Do you remember your first love?
Part of the Diary of an Anime Lived series.
By the time you read this, I will have been in the field for four days~ I say this so I promise that I’m not ignoring comments on the previous few posts; my dear little assistant (yes, I do have one!) has been making sure that WordPress does actually post my scheduled posts and that my spam filter doesn’t nom too many comments.
I’m a big Jigoku Shoujo fan. And I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that, even though I am fully aware of its flaws and shortcomings. It is one of my favorite shows.
There something strange about admitting to having such affection for a show that is really so sadistic. Every episode, someone gets tortured, and then sends their tormentor to hell… and in doing so, damns their own soul. And I watched 78 episodes of this. And enjoyed about 90% of those episodes. And most of the time, despite the obvious conclusion, I’d hope that somehow, some way, the victim wouldn’t pull the string on the straw doll, that they would figure out a better way.
Every little story, I could sort of understand why the victim ultimately pulled the string. I could understand it in a removed sort of way, although I could never conceive of ever reaching a point where I could do something like that. Eternal damnation? That’s really something. That’s stepping up the the very brink in a way I don’t think I ever could.
But, then, it happened. I found myself staring at empty air, wishing desperately that the Jigoku Tsuushin did exist. Because, if it did, I couldn’t have wrapped my hands around one of those straw dolls fast enough, torn that red string off fast enough.
Generally speaking, I am not an impulsive person. But there are times I am, and there are things I am impulsive about. And the things I’m usually impulsive about are no good at all.
But to confess to having wished I could curse another person to hell and to not explain any of the why would be cheating. I sort of feel as though, though, that it isn’t – isn’t it bad enough to admit that you wanted to do something so terrible? I am a somewhat religious person; my primary tenet is to do no harm unto others. So to have felt so strongly a desire to do such a thing is extremely disturbing, and it is very difficult to admit that. So maybe I could just leave it at that; I’ve paid my due? But I know I’m not going to leave it at that.
Do you remember your first love? I’m sure you do; it’d be hard to forget it, one doesn’t generally forget the first of anything. Its why, even now, I hold very dim memories of my first vacation, for instance – and I was two years old at the time. And no matter how a first love turns out, there is something sweet to be found in the recollection of it. Its an exhilarating thing, after all, regardless of what else it is or was.
But what about your second love? Do you remember that?
Once upon a time, I had a friend. It was a friend of whom I was very fond. I simply enjoyed their company. And they made me feel as if I was their closest, dearest friend. And so we were friends. And it pretty much stayed the same for a few years.
However, I began to notice tiny little things. We participated in the same sport, and we carpooled with their older cousin to practices; when he got his license, he started driving instead of our parents. And, incidentally, he later briefly served as the person I attempted to transfer my affections for my friend to. Even now I can vividly recall standing outside the door to my high school’s tiny little theater, waiting to open the doors to let the audience out after a show, and pressing my left eye to the crack in the door so I could see him bowing as the audience clapped. I felt if I could do silly, sentimental things like that, maybe, somehow I could like him instead. It would’ve been a lot less problematic.
But that came a bit later.
When did it strike me that what I was feeling for my friend was something other than the feelings of friendship? A mutual friend suggested it, but I don’t think I believed them. I think it finally struck me when I accidentally caught a glimpse of my friend changing, them in their underwear before pulling a long t-shirt on. We’d changed near each other for years, so it was natural to be around each other like that. But I’d adverted my eyes as I’d gotten a bit older; it just seemed polite to. Even so, I saw them in bathing suits every summer; why should such an instance have been at all different? But I had that moment where my heart skipped a beat. And I felt strangely embarrassed. I looked away quickly, and it was then that I am sure that I knew.
Knowing that made me fairly miserable. I was not happy to have a crush on my friend. They were my friend, after all, and I liked having them as my friend. I was fifteen years old; one cannot contemplate being able to coexist as friends and having one of the friends know the other had a crush on them when they are fifteen (and perhaps one cannot even do so as they get older… I suppose it depends person to person). I was paranoid, I couldn’t let them find out. I loved their company, but I was terrified they’d somehow work it out.
Ironically enough, I don’t think they worked it out until three years later. And, if they didn’t then, which they could’ve very easily not have, they probably didn’t figure it out until I told them point-blank five years later.
I tried two approaches. The first was to ignore it utterly, tucking it into a corner of my mind in the belief that I could make it cease if only I shut it away for long enough. This, of course, failed. So then I tried embracing it; I fantasized about telling them, I fantasized about kissing them, about asking them to the homecoming dance. I refused to allow myself to fantasize sexually, though; I felt there were certain limits. It would’ve felt blasphemous in some manner to have fantasized about them in such a manner. Which actually pointed to a larger issue that was beginning to bud as well.
