It was the summer of 1993. I was fresh out of college, hanging out with a few of my sorority sisters at some dive bar. In other words, it was a good time.
I don’t remember what I was wearing or what day of the week it was. I do remember that Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was coming through the bar’s sound system. I thought it odd that a bar was playing a ballad, but it was still early (before 11pm), so I didn’t think much of it.
That’s when I saw him. He was walking behind his buddies, beer in hand, singing Whitney at the top of his lungs. In my twenty-two-year-old mind, he was slaying it too. I laughed, thinking that he must either really love that song or he already had quite a buzz going. My guess was the latter.
He was blond with brown eyes and a fit body. Yes, I was staring. It was kind of hard not to. I didn’t usually go for blonds, but my damn, he was handsome. I thought he would keep walking past me, and I was content to just enjoy the show. But then our eyes met. He stopped directly in front of me, and that was it. I can’t remember our first words to each other, but I remember very well the next two years. Blissful.
That’s the story of how I met Matt, my first love. I’d had middle school crushes and high school puppy love, but Matt was my first adult relationship. Somewhere along the way, I had decided that he was the man I was going to marry. I truly thought that in your early twenties you’d find your one special person, and it would be just that easy. Turns out the joke was on me. One night, Matt came to my house and broke up with me. Something about him being too young, blah, blah, blah. I don’t remember what exactly he said, just bits and pieces. I do remember feeling hurt, and then angry. Not only did he blindside me with a break up, but he did it on my turf. The nerve. So much for “I Will Always Love You.” Damn you, Whitney Houston.
But to this day, I still think of Matt when I hear that song. It’s been over twenty years and I still think of my first love from time to time. I don’t think it’s because I miss him or wonder “what if?” No matter how your first love turns out, it is significant. It helps shape you (into the person you are today). You learn about navigating relationships, you learn about give and take, and if you’re lucky, you also learn a little something about yourself.
Like it or not, I think your first love becomes a part of you. Matt is just as much a part of me as my green eyes or my flair for the sarcastic. This much I do know.
What I don’t know is if Matt thinks of me when he hears “I Will Always Love You.”