The first time I fell in love was in the third grade. His name was Peter. He had dark curls, played soccer and liked to throw paper balls at me in class, which, when you rolled them apart, showed that he had made them from the pages of his maths booklet. This probably explained his poor grades in this subject. Peter was a rebel. And that’s what I liked about him. Of course I had long since realized that he liked me, too. At least in elementary school you can still trust that there’s really something to the old saying “What loves, teases!
I was a rather shy child. And apart from that, I found boys – at least when my friends and parents asked me about it – pretty stupid, considering my age. It was something like an unwritten law at that time that boys up to a certain age had to be considered stupid – and vice versa. In reality, however, most of us had our first little crush when we were in kindergarten.
Anyway, I would never have taken the first step and confessed my love to Peter. Although it was quite obvious that I liked him and he liked me. And so for almost a whole school year only paper balls flew back and forth between us, or we stole each other’s ruler, which is what you do as a child when you want to attract someone else’s attention. In retrospect, the whole thing was of course pretty silly, and I think both Peter and I can be glad today that these actions did not result in an entry in the class register.
However, towards the end of the third school year a few things changed. Peter suddenly became calm, hardly looked at me anymore. I had already come to terms with the fact that my first love was no longer interested in me, when shortly before the summer holidays something amazing happened: After an hour of social studies, Peter came to me and placed an envelope on the table without saying a word and without even looking at me.
My friends had not missed this, of course, and so I had to open the envelope before their eyes during the big break and read the contents of the letter out loud. It was an invitation to Peter’s birthday party, which took place in the last week of the summer holidays. My heart was beating up to my neck. My friends, however, didn’t like it as much as I did. They regarded it as a kind of treason if I went to that party – after all, the invitation came from a boy, and boys were our greatest enemy at that time. Besides homework and unannounced tests, of course.
The date, however, fell exactly in the period of time I would spend on family holidays in Spain, as I learned when I presented Peter’s invitation to my mother in the afternoon. My dream of hooking up with what I believed to be the greatest boy the world had ever seen was thus once again shattered. I was sure that Peter would never look at me again if I didn’t come to his party – especially since I knew that he had invited a few girls from the parallel class who all thought he was great and wouldn’t miss the chance to spend a whole afternoon with him.
At the beginning of the fourth grade I had actually already finished with the subject of Peter. I was far too young for a boyfriend anyway, and besides, I had other things on my mind in the meantime, such as which secondary school I would probably go to and how I could persuade my parents to buy a Tamagotchi. Besides, I had just started to play the piano and I spent all my free time learning pieces that my piano teacher would never have put on the music stand.
But then came my very first class trip. And that changed everything again. We were in some rural school, not far from home, and were forced by our teachers to go hiking every day. It was hell, because somehow we all imagined our first big school trip differently – more like in the movies we saw on TV.
One day, however, has remained in my wonderful memory to this day. Peter and I hadn’t spoken a word to each other for weeks, but on this one day, on one of our trips, he walked next to me – and just took my hand. Just like that, without saying anything. And I let him. From that moment on, the hike we were on didn’t seem as bad as before.
We never really talked about it, but since that moment Peter and I were together somehow. A couple, just as adults were couples, at least in our childhood notions of couplehood relationships. We wrote each other notes in class about how much we liked each other and in the breaks we held hands. Our relationship never went beyond this kind of affection – but we were still children, and somehow what we had was really beautiful.
After the following summer holidays, however, we parted ways because we went to different schools in different cities. There was never a promise that we would keep in touch. It ended as gently and wordlessly as it had begun. But somehow it was not bad, but in its own way just right. And I think there are few people who can say about their first relationship that it was beautiful through and through, from beginning to end. Peter’s and mine was.
A few days ago I typed his name into Google. And I actually found his phone number. I would have liked to call him and ask what he was doing today. How his life and his relationships have been going since we lost sight of each other. I decided not to do it, because I like the memory of him, my very first love, but sometimes you just have to leave it at that.