In retrospect, my biggest mistake was idolizing my friend. I propped them onto a pedestal and then kept building up the base for several years. And when I realized all their flaws years later, it made everything hurt that much more. Because, as it turned out, even though I’d known them for so long, my friend was… not a nice person. They were cold; there was something not quite… well, they didn’t understand other people entirely. They were cruel, although I know they didn’t mean to be. When they finally confessed to a mutual friend of ours that they had a crush on the mutual friend, they then followed it by saying they probably couldn’t really date until after college, though. They were both college freshmen. And the mutual friend? They’d mooned over the friend for three years, been rejected twice, and had finally given up. Do I even need to tell you that they got sucked right back in by the confession?
Did my friend mean to be so cruel? Hardly. They just didn’t get it.
When I was a senior in high school, I had a lot of college applications to do. I applied to eight colleges total. And, I’m smug enough to say, I got into seven of them. The universities among them ranked 17, 17, 27, 28, and 31 the years I applied to them (one was a college, so it isn’t in the same rankings as the rest). Number 31 was a safety. My friend ended up there. The one I didn’t get into? Ranked at 18. Am I bragging? Yes. But people are allowed to do that when it comes to vanity projects such as a blog.
I digress, though. I had to write essays for these applications; this is what matters to this story. I wrote an essay about my friend.
My essay wasn’t gloopy or anything. It was stupid or sentimental. It wasn’t some kind of ridiculous confession, a love letter, any of that. This was a college application essay, after all. No, I wrote about them winning a race when we had been in middle school. They shouldn’t have won the race, and the top seeded competitor bragged to them beforehand that they were easily better than everyone else in the race. But my friend won. I didn’t have a crush on them then. But it was a memory that remained utterly vivid to me in the years following. And, quite frankly, it still does.
My English teacher was working on us with our college application essays. He gave people back their papers with corrections and suggestions; it was intended as a work in progress. Mine came back with only a couple of suggestions. Occasionally I wonder what he thought of it from a non-grading perspective. Everyone else wrote about themselves, the standard tropes of family and volunteering and grand experiences. But I wrote about a friend winning a race when we were a pair of eleven year olds.
I prepared my applications. I printed out clean copies of my essay and bundled them in with the rest of the paperwork and the application fees. I tucked them into the large manila envelopes, went to the post office, patiently waited in line, and took my receipt home with me. And then I printed a ninth copy of the finished essay.
Merry Christmas. I gave my friend something small, and the essay folded into eighths. It was after some Christmas-time presentation at school. I smiled and wished them a Merry Christmas.
Maybe they figured it out then. I’m more inclined to think not, given the aforementioned inability to entirely get people.
At prom, they didn’t let me sit at their table with all their normal friends. I was, you see, ‘weird’. And their friends were not. A few of them, in fact, disapproved of me. It probably did not help, admittedly, that I attended prom with one of the ex-boyfriends of a girl at that table. But I doubt I would’ve been welcome at the table anyway.
Senior prom was actually remarkably like junior prom in a way. At junior prom, I’d been at the same table, but my friend hadn’t wanted me there; they’d been angry about something or other. Who knows. It was doubtless something foolish. Not that that stopped me from being extremely upset. My date asked me if I was ok; my hands were like ice. I wasn’t welcome at the after-party. My date and I saw a movie afterwards instead. He was a nice boy. We dated briefly a few years later.
Both of these instances actually do characterize our friendship during high school fairly well, actually. Because when we weren’t at our sports practices I wasn’t often terribly welcome. Freshman year, there didn’t seem anything amiss. But by my junior year I wasn’t welcome in their group of friends. I was ‘weird’, you see! I was just too weird.
I sort of accepted it, though. I made different friends. And being around them around their friends had been a bit of a strain; I didn’t really like their friends much, and I felt like they might somehow notice things. Ah well.
I went off to college a thousand miles away. Not because of them, mind you; I just did. I kept in touch, sent them a birthday present. It goes without saying that they never returned the favor.
At some point I’d fallen in love with them. I don’t know when. I just know that I had. I only say this because I fell out of love with them sometime during my sophomore year. And it was then that I finally confessed.
Isn’t that ironic? But I confessed I’d had a crush on them because it meant I was over them if I could tell them that.
They reacted badly. I didn’t hear a thing from them for five months. I wasn’t really bothered by it – it was more of an ‘Ah, well.’ I’d liked having them as a friend, but it wasn’t going to kill me to not be friend any more.
Five months later, they got back in touch and apologized. I accepted the apology. And so the final, and truly tumultuous, phase of our relationship began.
I’ll boil it down to the basics – it went back and forth a few times, our renewed friendship. They’d get irritated with me and tell me off, and of course I’d respond in kind. And we’d patch it up more or less. But it seemed that, somewhere at the back of their mind, the knowledge of my former crush lingered and nagged.
Our friendship finally collapsed completely. I was supposed to visit them where they were going to work for the summer. That they’d asked me to in the first place had shocked me, and I’d actually been quite happy that they’d asked. What had happened to all their other friends? I was the only one asked.
