Wednesday, February 12, 2003

februarium, day three: when you've loved

the first time i fell in love, for real, in my teens, i fell deep and hard and fast.
it wasn't at first sight - i had known him for a while, casually.

you know the impact summer and being sequestered can have on the first sparkles of teenage love: it was the same for me. it was summer when i fell for totte, i had just turned 16, and we were both group leaders at a summer camp. as a bunch of friends, we were looking after a hundred kids aged between 8 and 14, staying at a gorgeous, 800 year old castle for three weeks.

i fell in love with totte, who was 19 then, because he was odd, smart, daring, creative. he was a performer, too, always out for an audience. and i was a willing one.
i remember one night walking through the castle, passing his groups' bedroom. he was telling them a bedtime story about some obscure things (i specifically remember the invention of the dishwasher), making it up as he went. i sat down on the cold stone floor outside the room, and listened, too.

that butterfly feeling started quite abruptly, a few days into our first week. i was unable to pretend it wasn't there - i was so in awe of this boy, i couldn't keep my eyes off him.
one night, after everyone had gone to sleep, sitting in oppsoite corners of a room, he told me had noticed it, and that yes, he liked me, too, but didn't feel like he could include me in his complicated life. oh, the drama of it all.
nonetheless, after a few hours of talking about that fact, he asked me whether i didn't want to come to his corner of the room, and of course i did. i think i didn't even bother to sit down on a chair, but sat on his lap straight away, and we kissed and tore some clothes of each other and spend that night clinging to each other. i fell asleep with my head in his lap, on a couple of chairs.

somehow, i thought he'd soon realise what he was missing out on and would change his mind.

oh, the folly of youth.

over the next few days and weeks, we started a stop-and-go affair straight out of a "how not to have a healthy relationship" guidebook.
totte kept telling me (and i kept pretending that i understood) that we really couldn't have a relationship and really shouldn't be making out. - only to keep relapsing after drunken nights, trying hard not to let anyone else notice what was up (or rather "wrong") with us. he often literally ran away when things got wild.
as if that all wasn't enough (imagine functioning & looking after kids with all that drama and no sleep) the mood at camp was further complicated by a friend of ours, stephan, getting so sick that he couldn't work anymore. as a result of that, totte and i ended up playing the leading roles in a silly little play we group leaders put on for the entire camp - we became prince and princess.
that added hours of rehearsals (including a kissing scene) to the little dramas we played in (more or less privacy) most nights anyway. i longed for all of them.

the biggest drama came at the last night at camp. after lots of alcoholic beverages had been consumed, sparked by "our song" ("keine ist", bei rödelheim hartreim projekt), i confronted him in front of everyone else, screaming at him why he didn't realise that struggling against this was silly. he didn't respond, and i ran out of the room, into the boys showers, turning them on. i was fully dressed. he followed, of course, held me, took of his t-shirt as a towel substitute for me, and carried me to bed.
had one of our friends not told him to leave me alone, it might have been different.

there are many "might have been's" in our story. i get to think about what might have been..."

after returning from camp, we didn't see each other for a while, both going on seperate holidays, and totte was never there when we others caught up.
once school started again, we started talking on the phone occasionally, and saw each other some mornings, when he had art classes at my school. i remember one day going to his place, and we took the bikes out to one of the hills, and "decided", sitting up there, we really wouldn't keep trying to have this relationship, only to end the talk hugging, me trying to kiss him again, unsuccessfully. that happened more than once.

then in august, something happened that turned everything upside down: stephan, our friend who had gotten sick at summer camp, died, suddenly and unexpectedly.
he was buried on totte's birthday.
in the weeks after, totte and i, we saw each other more often for a short while, we mourned together, we felt guilty together, we held on to each other, until it just stopped.
after totte had been away on a trip to italy, he returned and told me one afternoon, again sitting in opposing corners of a room, that he had really wanted to sleep with me in the previous weeks and had hence avoided me, because he wanted to stick to the no-relationship rule "we" had established.
we circled each other through the room, but nothing happened. i was just stunned by his admission. who knows how things would have been had i been daring, what might have been had i not let myself get circled around the room but had remained sitting where i sat, on the paint stained floor...another might have been, indeed.

