I flung open the hospital doors and fell to the floor screaming. A shriek that would pierce the ears of every nurse and doctor on the intensive care unit. I fell to the cold floor broken into a million pieces. Fluorescent lights burned my tear-filled eyes, the hallway walls started to close in around me. This cannot be happening. This is all a bad dream, right?
17 years old, wild, and free. They say you will never forget your first love. And they were right. He left a mark on me that I will carry with me forever.
At sixteen years old I never had a boyfriend before. In fact, no boys ever noticed me like that. Boys usually wanted to go out with my friends while I would play match maker. I was too busy throwing around a football and playing video games. I was chubby with braces and still carrying that awkward preteen babyface. I had a larger-than-life personality and would always make everyone laugh. But inside I was hurting. In fact, I was crying inside.
How could the funny chubby girl with the big personality be the sad one of the group. I learned to hide it well. pretty soon I was tired of the comments like “You’re just one of the guys.” “You’re like my sister.” Or my all-time favorite “It’s all about looks right now, when we are older and personality matters, guys will be lined up around the block for you.” I could not take the beating inside anymore; I did not want to be that girl anymore; I was tired of being a prisoner in my own body. I stopped eating. Unfortunately, during this time developed an eating disorder. A perfect recipe for someone with low self esteem and inner hurt.
After returning to school the following year I looked different. I was thin and I got my braces off, and I was getting noticed. This made me really annoyed with all the shallow fraudulent jerks who did not give me the time of day before. I could not be bothered with these people. I still had a big personality but with a new look, but that did not catch up with my mind yet. I may have been getting my nails done now, but I could still throw a football better than most of those boys. With prom on the horizon, it never would occur to me that anyone would have asked me to be their date. My whole life it was always about the prettier girls around me getting asked out. My friend Ana (name changed) frantically ran up to me. “Anthony (name changed) wants to take you to prom!” She screeched. Me? I argued with myself. I scratched my head for a moment. He wants to take me to prom?
Anthony was very tall with a natural muscular build. He was well over six feet tall. He had deep brown hair, tan skin, and big brown eyes. He used to skateboard and play the guitar. He was an old soul. Anthony and I had an encounter the week before. We were mutual friends with Anna. Anna and Anthony wanted to skip class and go to the local cafe to get strawberry smoothies. “Ok, guys I’ll come!” I eagerly pleaded. The rush and thrill went right through my body like a jolt of electricity as the three of us ran off campus and crammed into a little 1992 ford probe. It was teal. I could still smell the interior; it smelled like an old toolbox mixed with the faint smell of two stroke. One of my favorite smells in the world. I can remember the whipping of the back-and-forth motion as he would switch gears while accelerating. I sat in the back seat while Ana was in the front. They were good friends, and I was a tag along. I had never met Anthony before. In fact, I do not think I ever recall noticing him around campus. Well, I must have made some impression because he wanted to take me to the prom.
Prom night came and by the end of the night I told him he was the lousiest prom date anyone could have ever asked for. He was so angry and complained the whole time that his ex-girlfriend had to share our limo with us. “Boo, Hoo” I exclaimed! I wanted to have fun! So, I ditched him and went off with my girlfriends and that was the end of that.
After prom, June was approaching as the end of junior year was wrapping up. My friend group started to grow, and I started seeing Anthony a lot more. We used to hang out at a friend’s house with a large group of my girlfriends and his guy friends. I knew he wanted to date me, but I was not interested after the dreadful lack lusting prom night. I had a few guys asking me out during this time and I went on an occasional ice cream date but nothing serious. I still never had a boyfriend either. Then there was one night that changed it all.
My friends and I were at a house party and people were everywhere. There were even a few guys there who made me uncomfortable. The night grew on and the party started to turn in. Scattered bodies were all around the house. I scanned the room and there was nowhere to crash. It was at this moment it occurred to me I felt safe and secure with Anthony. With him I did not have to worry or be afraid. I felt a sense of protection. I lay on the floor next to him and we cuddled up where I laid safe in his arms all night. And that was it. The rest was history with us.
We were madly in love. The kind of love you would see in the movies. We laughed, and teased, we fought, and we played. The passion and the connection between us was an intense burn. We had plans of graduating high school and getting an apartment together, all while going to community college so we could be together. We wanted matching tattoos, and a house, and kids, and a white picket fence. Our dreams were endless, and we had the world at our feet. We would look up at the stars and talk about life and love and everything in between. And that is when he told me I was his soul mate, and I could not have agreed with him more.
He put a light inside of me. He taught me how to love myself. When I was with him, I felt as if I were the only person in the world. He built up my confidence and helped me put those broken pieces back together that were once shattered within. He had forever changed the girl I was then and it molded me into the woman I am today. He saved me. I will forever be grateful for him.
It was around 9 o’clock at night when my house phone rang. “Hey, Ana what’s up?” “Anthony has been in a terrible car accident. He hit a tree.” I went silent on the phone as the blood rushed away from all the extremities of my body. Everything went numb. As I Began to tremble, I shouted what do you mean!? Where is he? “I’m unsure.” Ana softly mumbled. Eventually Ana and I were able to find the hospital where Anthony was. She and I were led up to the ICU. There we were with his family waiting and praying.
Dry air rushed through my lungs. I looked out the window of the hospital at the rain, as if the earth was shedding its tears down on the world that cold November night. “He has to make it. He’s going to make it, I know it.” My chest moved up and down, but I could not feel the air in my lungs. I felt as if I were suffocating. My head was spinning, my body was burning. My head hung heavy between my knees as I bartered and negotiated with God. During those hours I got to go into his room. IVs lined his arms, his eyes were taped shut, and oxygen was helping him breathe. I knelt by the bed and brushed my fingers through his hair letting him know I was there with him by his side. Tears fell from my eyes to his bedside as I begged him not to leave me. But my words were not enough. This was now in god’s hands. I reminded him of my love for him and reassured him that I would always love him. I made promises of all the things we would do together once we left the hospital. I kissed his forehead before returning to the waiting room. Hours had passed as we waited for a miracle. Suddenly an alarm sounded. Code Blue. His parents and I ran from the waiting room back to his bedside. I watched helplessly as doctors tried to resuscitate his body. The last thing I remember is looking up at the pastor in the room and asking him if he was really gone. His eyes wide, he softly shook his head yes. He was gone.
I left the hospital and it had gone from night to the early hours of the morning. The sun was rising over the horizon, the sky looked cracked. It was cold and the sky gray with hints of pink. The silence was deafening. I did not know where to go or what to do. I found my way home and collapsed on my bedroom floor as tears poured down, falling into my ears from lying flat on the floor. I held my pillow and cried out for Anthony, only to get no response back. He was gone. He was really gone.
As weeks turned into months, and months turned into years I still remember the boy who saved my soul. Not only did he have a special impact on me but on everyone he had met. If you are lucky enough, you will encounter someone like Anthony in your lifetime. And if you do hold onto a person like that and appreciate the beautiful gift of someone who makes you a better person.
The world works in ways we cannot always understand. It is difficult, sometimes impossible to find out the reason something like this could happen. But there was a lesson that everyone around him learned. I can only hope to pass on the same beauty and lessons to those I encounter each day in my life, as he has done for me.
I now have two beautiful children and a partner whom I love more than life its-self. Since being a 17 year old girl to now life has thrown plenty more curveballs at me with many ups and many downs. What has gotten me through life is my faith, support from those around me, and love – both what I give to others and what I receive. I am very blessed. Just remember we are never promised tomorrow. Life can change in an instant. So hold the ones you love a little closer, and never take a single day for granted.