My high school boyfriend, Jimmy, did tricks on his bicycle that amazed me. I’d follow him out to the dirt tracks and watch him perform vertical leaps and 360s and jump off homemade ramps. He showed me an ordinary bike could be transformed to reach the sky and defy gravity. That’s still the first thing I think of when I remember him.
When Jimmy and I were together as kids, I rode on his handlebars, leaning back against him so my head rested on his shoulder. We traveled this way all over Pompano Beach, and if anyone thought it was weird, we didn’t notice. It was my favorite mode of transportation. The memory always brings a smile to my face.
Jimmy was not my first boyfriend, but he was the first boy I ever loved. He was the brother of one of my best friends. I slept over at her house one night, and I caught him up late watching The Exorcist in the living room. I was shy as I sat next to him, but the chemistry I suddenly felt between us made me more brave. We started talking and didn’t stop for hours. He liked me first, he admitted, but it wasn’t long before I liked him right back.
I’m not sure of the exact moment we fell in love. It developed over time as we grew. He became the person I turned to first for everything, and I would have slain any dragon to save him. We said we loved each other and meant it in the only way you can when you’re fifteen years old. I had feelings I’d never felt before of passion and protection and being unable to think of anyone else for even a moment.
From Daddy’s Girl To Jimmy’s Girl
When I turned sixteen, my father remarried a lady he’d only met a few weeks earlier. I was the maid-of-honor even though I was jealous as hell of the woman who was stealing my father’s attention. As a daddy’s girl, I felt betrayed and replaced. I didn’t care how nice she was. I didn’t want her to exist in my father’s eyes.
After the wedding, I met up with Jimmy and some friends that night in front of his parents’ house. I felt devastated and knew I was pouting, but I couldn’t seem to help it. When he noticed I wasn’t taking part in the conversation, Jimmy stood and put up the kickstand of his trusty bike.
“Come with me,” he grinned and beckoned.
I jumped on the handlebars and laid my head on Jimmy’s shoulder. He pedaled all the way to the beach with neither of us saying a word. When we got there, we sat in the sand, and Jimmy let me tell him how I felt about having a new stepmother. He listened to every word intently, and we sat in silence for a long time under the stars listening to the waves crashing until I felt better.
When Your First Love Doesn’t Love You Anymore
We stayed together for two years of high school. When he took his love away, I was unprepared for the agony of people growing apart and leaving each other. Jimmy was hanging out with a rougher crowd and dabbling in drugs. The sweet innocent boy I fell in love with was changing into someone I didn’t recognize. I would have followed him anywhere on Earth, but he wouldn’t take me along for the ride.
Jimmy began to like girls who were different from me. Girls who weren’t shy and liked to party hard and get in trouble. I tried to be a bad girl, thinking I could win back his attention. I didn’t want to let him go, but he didn’t let me love him anymore. He moved on and never looked back.
I took it out on myself. I wasn’t good enough, not pretty enough. I must have said or done something stupid. Was I an annoyance? They were questions I asked as a young girl who couldn’t find her way. How could somebody fall deeply in love and then fall out without a second thought? It made no sense, but I needed to accept it.
Letting my guard down after Jimmy left me was difficult, but I learned that embracing life meant embracing love. I took back the love I had for him and gave it to others in my future because I wanted the experience I had with my first love… all the butterflies and heartache and everything that makes up a relationship.
The Boy I Loved Lost His Way
Jimmy and I stayed buddies as grownups. I’m still friends with his sister today. Whenever he and I ran into each other, the memories between us lit up like fireworks and made us grin and hug each other tightly. He looked out for me during difficult times in my life, such as my divorce, and he sent me messages via Facebook to let me know he was on my side even from the outside.
It was much too late for love, but time and distance couldn’t change the way I cared about him.
I cared when Jimmy began using heroin. I cared when he started spending time in jail. I cared when his family told me how worried they were about him.
I cared when I opened Facebook early one May morning and his sister posted about his death from a drug overdose.
I didn’t want to believe it. In my heart, Jimmy was still the young boy who comforted me the night my dad got married. His death left the world a dark place without his humor and kindness and creativity.
The boy who introduced me to true love was not on Earth with me anymore, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed.
I attended Jimmy’s memorial service a few days later and met people from his past and present. I already knew a few of them from years past, but I also met new people whose lives he impacted. He showed them what it meant to be a friend, to be creative and to be themselves without apology. They were the same things I learned as a teenager getting to know him.
Lessons Jimmy Taught Me
Jimmy presented me with my first broken heart, but I’m grateful for the experience. I learned as an adult how to recognize and wait for real love to come my way because of him, complete with butterflies.
The last time Jimmy and I spoke was at our 25th high school reunion. I told him I loved him and meant it. There was no passion or expectation in my words, but they were the truest feelings that came from my heart.
When I think of Jimmy now, it makes me happy without the hurting. Isn’t happiness the gift we all want to give to someone else?
Part of me is still the girl that rode all over the neighborhood on the handlebars of a bike. I’m grateful to Jimmy that she existed and was happy.
Although I have moved on in life, I carry a little piece of him everywhere I go as a reminder to keep my heart open to all possibilities. There is value in loving as much as you can, and he taught me how to do that.
Thanks, Jimmy, for everything.