Facebook just told me that the first girl I ever loved has gotten married. To someone other than me.
I was as shocked as you are.
Jessica Crane. Kindergarten. She was three-and-a-half feet tall, with legs that went on for days. A hot-blooded brunette. My kind of woman.
I still remember the way we’d steal glances from across the alphabet blocks. The way she’d slip Crayolas into my palm with a wink and knowing smile. The way I’d kick her while she napped then steal her juice box.
This’ll show her, I used to think, crunching circles off my candy bracelet. I’ve got this broad wrapped around my finger.
And for a while, I did. Life played out in a titillating game of cat-and-mouse. My mood ring was ablaze. Jessica and I were the talk of the playground, the “will they/won’t they” couple everybody secretly pulled for.
Then, on bus rides home, my brother Chris, who was in second grade at the time and knew everything there was to know about sex, would make fun of my little crush. He’d sing songs of Jessica and I sitting in a tree, spelling, for some reason. He’d make ineloquent remarks about me wanting to smooch her.
He didn’t get it. Smooch her? That was preposterous. I didn’t want to touch her; I just wanted to marry her. But soon summer came, and then middle school, high school and college. And before I know it, I stumble across her wedding photos online and realize it’s been 15 years since I said a single word to my former love bucket, my one-time shnookums.
In her photos, her smile is the same but her face is different, matching the rest of her foreign body. She’s got tattoos and piercings. Her earlobes are stretched open with giant holes, like flesh-colored donuts. She split her tongue, cut it in half then let it heal like that.
It’s a fashion thing. I imagine she’s making a statement about time, and change and the mainstream’s puritanical ideas about how our lives should go and who we should become.
She’s always been a firecracker.
But if I scroll through the last couple months on my online newsfeed, I’d notice a similar pattern of shock and awe. All down the line, old classmates are getting married. They’re having babies. They’re posting pictures of who they are now, most of their images unrecognizable from the ones I keep in my memory.
Through this Facebook funhouse mirror, I stare at friend-shaped pixels and pretend that they’re real people. That I still know them. That they haven’t changed.
The girls I used to tease have, out of nowhere, turned into women. But my computer screen is just blurry enough to hold inside of it who they were before, and who I was. The girls with pigtails and glasses and freckles, huddled in corners giggling. And the boys who used to push me toward the ones I liked, so I’d be forced to talk to them.
Through the hum of electricity, we’re redeemed. In here, we’ll be alive forever, still, unspoiled and nostalgic.