The final straw will seem silly. I kept asking them every so often exactly when I could visit. And they kept telling me they didn’t know yet. I needed to know; I had training that summer, so it had to be before then. And who knows why, but they blew up at me. Something about getting rejected from the place they’d worked the previous summer, and anger at me because I didn’t have to figure out a job. I don’t remember it all. It was stupid. And it ballooned into something else, anyway.
I sat at the table while the people in my sorority danced away drunkenly behind me on the dance floor. It was April, but it was cold outside. I was having an argument on my cell phone via text message. My date tapped me on the shoulder.
The night wrapped up; it was two a.m. We were trying to figure out rides; my sorority is poor, we had no fancy limousines or buses. Just our cars. And the DJ’s van. My date got in the van. I got in the car with a girl’s boyfriend and their dog – I knew them both, she had hustled into another car for some reason.
And then I cried for forty-three miles. My friendship was over. The boyfriend was too nice. He told me about his own heartbreak, a girl who had completely shattered his heart. And after that all he did was drink and drink. But he was dating his girlfriend now; he loved her. He listened to me cry for forty-three miles, and the dog tried to comfort me.
When I got back I met up with my date again. He could tell I’d been crying. It goes without saying that our relationship wasn’t really the same after that, and we broke up with little fuss two weeks later.
The next day, I woke up. I didn’t feel miserable any more. No, I felt angry. When my boyfriend had left, I could tell in a way that things had changed, that we were done. Honestly, he was alright, I wasn’t crazy about him. But it grated on me that that was how our relationship got ruined. And I was also angry that my friend had accused me of still loving them, of being unable to accept that they weren’t interested. Told me it was my fault our friendship was falling apart. Because the fact was, I wasn’t the one who couldn’t handle things as they were. If they had actually listened and believed me, they wouldn’t have been sending me angry messages as I desperately tried to figure out why on earth they were so angry.
Does that sound disingenuous of me? I cried for a long distance about them, or so it would seem. But what I cried about was something different, something larger. I was crying because I suddenly saw I’d become an adult, or at the very least come to be a person who had to accept the status of ‘adult’. I’m not sure that that makes sense. But in that moment I knew I couldn’t be a kid any more, even if I still felt like one in a lot of ways.
So I was angry the next day; my sadness was gone. In fact, I was so angry, I punched in the URL for the Jigoku Tsushin. Yes, someone has set one up. And, no, as it turns out, it doesn’t really work. But I knew it wouldn’t. That didn’t stop me from angrily typing in my friend’s name and hitting the send button. Which sounds silly, but… if it had been real, I would’ve been willing to actually do it. Because in that moment, I was that angry. It was all the years compounded. I was angry because my friend had made me miserable so much; the fact that they’d done so unknowingly in a way was worse, for if they’d been a real friend, they should’ve been able to realize the ways in which they were hurting me and tried to rectify things.
Before you accuse me of being like the short-sighted children of the Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae, though, let me explain a little. I do not meant they should’ve realized that I was unhappy over liking them. It was more just their general treatment of me over the years, only agreeing to hang out with me if no one else was involved and essentially trying to keep from their friends that we were friends. It was the prom table absurdity. It was the renewing of our friendship only to pull away sharply. It was, in a nutshell, the fact that, ultimately, they were the only one who mattered. Not me, their friend. Their own self. My feelings did not count, regardless of what they were – the feelings of love for them, or the happy feelings of going to the beach together as friends. I could’ve been upset over a bad grade, I could’ve been excited for a particular movie. It just didn’t matter at all.
I also had cried because it is difficult to realize that someone you have counted as a good friend for years doesn’t really care about you ultimately. And that, in turn, is also connected to the realization of adulthood. Because the child doesn’t think someone they have a fun time with and who they share their secrets with could really just be so utterly unconcerned about them.
Its been nearly a year since all of this. If I met up with Enma Ai now, I wouldn’t even take the straw doll from her hands. My friend tried to crawl back into my life again, but I simply threw the letter out without reading it. No thoughts of some Hotline to Hell or anything. Just a sigh as I saw the postmark, and a consignment to the recycling bin before I left for the library. And then bright sunshine, the humidity of summertime. At twenty-one, I’m too old for regrets, too old for revenge schemes. I say this neither to allege that being twenty-one is old and mature or to be arrogant in regards to other people my age on the topic of maturity. It is just a simple fact; I’ve lost five people in the past year and experienced some of the most horrible things in my life. And so I don’t dwell on the past any more, because I know I cannot change it. And it is everything in my life which has made me who I am now. So regrets aren’t worth anything at all.
It was cathartic to write this. Even if I don’t have regrets about anything, telling such a story still feels good. Confessions of ill will do make one feel better, even if the ill will is long since departed. Did you know that Buddhists believe that thinking a wicked thing is just as bad as doing it? Maybe that’s why it feels good to admit having thought about doing such a reprehensible thing.
If you’ve managed to actually slog through this entire post, thank you.