busy shopping center having a breakdown and that I would need to get back to the car. And eventually I must have, although the rest of that day is a blur. I remember being teased by my big brother, being consoled by my mother, and not much of anything else.
That was May 2nd, 1998. And that's the end.
One day last year though, I received a text message from Jean-Claude. When I opened it, there was a photograph of a contract, which I'd handwritten. It said:
I, Cynthia Elizabeth Walker, hereby declare that you, [Jean-Claude Etc] are THE funniest person I know as of now, 8:00pm, August 17th, 1998. SIGNED: Cynthia Elizabeth Walker. WITNESS: Jean-Claude. PS - Oh yeah, and you're my best friend!
So maybe we weren't meant to be soulmates. Did I die when he broke up with me? No. Did I move on? Of course. I was fifteen. To have felt so strongly about such thing at such a young age is obviously silly now, but that doesn't mean it hurt less at the time. But I picked up the pieces and I kept moving. And I've been lucky enough to keep Jean-Claude as a friend. To this day, I still love him with all of my heart, because he is one of the best people I've ever known.
And I know now that a broken heart doesn't mean the end of the world. And I know now that I'm stronger than anything life can throw at me. And I know that I am amazing and I have nothing to worrry about. And for all of that, I thank him a lot.
Thanks, Jean-Claude. ;)