You always remember the first time you did something. Even years later. It’ll be something small, meaningless-but then you’ll go back for a split second to the exact moment whatever it is came into your life.
Every time I put on sunglasses I think of my dad. We were driving in the car on the way back from my Tee Ball game. We were driving towards the sun. I was too short for the visor to put shade on my face. My dad reached into the middle compartment and grabbed his sunglasses-some cheap fishing ones. He told me to put them on. I still couldn’t see well, but it was better. Anytime I’m driving and put my sunglasses on, I’m there again.
And I remember the first time I smelled cigarette smoke.
My parents were hosting a family party. There was drinking. My dad and mom got in a fight, everyone had left at this point. She went out into the garage and grabbed a pack of cigarettes she hid under the step. I sat next to her because I wanted to make her feel better.
The smell of leather is a big one. First day of kindergarten I took the bus. It picked me up at my driveway. It smelled like mud and new clothes. There were some kids behind me who made fun of my glasses. They pushed my head into the seat in front of me and held it there. All of the other smells went away and I could only smell leather. They pushed my head into harder. Then I could smell iron.
The first time I stole was at 7/11. I was 13 and I didn’t have enough money for a slushie. I just filled up a cup and walked out. It was such a rush that I did it again. Then I stole money from my brother. The excitement of it never came back like the first time. It felt a lot more like guilt.
When I fell in love for the first time I was 16. Her name was Heather and we had English together. She was a year older and would give me rides home since I just got my license and didn’t have a car yet. On Fridays she would take me to see different local bands all around downtown. Her friends liked me because I was quiet.
And, unfortunately, first love is exactly the same as any other first time.
Because, now, years later, I still think of her. Anytime I like a girl and I want to love her I think back to Heather. It was just dumb meaningless high school infatuation but no matter how hard I try I still think about her.
Like I’m missing out.
And then I can’t open up.
And I know it’s stupid.
The problem with not forgetting is that every experience is compared to a past one. If I just let go of this one thing, I’d be happy. But, instead, I fight and pretend, and what I actually want is put on hold. No matter how hard I pry, I can never let it go.
No matter how hard you try, you can never go back.
But I want to.
Because first times are always the best.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Yux Xiang