First Love in Waves & Dimensions

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt


Contemporary Romance

Don’t you remember? I see it every night in the shapes in my ceiling, flickering to technicolor when I hold a pillow close and imagine it’s your body. 

It was one of those warm summer evenings you could feel in your teeth. Everything that mattered was right there, biting; the fireflies blinking to life outside the window, the sky closing over your parked car. The lights on the dashboard played over your fingertips as you tinkered with the volume and traced them over my arm - “Why can’t you just hold my hand?” I asked, trying not to laugh. “It feels like there’s a bug on me.” 

“Your hands are so cold!” you said. 

“What, so cold you can’t hold them?” 

“It’s not my fault you’re, like, a vampire!” you said, your eyes like licorice knots in the darkness. 

I leaned over the center console to lock my fingers to your jaw. “Cold?” I said. 

“Cold,” you said. 

When I kissed you, your lips were warm, and the air softened to the color of sun-soaked wood. 


“No,” you whispered, and reached up, and held my hand very tightly. 


We were very romantic, I think. At least for a good chunk of it. We were rose petals on the floor and candles, not just the cheap tea candles but real fancy tall candles in holders with all sorts of cuts and facets. With the bubbling and the peeling away in strips, and the sticky residue staining the glass. You liked to take me out to dinner, and I liked to take you home afterwards. At first it was just to have someone to talk to. Before I knew you were planning to stick around, I told you that I had no interest in falling in love. 

“You’re a virgin,” you said after a moment.

I laughed. “No, I’m not.” 

“You totally are. You’re a love-virgin. And you’re the worst kind of love-virgin. I bet you’re going to want to marry the person you give your love-virginity to.” 

I smacked you in the arm. “You’re an idiot,” I said. 

Then you stuck around, which meant I had to stop saying stupid things in case you would realize that they weren’t true.


The funny thing is, the morning you fell in love with me, I wasn’t there. I was wallowing in snow while you stayed the night at your cousin’s new place in San Diego. I like to think that when the sun rose on your last day there, you woke up, went to the beach, and stared at your feet in the surf. I imagine you thought about things like how unacquainted your feet were with nature. How long it had been since you had walked on actual earth, not linoleum or wood or the sole of some shoe. And how the surf tugged you into the ocean - which, at least off of this shore, was someplace you had never been before, which was part of that mystical quality the ocean has, of existing in thousands of places you had never laid eyes on but also seeming exactly as familiar as any other ocean that had enveloped you before. Gazing down at these half-virgin feet and this half-foreign ocean, you probably thought about other things that were half-virgin and half-foreign. Like my body. And my self. And then you realized, you love the feeling of earth, and of the ocean. And so you must love me. That’s how I think it went, anyway. 

Then, for several hours, you would look at my face and my words on your phone. Things must not have seemed real at all that day. Or rather, you were realizing the actual unreality of all things. You once told me that nothing on the phone existed. Any beauty or pain that the phone caused was as much a product of mortal imagination as any other two-dimensional thing - words, for example, which, when spoken, had even fewer than two dimensions. After that you probably realized that saying the I love you words was possibly better on the phone. That way, it was less real than in person, and at the same time, possibly more. 

That night you took your shirt off and stared at the ceiling fan. You thought about the ocean, its clarity, its filth, its perplexing sameness. It confused you about as much as this girl did. I, halfway across the country, applied a mud mask. You sucked in a breath and made sure your shoulders were popping in your cousin’s dingy mirror. 

All right, I have no proof you did that, but I’m absolutely sure you did. 

Anyway, it’s not like that’s what mattered. Hidden safely behind your two-dimensional sphere, you typed: lov u. You probably thought it would look very casual and all from the other side of the sphere. I could tell you now that it only looked silly, in an endearing sort of way. The same way that a two-dimensional sphere is just a circle but you sounded so proud of yourself when you told me about the phone, so I held my tongue. 

