His first was the dark-haired Rebecca Pitt; she handed him his first Valentine ever. He would stand behind her during fourth grade line-up just to get a whiff of her hair, which smelled unlike anything he’d ever smelled before—when “before” consisted of a few short years of his mother’s choice shampoos in the pink-colored bathroom of their home. The very nature of the crush compressed his worldview into a tiny diamond. He could see a million lifetimes, alternate and transversal, floating around that single space. However, Rebecca Pitt had spelled his name wrong on that card: Daniel, it said. His heart had been broken swiftly.
Then followed Ryan in the summer of his 14th year. He lived two blocks over and had an older sister with a car who took them to an arcade the next town over when she’d visit her boyfriend. Instead of playing games they’d save all their change and buy candy cigarettes while stealing beer cans from the gas station cooler and tucking them in their jeans. They would lurk around the local strip club with a slot in the back door, watching the girls dance with tassels on their nipples and no bottoms on. It was the first time anyone had ever touched him, and when school started back up they pretended not to know each other anymore.
Heidi was next; they met at the college his first year of computer science at NYIT. She was studying art of some sort—photography, sculpting, painting—he couldn’t remember now if you paid him. The drug haze was bad, then. He'd dated in-between, but it had been out of compulsion to kill the boredom of Texas living, and to get laid like any other teenage boy in his town. Heidi wasn’t like the country girls he knew. Her tongue was pierced and she liked to rave. Who knows how they ended up together, but he chased her down and kissed her in the rain after a big fight over who stole whose MDMA, and they were suddenly engaged the next month. He remembered her long red hair sometimes, and her eyes wide like an insect when they were so spun out on coke that the layers of life began to pulse.
When she broke up with him, it was over a phone in a jailhouse where he sat in a bright orange jumper. She was crying, and he felt hollow.
Jordan wandered in off the cold Brooklyn street one evening, halfway across the city from where David had last seen him in more than a year. Something about seeing him reminded David that he had been choosing to be alone. Maybe it’s because that was the moment he consciously chose not to do it anymore. He felt devotion the second he invited him into his home. He was attached the instant their lips touched on that sober New Year’s Eve. He was captivated, enchanted, beguiled by each following weekend. There were no forgotten names, no rushing through the motions, no drug-fueled cloud to float away on. It was clarity of mind (and of heart) that struck him when he woke up beside him that Sunday past, curled around one another like kittens in a stream of sunlight. He stroked his temple and watched him sleep, fearing that this would be as fleeting as all of life's most memorable experiences.
He wondered how he could capture this feeling that rose within him and bottle it. The nature of the crush itself had by now transformed itself into something else. He knew what it was heading toward, and he had no plans to fight it, but the naming of the thing? Therein lied the complication. It was that Sunday morning past when he knew, watching him blink awake with a sleepy smile on his face, that this wasn't just a simple crush anymore.
It was love, and he had fallen in head first.