I still remember my first heartbreak. I was a child of ten, sitting on our dirty house sofa, watching Avatar: the Last Airbender. It was the episode where Aang loses Appa to the sand benders, and the weight of loneliness crept in at the edges of anger. In between the scratches of static on the TV, I could feel the enormity of losing a loved on for the first time sinking in through the empathy of my being as this beloved titan of the cartoon world was carted away into enslavement.
I felt my legs shake, and the hollowness of my house that evening began to feel much larger than it ever had before. Dad was on a flight to New York, and mom wouldn’t be back from work until bedtime. As the credits rolled, I stumbled over to the TV, and clicked the OFF button, then slumped to the floor in a pile of depression. How could someone take his love away like that? Didn’t they consider how that made him feel? Why would anyone be so cruel? By the time the key to the door finally turned in the lock and my mother entered the house, I had accepted that some people do not consider the feelings of others, and act selfishly.
I would have thought that such strong emotions would have prepared me for the first time I caught my partner cheating, five years later. I had taken up basketball, which we played after school every day at the courts next to our campus. The girl I was dating then would come watch us play every day until her mother picked her up. One day, I decided to surprise her with a group of flowers I had collected, before the practice. I asked the teacher if I could leave early and everything. I went to the flower garden, and picked the nicest five roses I could find—four red and one striking white. I rushed over to the quad her class was located in, took a seat on a bench outside her vision so I could run up and surprise her, and waited until the bell rang. When it did, I could feel jitters of excitement crawling through my veins. It was so perfect.
But when the door to her classroom opened, I saw her walk out with another guy. Tall, white, classically handsome. They were both laughing. I kept my distance. She’d never talked about someone like this, but they were walking toward the courts together. Eventually, they came to the corridor just before the court I played on. It was after practice would have started, about three minutes before she usually trotted out to meet me.
They just started going at it, like wolves ravenous for each other’s face. He pinned her against the wall, one hand in hers, the other gripping her backside, all the while she was breathing so hard I could hear it from my hiding space. He turned her around, and pressed up against her, kissing her neck and grinding against her hips. They were completely fearless of any onlookers, like they had done this a dozen times with no problems. When she fell to her knees, and brought her hands to his belt buckle, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. My stomach was spinning with disgust, the pain in my chest felt like someone had stabbed my lungs, and tears were building up in my eyes with the hacking sobs that claim distressed children.
I snapped a quick picture, which I have come to regret, of the mouthful she had, then walked down the hall past them to practice, completely stone-faced. No words, no recognition—I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she mattered. She stood up faster than a cat in a thunderstorm, pushing him away from her and apologizing. But her words fell on deaf ears. People were selfish. I knew that.
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