The First Time’s Always Free


Of course I wanted her. I knew it before she was lying across the table, pale white and thin. I knew it before I got there, she was the reason I was there after all, veiled loosely under an excuse for a party, hidden behind the music. I had heard her name a lot recently and she crept into my thoughts so intently it was as though she lived there briefly, floated away sometimes with wings like a moth, leaving a trail of powder behind.

The first time I saw her was in his eyes. He sparkled with a glow, an infectious energy, as he talked in circles about her and the way she tasted, so harsh yet sweet. I felt water form in my mouth. She normally held different company, but we found her often in dark bars that year and before long she knew all our friends. She knew where to find them on Fridays, then Saturdays, then Tuesdays, then whenever. She’d call when you were tired in bed, trying to read magazines and fall asleep, but she always offered something greater and she was so enticing, like black lace and bad decisions always are, that it would take hardly an argument before you were lacing up high heeled boots and going to meet her wherever she may.

That particular night, she kept me waiting.

That particular night, something inside me told me not to go, but I didn’t listen. My conscience, maybe, said, “She’ll change you, you know?” and I knew but I didn’t listen. I was 23 and drunk off Jack Daniels. I wanted her so badly. I had heard what they said about her, nothing good, but I needed her. I was sad. I wanted company. I wanted danger. I wanted a new secret. My old ones had become someone else’s.

I had become someone else, though I’m not sure who entirely. That night, I wasn’t wearing much at all and it was sometime in the winter though if it was December or February I can’t be sure. I remember though, because I forgot my mittens there. Ones my grandmother had knitted me when I was 10 years younger. They were so warm and fuzzy and comfortable, the way things always are before they change.

When she arrived, I was warm inside. I was wet inside. I was anticipating her so much I was almost too eager. I was almost turned on. I had romanticized her for so long I expected love right away and when I found it, I knew it wasn’t the right kind of love but I let myself fall for her anyway.

There’s a certain kind of person she attracts and I was her, the lost young girl, the one who wanted excitement and didn’t think she had anything to lose

My friend rolled up the 50 between his fingers and was telling some story about something, I kept thinking he would pass it to me but then he’d throw his hands up with expression and I would jump. I watched him re-roll it tighter, he lowered his head and I watched him take her in. I studied his movements, his motions, his reactions. Then, finally, he passed it to me.

I paused to examine her for a second as he pushed the CD towards me. All noise and conversation fell to the background. Would she be like I imagined? Perfect and pretty. I had expensive tastes, but the first one’s always free.

I bent over and I inhaled. I felt her go through my head, through my thoughts. I closed my eyes and felt the rush of warmth run through me, down the back of my throat, I felt the chill and the thrill and I hated her immediately. She was even better than I imagined. I knew I should have listened to that voice, but it was too late now. I was in love. Isn’t this what I wanted? Some new kind of salvation?

I could have stopped there, should have stopped there, but I didn’t. There’s a certain kind of person she attracts and I was her, the lost young girl, the one who wanted excitement and didn’t think she had anything to lose. The kind of girl who needs secrets like they’re currency. I fell so hard for her I saw her all the time. I saw her on weekends and weekdays and everyday, then slowly I saw more of her than I saw my actual friends. I saw more of her than I saw anything. My friends would invite me places but I would show up late because I would be waiting for her, so they stopped inviting me. Some nights it was only the two of us. I discovered a loneliness I didn’t know possible. A loneliness so great, I knew I had to leave her.

I didn’t want to. I loved the way she made me feel, it was a way nothing or no one else could. Like I could be anywhere or I could be anyone. After so long, I only felt like myself with her. I was so tired by the time I had to leave her, I couldn’t remember what I was like or who I was before we met. At 25, was I the same girl I was that cold winter night when I grabbed my jacket and my money and headed to a party practically bringing a signed goodbye card along for the ride? I suppose it didn’t matter now. Now it was time for me to write her a goodbye note, for me to say goodbye.

Like all good lovers, it wasn’t easy and sometimes I still miss her. It used to be I’d go places where I knew she’d be, but now I don’t go to those places anymore. Will I get over her the way lovers do? The way time lets loves fade away, become distant memories, where you only remember the good parts? Will she ever let me be? She filled a void, but left a scar.

I know I don’t want her but I can still taste her sometimes.

Alice Morrow is a writer, sometimes. She mostly just takes pictures and wastes time in Toronto.


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