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Writing about love is a very fickle thing. I could tell you about my first heart ache, but I think love and ache are neighbors in the sense that one exists without the other while also defining it, too. Let me explain:

I changed schools once a year between 2nd and 5th grade. Long story short: my parents moved from the fringes of the city to the suburbs and I was moved to and from school (with others) while larger, spill-over properties were being completed. I eventually settled into a more permanent school in 5th grade with friends from my (different) 4th grade campus. One of these would be my friend Erin Trox, a girl who made me laugh and wonder. We would eventually “date.”

The parentheses exist because we didn’t kiss or hug or do anything really different than when we were friends. Dating was a term we used to showcase that we meant more to one another than merely friends. What it really meant was passing and sharing notes. She had English one period before me, and we shared a desk, so she would leave me notes, I would respond, and back and forth we would talk.

During the week of Valentine’s Day she got me a small, heart-shaped box of chocolates and I forgot to get her anything. However, as part of the cooking club, I knew we were making cakes and raffling them off to raise funds for the school. So I made a cake and entered the contest to win one, hoping that Erin and I could share my spoils.

Valentine’s Day rolls around, they announce the winners, and the next thing I know there is a full blown cake in the hands of my pudgy, 10-year-old body. I was elated. Everything was coming up Edward: I got the “girlfriend,” I got the cake, and I got the chance.

Fade to the lunch room where I sat waiting for Erin. We had no classes together so the tables and blacktop were our daily meeting places. She walks into the cafeteria, smiles at me, gets her food, and sits at another table. I go over to eat with her when she clears her plate, gets up, and goes outside. My cake and I follow her around the blacktop with puppy dogs in our eyes until the bell rings.

And then I get to English. In the cubby of our desk sits the heart shaped box of half eaten chocolates. But today there is a note. A big note. Across the front and back of the page was Erin’s breakup. I do not remember why, but I am sure my lack of a Valentine’s Day gift, mixed with the uncertainty of our youth, sprinkled with a feeling of abject existentialism left her wanting more.

Needless to say the cake came home with me, remained untouched, and eventually found itself stale and in the trash.

This memory is not bitter. Erin and I would remain good friends even after she changed schools, even after we went to college in different states, even after I had a daughter. No, this memory is a reminder that, to me, the cake was more than a gift. It was something to share, something to express, and something to catalyze. In the end we grew up. But we grew up with a shared experience uniting us together. With the first love came the first ache, and with that came their collective existence.

Love is not an end-all, be-all to life. But loving and life will always live close together.

Thank you for reading.

Love you Erin, even if you did break my heart.


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