I'd be lying if I told you it was the first time.
The first time, it was Kirk Gibson. I was sick with grief for weeks, months, years, after the Tigers traded him--what was I supposed to do now with my childhood poster dreams?
Following that my aunt left unannounced for Florida; I still remember running as fast as I could up a dirt trail, choking back sobs, to my grandparents home after my mom told me, only to verify that what she had said was true.
Later my aunt sent home a picture with her and Gibson-she had run into him somehow. It seemed fitting, I knew even then through my tears.
* * *
When I met the one who would wound me next, I was eighteen.
It was a hot, sunny day and we were on a beach in northern Michigan. The introduction was also the end; the blue of his eyes shook me-my knees knocked, my heart raced, I had no idea what was happening, but I went anyways.
Later that summer, I left my innocence there, swimming in the waves of the beach of my youth--again, with the fitting.
I saved the piece of paper that I had written his phone number down on the first time he called me. It was barely legible, my hand was shaking that bad.
I remember, months later, laying in my cousin Mike's apartment, hazy from the booze we'd consumed and ears ringing from the music we'd danced to, smoke hanging on me like a gauzy shirt. Mike was laying on the floor, I was laying on the couch, with one leg hanging off, he looked at me and said, "When you love someone that much, no matter how it ends, it won't end well."
He had an apartment at that time that was right on the beach, his windows were open and I heard the waves pounding on the shore. I remember closing my eyes and the roller-coaster feeling, murmuring, "I know."
The waves grew louder.
* * *
Initially, we thought that there were ways around the end. I'd attend a different college, he could move to a different town.
There are things that transcend all probability and reason; I've seen them.
This was not one of them.
Each day after class, I would walk in the door and the first words out of my mouth would be, "Did he call?" I'm not sure who it hurt more, me or her, each time she shook her head no.
Until the day I woke up and stared at my ceiling and thought, "No more. I'm not asking today."
When I arrived home I complained about classes and political science and papers that I had to write.
The air seemed heavier, but I ignored it when I breathed in. I knew, I know now, on some level, so it shouldn't have rocked me as much as it did that night sitting on the couch.
"What," I said, giving up, looking at her.
She didn't answer at first. A piece of yarn on the blanket, rolling through her hand. I knew, then.
"You didn't ask today." She looked up, finally, at me. There was already a tear streaming down my face.
"He called," I said. "Yes." She looked back down.
I don't remember what country was the destination point of the final letter that I mailed to him. I remember my knees buckling when I got the call that he was getting married; they'd always been my weakness around him.
There were not enough miles to run, stadium stairs to pound, boys in the intramural basketball league to chew up and spit out.
After that, it was I who did the wounding.
* * *
What does that mean today? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.
* * *
I remember his dad visiting me, years later...I was braiding Big A's hair. He said to me, "I'm sorry about him. I wish I knew what he was thinking." I laughed him off--it didn't matter anymore, I told him.
Do you understand when I tell you that I was sad that it didn't?
* * *
I don't have an ending for this, I just felt like it needed to be written, it was on my mind when I was staring at the ceiling.
I do know that if the woman that I am today were to meet the girl that I was on that beach, before I met him, with the possibility of sending her off before knowing the blues of his eyes, I would hug her and send her headfirst, running down the dunes anyway.
And I'd tell her to take better care of her knees.