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  • A person’s first love is never one that they forget. Perhaps the name becomes forgettable and the place where they met for the first time, but the feeling of constant stress and heightened awareness paired with the unmistakable butterflies and accelerated heartbeat never fades from memory. I have two instances of memories like those. My first memory is rather forgettable because it was at school when I was fourteen and hyped up on a candy cane sugar high. The boy, Ernest, was pale and month short of turning fifteen. At the time I thought he was all that and a bag of chips and oh, so cute. Today, I think how stupid I was. First of all, he wasn’t a good influence. He never wanted to do anything productive and when I finally applied for a job and I encouraged him to do the same. He slammed on the breaks asking, “Why?” and “Who says you need a job just because you’re sixteen?” Our ideas of maturation and responsibility were obviously vastly different. My second memory of first love sticks in my memory not only because I’m still in that relationship, but also because it includes me unsuspectingly falling for another girl.

    I was sixteen at the time and a sophomore in high school dating that same pale boy, Ernest, who was in a few of my classes. I hated my first job at the grocery store and rather than allow me to quit like any good person would, instead my parents encouraged me to seek out another place of employment. In hopes of acquiring free movies and in light of its close approximation to my home, literally less than a mile from my house on the same exact street, I applied at the movie theater. What started out as a typical teenage job at my local movie theater morphed into so much more when I met one of my managers for the first time. “Ms. Vega” on paper was the concession manager and would help the concession employees when the lines were long or when we needed motivation to work. But the Ana Sofia Vega-Diaz I came to know was so much more than just a forewoman of cinematic sustenance.

    When I worked opening shifts at the theater, a manager who had keys had to let me in the front door. On the morning we first met I was standing with a few of my co-workers awaiting entry to the building. A thin girl of medium height with dark caramel skin jerked the door open and expectantly looked at us to enter. Her nametag said “Ana Vega.” This was the Ms. Vega I’d be working with? I wasn’t impressed, but I was a tad intimidated. Even then, in my heterosexual fog, I could admit she was beautiful, however cruel. I’m going to give further culpability to my apparent heterosexuality as the cause of my inability to divulge my immediate attraction to her. Like most closeted individuals, I played off my attraction as a friend crush and, even though she was a manager, she was close to my age. I figured we could be friends and that would satisfy my desire to be around her. This treaty with myself still did not explain why, after working together all weekend, I felt some version of sadness at the thought of not seeing her until the following Friday. I kept all these new feelings to myself out of pure confusion, not out of some embarrassment that I may be queer. I wasn’t even thinking along those lines yet.

    As time progressed, Ana and I became as close as two people working together can become. We never hung out separate of work because of the tacit rule that managers and employees did not fraternize outside work, but this didn’t stop me from doing favors for her or accompanying her to Ruby Tuesdays to pick up food for lunch. I treasured these moments because being alone with her literally made me happy. I still hadn’t fully established the basis of my feelings for her, but I did know that one-on-one time with Ana, even if it was just walking down the street, was an experience worth having. It wasn’t until one of my friend co-workers casually mentioned that Ana dated girls that it sparked a fire of recognition within me. I liked Ana. I liked girls, or a girl at least.

    From there, anything that I did in regard to Ana was tinged with the realization that I was attracted to her in a way that I was usually attracted to boys. The only exception was I had never felt this way about any guy. It seems strange to me, even now, that I didn’t have much of a reaction to my same-sex attraction, but it never really seemed odd to me. In the end, I just went with it. I accepted the feelings as true because I knew myself well enough not to question it. In retrospect, I own up to the fact that I was sixteen and altogether unknowing of what real and true “love” was, but in a way that only a sixteen year old can, I puppy loved her. Never a person to give up on something because of its threat of impossibility, I pursued Ana. I knew she enjoyed the attention and she reciprocated in turn by forming inside jokes and sharing her unbridled thoughts with me. We never talked about the attraction between us probably because it was an unspoken given. One evening I finally told her that I was attracted to her and hinted that she should send me home early. As a manager, she could do so. We shared our first kiss at a local park and I told her that if years from now, if we had lost touch, this park on this bench is where she could find me. I don’t even know if she still remembers that sentiment, but I do and it remains true.

    Being with her just felt natural. We had fun together like any boy and girl would and yet there was an inherent understanding between us from the get-go. Maybe it’s just because we were two people who clicked and perhaps it had to do with our same sex, but either way, it worked. On a light note, she taught me that it was okay to venture out and do something on days that I worked. It sounds ridiculous, but before her, if I worked on a given day, I would avoid doing anything just in case I was late. Blame it on my anxiety, but it just seemed to me that I had to be at work too soon to go anywhere and do anything. Regularly we would drive to Garland, a fifteen-minute drive from work, and go to the dollar theater to see movies, so that people from our work wouldn’t see us. Much to my surprise, we would arrive back in more than enough time for me to be at work on time. We dated for over six months before I told my parents. As a child who was unusually honest with her parents, it was difficult for me to conceal it from them, but I had to come to my own terms with my decision. I never decided to like girls (who really decides to be stereotyped, considered a deviant, and discriminated against?), but I knew a genuine feeling when I felt it and made the conscious decision to date Ana. It was of my own volition and I wanted to make sure this was the real deal before I broke the news to my parents. Six months in, I knew that even if we didn’t last forever this was still something my parents should know. My parents’ reactions were typical, but they were accepting because I am their daughter after all.

    It took another six months or so for them to realize that Ana wasn’t going anywhere and it took at least that long for my mom to quit making jokes like, “Are you sure it isn’t a phase?” Maybe they still harbor a secret hope that I’ll wake up one day and date men again and who knows? My desire for a future with a loving partner, marriage, and children has not been altered in the least bit. At least this way I’ll know these things will happen when I want them to and no sooner. My job as their child is to make them grow as people just like they’ve done for me. If they weren’t comfortable with homosexuality before then now they’ll have to be; if they want to continue to add to and foster a growing and successful relationship with their eldest child. My hope is one day they’ll come into contact with other gay people (at work, in public, in a friend) and their experience with me will cause them to be better people. Ana changed my life for the better and altered and shaped my personality. Why can’t I do that to others?
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