My friend Reed came back from his tour in France for college credit. They say going abroad did wonders for him, opened him up. He was always tightly compressed. His old roommate, Jason, lives alone now and I wonder if he even knows that Reed is back, or cares. To date, they are both around 22 and are both virgins, probably the only virgins I know. But in no way will even they have their firsts. Reed was in love with Maggie when they were both so young, and I think at one time he gave her a promise ring. Jason was in love once already I'm sure, as broken and sullen as he's always been, and never with anyone. Reed either.

At 24, I realize that there will always be someone who came before me, and I respect that person for having existed. It'd be unrealistic to expect anything different. I myself had a first love, a college love that in some circles was supposed to anticipate being forever. Neither of us could keep it going, which amazes me how long things can glide on pure inertia, how you can stop caring about the outcome and it just rolls along.

In a way, I wanted all of my firsts to be special, but I guess I wanted them to be over more, and so, cheapened them for the moments like these where I am looking back at how crass the whole thing turned out. In all of it, did I know real love? Have I just been deluding myself this whole time? But then, I'll wake up from a dream where he was saying something or reaching out to me or looking at me the way he did once.

"Gage, are you ok? It's Laura."
"I'm ok now. I got out the hospital today."
"What happened? Che said you went into diabetic shock."
"I hit a subcutaneous blood vessel instead of fat when I shot up. They had to put me in restraints. I gave one orderly a black eye, they said. Fractured my wrist."
"Let me know if you need anything. I love you."
"I love you too."

That dialogue occured about 6 months or more after we had broken up and were both seeing other people. I would venture a guess that the woman who answered the phone before I talked to Gage that night is now his wife and mother of his child. I was not his first either, but I was the one that lasted longest, the one for whom his wife would be grateful that she came third. We were both such messes that we could have only been meant for each other during that time and we were almost the worst for each other as a result.

Sometimes, it just works out that way.

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