a few weeks later, our dazzling stop-and-go affair would culminate in yet another drunken encounter which made me believe we would be a couple after all, but -un beknownst to me- once we had said our drunken goodnights, he had a major bike crash and when i visited him the next day in hospital, not only did he have a few big pieces of titanium in his shoulder, he also pretended not to remember our love-drunken banter and making out roughly 18 hours before. i was devastated and went to a different city for a week and on a (pretty successful) mission to snog totte out of my system - with rebound man. when i returned, totte had a girlfriend. that much to his life being "to complicated to include anyone else". thanks.

but alas, the story didn't end there.

despite the girlfriend, we had a final night of drama, in the city where i had just discovered rebound man, who was 9 years older than me, and an artist.
we ended up drunk (oh, what a surprise), and he told me "we have to talk", so we went outside, to a nearby lake, and soon were all over each other again, after another bunch of confessions by him of the "i really love you/i wanted a relationship/i stood back because.." variety. however, the evening turned sour, because instead of loving tenderness, both of us -probably unconsiously knowing this was going to be the last time ever- got extremely aggressive and rough, not caring at the least whether anyone else witnessed him so obviosuly betraying his girlfriend with me. at one point, i was so exhausted, both mentally and physically, that i started to sob.

that morning, he was the first one up in the flat where we stayed with several people. he played sting's song "why should i cry for you" ("Sometimes I see your face/the stars seem to lose their place/Why must I think of you?/Why must I?/Why should I?/Why should I cry for you?/Why would you want me to?/And what would it mean to say,/That, "I loved you in my fashion"?/What would be true?/Why should I?/Why should I cry for you?" good question, if you ask me.)

it was the last time, ever. funny is that thorsten thinks -to this day, actually- that we had intercourse that night, which we just didn't. even more funny that he -also to this day- feels sorry and guilty about it.
as the final postscript to it, a few days after this last encounter with totte, i found myself sitting in a cafe with his girlfriend, "talking things over". it was a ridiculous thing, because i just didn't want him anymore then anyway. at all. sometime during that last night, i had fallen out of love with him.

the next year, going back to summer camp, still with rebound guy (he and i, we had a great relationship, actually), i still felt a terrible urge to please totte, to live up to his standards. i was still his willing audience.
he was my willing audience, too: he walked in on me and someone else having a one night stand (not that we noticed it then), and instead of you know, walking out and never mentioning it, he came into my room at night and wrote "hahahahaha" on the skin of the inside of my arm with a waterproof marker. thank you very much.

we lost touch after that second summer.

i ran into him on a train once, a few years later, and in the summer of 2000, i saw him again, at the castle, and was his willing audience again.
this time, he stunned me though. he apologised for how bad our relationship had been, told me that he had wanted to do that for years, that he wished he hadn't run away from himself then, that he wished i had been more daring, because he would have needed that. we talked about lots of things that might have been.

while they upset me a lot then, and paralysed me for weeks, these things that might have been, these days, i don't ponder anymore how different life might have been had my first love been actually loving, and not this kind of a stop-and-go-affair.

i can still see why i loved totte, why i loved him with the fervor of a 16 year old, why i clung to the feeling and let him hurt me. he still amazes me, i still look out for him and care about what he does, if only from afar, i still find him awfully attractive, as creative and daring and spontanous as i thought he was at the start. i am still not completely over him, sometimes. our thing was intense and dramatic. - i didn't know better about what relationships should be like. i didn't know that ideally, both people are equal partners - and not performer and audience.
not only did i feel love in all its intensity that summer, i also learned through this relationship what i didn't want.

and that's something, too.

~alanis morisette~

What's it been over a decade?
It still smarts like it was four minutes ago
We only influenced each other totally
We only bruised each other even more so

What are you my blood? You touch me like you are my blood
What are you my dad? You affect me like you are my dad

How long can a girl be shackled to you
How long before my dignity is reclaimed
How long can a girl stay haunted by you
Soon I'll grow up and I won't even flinch at your name
Soon I'll grow up and I won't even flinch at your name

Where've you been? I heard you moved to my city
My brother saw you somewhere downtown
I'd be paralyzed if I ran into you
My tongue would seize up if we were to meet again

What are you my god? You touch me like you are my god
What are you my twin? You affect me like you are my twin

How long can a girl be tortured by you?
How long before my dignity is reclaimed
And how long can a girl be haunted by you
Soon I'll grow up and I won't even flinch at your name
Soon I'll grow up and I won't even flinch at your name

So here I am one room away from where I know you're standing
A well-intentioned man told me you just walked in
This man knows not of how this information has affected me
But he knows the colour of the car I just drove away in

What are you my kin? You touch me like you are my kin
What are you my air? You affect me like you are my air