Writing by Ferris Knight // Illustration by Helena Ravenne
To the first,
These were the days before Facebook, or even MySpace. You asked me online if I would see a movie with you, and I ran to ask my mother’s permission. She didn’t want to be the bad guy, so she said yes while asking my godfather to call, threatening to put bars on my windows.
It was brief. We laughed throughout The Ring 2. Maybe it would have been scarier if I’d seen the first. You were my first kiss, but not my first broken heart. You wrote me a letter saying you needed to be with the girl you loved, in worryingly graphic detail.
I hope you found your love.
To the second,
We were more relaxed. We’d known each other forever. I cannot remember if we got into those huge sumo costumes and wrestled before or after we started dating, but I remember I won. I’m always too competitive. You pretended I had singing skills and let me embarrass myself with your band. We spent afternoons at your house alone in your bedroom. We were too young.
To the third,
I tried to like you because I was supposed to – everyone else did. I worry about you still, because in some ways you were like me. You felt more than I did and I hated breaking your heart. I didn’t know a broken heart could make one ill. I hope you are well now, but I’ll always worry.
To the fourth,
It was exciting initially. You seemed self-assured. And I made a mistake. You ripped my soul in half and took away something that I never wanted. You left me scarred, the extent of which I’m still discovering. I did not know the term gaslighting back then. I did know the other terms for what you did. When my father found out he took me to the police.
To the fifth,
It was so innocent. Hand holding, notes in class and a single white rose. I didn’t know that I could love a girl but I quickly did. I said yes when you asked because I would have done anything to make you happy, and I didn’t realise I’d be happy too. I didn’t want to break your innocence with how broken I was. I never meant to. You got your own years later, but I will always miss how close we were.
To the sixth,
I don’t think either of us has a good reason why. No one approved and I thought I was old enough to be beyond that. And though we were a mistake I need to thank you for giving me that first brick of boundaries back.
To the seventh,
I didn’t know what I was doing. Neither do you. It was a beautiful exploration that fizzled as our mouths were barely used for talking.
To the eighth,
You were the good guy. The really good guy. You taught me what respect and care and equality meant. You stood by me throughout all the pain. You’d go down to what must have been the last DVD shop and bring home cartoons and my favourite chocolate as I lay, curled in pain, in our bed. You were the good guy, and the last guy. You deserve the world.
To the ninth and tenth,
I had to learn the same lesson twice – that just because we were the ‘compatible’ gender it doesn’t mean sparks or attraction or love. I’ve been alone, waiting for the girl who will be more than just the next girl. Both of you have found someone who isn’t just the next girl, and I’m happy for your loves.
To the next girl,
Hopefully the last girl.
If I am lucky to meet you. I fear I will be too scared to say hello. Or maybe we’ve met but I’m too afraid to ask. I want to spend forever with you. I will read you stories and make you laugh. Don’t ask me to cook but I can make vegan desserts, as long as it’s just vegan peanut butter cups. We will go on adventurers together, make a home together, and achieve our dreams. I have so much love waiting to give it to you.