My First Boyfriend Is Dead


I was seventeen. You were my first kiss and my first boyfriend — well, technically. In adult terms, I wouldn’t really call us a true couple. You asked me out on dates and we kissed and you asked me to be your girlfriend, and it all ended within a two-month period. It ended as many present-day, short-term, high-school relationships do: on Facebook. I wanted to look back at our Facebook messages the other day, but I thought it was morbid and scary and I’d probably cry, so I stopped after typing in your name.

And even so, I can’t be mad at you anymore. I don’t know if I ever was, actually. Knowing you were heading off to college in the fall gave me the knowledge of an inevitable ending for the relationship.

After our Facebook break up, I went for a three-mile run. That’s how I cope; I ignore situations by trying to occupy my time with other things.

I did the same thing when I found out you were diagnosed with cancer.

It was nearly a year later, you were off at college, and I hadn’t talked to you in probably six months. When I heard the news, I didn’t call. I didn’t talk to your mom, nor did I tell my parents. I really should have done all three. Instead I went running to take up my time. I’ve never been an avid runner, nor do I do it regularly. I don’t even enjoy running. But it’s my out from the awful things around me — it’s my way of coping with the tragic.

People often asked me how you were doing, and I never knew what to say because honestly I had no idea how you were doing. I’m sorry for not keeping up with you. I’m sorry for not knowing you when you were sick.

I was in class when I heard you died.

Your best friend was sitting next to me, crying her eyes out. I sat there comforting her, and I thought about me, you, life, death, and our relationship that had ended a year earlier. I was sad that you were gone, but it didn’t seem real — a “we” between us never truly seemed real. So I daydreamed about the sidewalks I’d be running on once the school day ended.

I’ve never cried about your death. And I’m just now realizing that, nearly three years after it happened. Not because I wasn’t sad, but probably because that’s not how I deal with most situations.

You’re an important person in my life, looking back. You’re my first kiss, my first boyfriend, and my first break up. Pretty monumental events, right?

But when you were diagnosed you were already part of my past, and I never expected your presence in my life to re-emerge like it did. Fundraisers, charity events, memorial services — all for you. I hadn’t spoken to you since you graduated, and that’s really how exes are supposed to be. They’re part of your past; they shouldn’t follow you to the future.

When people talk about exes, they often speak of them as if they’re dead. They usually don’t have contact with the person and in the future there’s really no need to. Exes often fade into the past, forgotten forever or remembered only as a distant memory.

But having an ex — my first, for that matter — that’s actually dead? That’s terrifying for a 21 year old to fathom.

As the three-year mark of your passing approaches, I just want to let you know that you will never be forgotten.

And when I think of you, I won’t cry; I’ll simply put my tennis shoes on and go running. 

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