This week I've been going through the seven plastic boxes of stuff that I've had stored in my dad's garage. I thought I only had two or three, but when it's not stored at your own place, it's easy to lose track. He asked me to consolodate it into fewer boxes, which is a pretty reasonable request for a minimalist.
So I went through it all, and it was an amazing trip back in time. I found old notes, an unopened time capsule from 1993, an MC Hammer casette, and a bunch of other stuff I'd forgotten about. I also found a bunch of stuff from my first girlfriend, Allison.
Allison wasn't the first girl I ever called my girlfriend, but she was my first girlfriend. The first girl I went on dates with, the first girl I loved, and the first girl I slept with. The whole thing should have never really happened, statistically speaking. If we each have a certain amount of luck in dating, then after her I probably should have been single for the rest of my life.
I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, and totally clueless. She was fifteen, very attractive (I feel creepy saying that now, since, well, she's fifteen in the photos I have of her, but that's how I felt), and, most importantly, a fellow classmate in my tech theater class.
Part of tech theater was building sets for the school plays. One day we were in the big shop behind the stage, cutting a plywood circle, and our teacher, Mr. Gotuaco, asked if anyone knew what the value of pi was.
"It's 3.141592653," I said. Bored in math one day, I had memorized the limit of my calculator's display.
"Actually, it's 3.1415926535898."
I turned my head and saw Allison. A pretty girl knew more digits of pi than I did. That was unacceptable. I'm not sure if I was motivated by pure nerd pride, or if I knew that I was flirting, but I went back home and memorized.
The next day I came into class prepared. I managed to sit next to Allison, who had probably not actually noticed me until that moment, and I tapped her on the shoulder.
She was impressed. The next day she came back and knew over thirty digits. This was heating up, I thought. Homework got skipped that night, and I printed out the first ten thousand digits of pi. I actually found the printout today when I was going through all of my boxes. The three pages of tiny text seems awfully optimistic now. I memorized a hundred and forty five digits of pi, and opened the next tech theater class with guns blazing.
"Wow. Do you want my number?"
I swear to you that that's how I got my first phone number. My next memory of her is calling, being terrified, and walking her through how to set up an FTP server on her computer. At the time, that seemed like the right thing to do. I was too clueless then to try to act like I was cool, but there's a lot of charm in being earnest.
I remember our first date, too. It was pouring rain, and the date was scheduled for the day that I would get my car back from the repair shop. I had nearly totalled it by rear ending someone badly enough to deploy my airbags. This was my first time driving in the rain, and my first time driving since the accident. To make things worse, her mother insisted on coming as a chaperone, but made me drive.
In retrospect, this makes sense. I mean-- if I had a fifteen year old daughter, I guarantee that I wouldn't let some car-crashing sixteen-year-old take my daughter out alone either. At the time, it was a nervewracking situation.
I got us safely to the restaurant. It was called Lone Star Cafe and served really thick slices of margarined toast with everything. Allison's mother paid for the meal, which made it feel more like an interview for the position of daughter's boyfriend than an actual date. Oddly, I remember just thinking that it was a foregone conclusion that she would become my girlfriend. Maybe we'd discussed it and the date was just a formality, or maybe I was so inexperienced that I thought every date guaranteed a relationship. I don't remember.
Either way, we began dating. After a month or two we were inseparable. We had dinner together over two hundred and fifty days in a row, which is pretty crazy when you consider that we were really just kids. Usually we'd go to her house after school, because there was an hour window before her parents got home. Sometimes we'd go to my house or go out for dinner, usually at TGIFridays, which I thought was excellent.
One day, after dating for almost a year, we sat in her room and talked. I forget who brought it up, but one of us asked the other if they really wanted to keep dating. The other said, "No, not really," and that was that. Neither of us was angry or sad-- for some reason we both just knew that the relationship had run its course. We stopped contacting each other entirely and I didn't talk to her for years, until she spotted me on the highway and we reconnected in the breakdown lane. That's not a euphemism.
Allison was the first girl that I said, "I love you" to, and I didn't say it again until I dated Katya, almost ten years later. By that time Allison seemed like puppy love, and I had mentally discounted me thinking I loved her as a mix of hormones and naivete. In the memory boxes I've sifted through in the past few days, I've found photos from our trip to Hawaii (with her parents), polaroids of the kitten her family rescued that we considered to be our jointly owned kitten, and love letters. I'd forgotten about those.
One valentine was meticulously crafted out of construction paper. On it she wrote:
Eres el ladron de mi corazon...Por favor ser mi valentin? Que hermosos tus ojos son....Que vacio mi vida seria sin...tu! Te quiero, Allison
In English it means "You're the thief of my heart...please be my valentine? How beautiful your eyes are.... how empty my life would be without...you! I love you, Allison
(Neither of us are native Spanish speakers, so I'm not sure why it's in Spanish or how the Spanish is so grammatically correct.)
Reading that today sort of melted my heart. It reminded me of an aspect of our relationship that I had totally forgotten about, and haven't really experienced since her. We never judged each other. The valentine is corny, and she would have known that. But she loved me, so she wrote it and gave it to me, and knew that I would appreciate it. I wouldn't think that she's trying too hard or think it's cheesy that she wrote me a little poem in Spanish.
Our whole relationship was like that. We told each other everything, even when we knew the other person wouldn't like it, because we knew it would be accepted without judgement. One Valentines day I had a silver ring made for her that was a heart with a pi symbol cut out of it. It never occurred to me that it might be too sappy or too try-hard. I just loved her and thought that she'd like it, so I got it for her. Looking at it from an adult perspective, it almost seems unreal.
Since then I've become more judgemental, and have dated girls who are judgmental as well (maybe not as much as me, though). I think it's part of becoming an adult, at least if you don't fight it. I don't lie to girls, I don't omit the truth, and I say the things that need to be said-- but I do it with a deliberation and caution that used to be absent. I hate to admit it, but if a girlfriend tells me something significant, my first inclination is to adjust my opinion of her.
It's strange to learn something from yourself, and even stranger to learn it from a fifteen-year younger version of yourself, but I'll take lessons from wherever they may come. I'm not in a relationship now, but next time I am, I'm going to really make a point to keep judgement out of it.
All of the pi digits were from fifteen year old memory, so they might not be exactly right, especially the longest one.
I got my seven boxes down to just 2/3 of a box. Lots of stuff donated (like my precious box collection I started when I was around 7) and lots thrown away, but I also scanned 200+ things and took photos of a lot of other stuff.