I think it was cold. It was January 14th, so it must have been. But it’s Texas so maybe it was one of those random 70 degree days in the middle of winter. But I’m certain I was wearing his red letter jacket with the off white sleeves. He lettered in band. Pretty damn nerdy–but he liked me and that’s all that mattered. I stole his jacket every chance I got–even when I had another boyfriend.

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I think it’s gone. Tossed out in a moment of deep cleaning and organization. I didn’t want to be nostalgic or cling to the past. I tried to forget and bury the pieces that carried so much shame. A letter jacket transported me to some of the darkest places in my life–I was ruthless and purged it.

But that day the jacket was warmth and hope and possibility. He towered over me even then, already six feet and three inches. His arm was slung across my shoulders pulling me close to him, hip to hip as we walked. We were at the playground at the school six houses down from my house. He led me around the back, to a clump of trees. I performed a play on the stage over there in fifth grade modeled after “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.” He held my hand and butterflies pounded in my stomach. I was worried my palms were slick with sweat. I had warts too back then that plagued me and I was embarrassed for him to notice the one on the fleshy part of my hand below my thumb.

He stopped and pulled me close, hugging me for a moment and then asked the question that I think had been on his mind for a month.

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

And he reached into his jeans pocket (except if it was warm at all he would have been in denim black shorts with calf high socks and sneakers) and pulled out a coke tab which he slid into my hand. I owed him a kiss for that, which I allowed him to take.We lingered there for a few moments–shy and all sorts of awkward. And then we began the journey back to my house where I would have to tell my mom and sisters about my new boyfriend.

This isn’t an easy story to share. I have spent years discarding and burying it because I hate that fourteen year old girl. I want nothing to do with her, and I don’t want to remember her or be like her. She was self-righteous, filled with anger, and desperate for both attention and acceptance. She did whatever it took to get those things for herself.

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But even in that time, someone called her loved and has stood with her and fought for her for sixteen years.

I decided this story is one worth telling. I wouldn’t say he’s my soul-mate, but there is a steadfastness here that made me fall in love with him and I need to remember that.  Like the jacket I so ruthlessly discarded, I need to remember what it meant first instead of what I called it later. I need to remember the warmth, the hope, and the possibility–the bits of goodness that flicker in and out through that time.I need to go back to my dark and find the light.

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