Nevertheless, you told me you loved me. I didn’t respond right away. I was practicing self-care. And I fell asleep, got antioxidant-rich mud all over the sofa. We’re all human. Meanwhile I can just see the rest of it: you running out to the beach at midnight, the pebbles stinging your heels, reminding you of your humanity. Another thing to remind you of your humanity was the helplessness that crashed over you when the ocean continued to abandon you, even though it was always coming back. And, well, it’s not like you didn’t trust the ocean, as you told me a little later. It was just that the ocean liked to pull away from you, like to ebb away at the sand the way night likes to nip at the sky. Careless waves sipped at the earth beneath your feet, eddying in place of your body, replacing the depth of your lonely footprint as you walked up the pier and back to an airport filled with linoleum and planes to carry you back to me. Where you could say the I love you words in person, in no and infinite dimensions, and I could say them back. 


I did say them back. In fact, I said them back a hell of a lot. Maybe, when I stopped saying them back and started just plain saying them, you got bored. But whatever. There’s no use in getting sentimental. Then again, that worked out pretty well for Céline Dion, at least for a while there. 

“You’re here,” you said one night, muffled by my sweater. “There’s nothing I fear.” It was nearing midnight, and I had left She’s All That and my favorite slippers at home to pick you up from the third party that month that you had been too drunk to leave on your own. 

I kissed you on the forehead. “Let’s get you home,” I said. “Home has a bucket of popcorn and a pot of coffee with your name on it.” 

“I don’t wanna go home,” you whimpered as I threw you unceremoniously in the backseat. 

“Of course you want to go home,” I said. 

“I don’t,” you said. “I feel sick.” 

“Should I stop the car?”


When we pulled over, I tried to get you out of the car, but you grabbed my hand and pulled me into the backseat with you. You thrust your head on my lap, and I could feel your tears leaking down my legs, pooling hot on fake leather. 

“What the hell are you doing?” I said, shoving you off. So you sat up. Dug your fists into your eyes. With your elbows on your knees you threw a massive shadow over the rest of the car, spilling darkness onto the sidewalk. 

“I feel sick,” you repeated.

“Then get out of the car.” 

“No,” you said. “I feel sick. I can’t look at you.” 


You snapped your head up to face me. Your eyes have always been enormous, and the color of wet sand. 

“I kissed her.” 


“I kissed her. Twice. Three times. Or maybe–” 


“I don’t love her.” 

“You don’t love me.” I started to open the door. 

“I do,” you said, but you said it quietly, and I wondered if you even wanted me to hear you at all. 

“Okay,” I said. “Then why the hell would you kiss her?” 

“I don’t know,” you said, scrubbing your hands over your eyes again. “I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel scared anymore when I say ‘I love you.’ I’m not scared that you won’t say it back.” 

“I’ve always said it back.” 

“I think I’ve stopped needing you to.” 


There is a point in every responsible adult’s life when candleholders become clutter, and you don’t see the point of tiny little flames when the overhead lights actually help you see. At that point, mystery is no longer sexy. When you want to know everything about someone before they get up inside you, that’s when you know you’re getting old. Or smart. 

Well, I must be some sort of ancient genius now, because somehow I still miss you. I tell myself all that crap about knowing you well and how my pillows refuse to stop smelling like you, even though I’ve washed them dozens of times, but no matter how I tell it, the story is still the same, and it is still very pathetic. 

There’s one part I missed about that night. You know the one, with the car and the Céline. You were drunk. Probably don’t remember. I dropped you off at your friend’s house while both keys to our apartment jingled in my pocket. 

“I love you,” you said, three words belonging to no dimension, not even real. They echoed in the silence. I guess that worked for you. So you took my icy hands in yours and kissed me against the door of the car like you would back when we didn’t drive home to the same place. And I let you do it. Twice. Three times. Maybe more, but I don’t plan on letting you do it again, no matter how much I want you to. 

By the way, I’m only telling you this so our little story doesn’t get lost  along with all of your passwords and your socks and your love-virginity. The thing is, sand is so forgetful. I could stand in sand until the day before eternity, and the moment I walk away, the ocean will wash it clean.

January 01, 2023 05:00

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23:30 Jan 12, 2023

Your story was so effortlessly beautiful and heartbreaking, filled with clear visuals and direction. I enjoyed it sooo much. I could feel my stomach bottoming out as I read more and more, tranced reading what I knew was going to happen.


Kenley Ellis
01:48 Jan 13, 2023

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked it!


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