Posted by: susanjcaldwell28 | October 5, 2012

I LEARNT THE TRUTH AT 17

I woke up this morning with a poem I had written about my first love in my head, well it was one of a selection of poems. Even though I was the one who ended the relationship, I still loved him at the time and my way of coping was to write loads of cheesy poems and sing “I Will Survive” at the top of my voice.  Please forgive the naivety of the poem, but do remember I was only 17.

Whats in Your Eyes

When you look at me

I often wonder what do you see

Do my eyes give away the love I feel for you

Do the memories come flooding back

Is your heart still true

Or has someone else filled a space in your heart

Where I once was and thought I’d never part

Does that smile in your eyes hold thoughts of someone new

Do you love someone else like I love you

Do you ever think of me

Do you still care

Is your heart full of love

Do I get a share

I ask so many questions

I get so few replies

Ill just have to keep guessing what’s in your eyes

There were a dozen more like this all seeking understanding of what love was, analytical child that I was and still can be.  So the question to be answered is “why did I finish with him if I still loved him”.  Well, I didn’t trust him on many different levels and I knew I could not stay with someone I couldn’t trust.  Looking back, it was quite a mature thing to do.

The night I finished with him, we had been together a year from the time I was 16 and he was 15.  He wasn’t my first boyfriend, I had been going out guys pretty regularly since I was 14, but he was the first one I fell in love with.  I gave him a final ultimatum, told him that I could not stay in a dishonest relationship and gave him a final chance to level with me about all the lies he had told me and to start again.  He looked me straight in the eyes and said “I’ve never lied to you Sue”.  I said “right, that’s your last lie, its over.”  He started to cry and pleaded with me and told me he would never love another woman like he had loved me.  I told him he wouldn’t and he would have to live with the fact that he had fucked things up, and ever the drama queen, I made a dramatic exit.  Even then, I knew I had to make this moment matter and I had to give it the drama it deserved.  I walked away with my head held high, but it was not that easy.  We still lived in the same area, hung around with a lot of the same friends.  He started to go out with a girl I knew. I was livid.  She invited me down to her house one day and I started putting records on about everlasting love etc.  She was not happy.  She finished with him because he kept talking about me. He heard I was going out with someone else and he was not happy either.  I was  walking through Albert College Park one day with friends, he was cycling by looking cool on his bike, but when he saw me he crashed into a tree. We had a crazy affect on each other. We were the low market version of Burton and Taylor, couldn’t live with each other, couldn’t live without each other.  His friends called us Romeo and Juliet.  Our rows were legendary.  We argued over the colour of a clock one day for a full hour (yellow or orange!).  Looking back, we were too young to handle the intensity and the attraction, it seemed to take over and I think we were both scared. This went on for a while and finally one night a few months after we finished, I kissed him and walked away and swore I would never kiss him again.  I never did. Before that, I had invited him to my commercial college debs, with the intention of getting back with him.  He had arrived late with feck all money and a crumpled suit and no corsage, so I spent the night dancing with someone else and completely ignored him.  He was appalled.  Eventually I reached a point where I was no longer hurting.  He had met a girl and she was pregnant soon after.  By the age of 18, that was the direction he was going in and a direction I definitely decided I was not going in.  I met a wonderful guy when I was 18, and went out with him for 2 years but my commitment phobia started to kick in and I just felt I was too young. I could see the writing on the wall, engaged at 21, married at 22,  but he is the only other man I ever thought of marrying and I know if I had we would still be married today because he had such wonderful qualities and was honest and loving and loyal, I hurt him badly but have since had a chance to apologise to him.  He is still a lovely guy,  but I was scared, a mixture of my upbringing and the bad male role models therein and a fear of being hurt, so I ran away and did my 20’s discovery, had a lot of fun time with my friends, relationships, went to live and temp in London alone for a year and a half, came back, got a flat in Harcourt Street in Dublin, joined Dublin Shakespeare Society, Grove Theatre Company and studied drama at Brendan Smith Theatre Academy and trained with Deirdre O’Connell in Focus Theatre.  I felt so alive.  I had eventually found my forte, drama,  and then I went to Bull Alley College in the Liberties and studied Drama full time for a year.  Just before that, at the age of 29, I met John.  Even then, I knew I liked John immediately but as always I veered between wanting to be in love and being terrified of commitment.  I told him not to fall in love with me and I was never getting married.  He didn’t listen!.

But going back, I remember myself and my first love’s first date vividly.  I had met him in Victories Disco and he walked me home.  My friends, non-identical twins met his two friends so the six of us marched home together and we arranged to meet the next day to go into town to play pool.  I hadn’t a clue how to play pool, but agreed nonetheless. I was always one to pay my way but I remember being slightly miffed when he got on the bus and he didn’t pay my busfare.  He had asked me out after all, I thought it was bad manners.  I cooled with him after that.  We arrived in the Pool Hall in O’Connell Street and he proceeded to ignore me and play pool with his friends, flicking his hair back and trying to look cool.  I was decidedly unimpressed.  Afterwards myself and the two girls were walking down O’Connell Street with the lads throwing shapes ahead of us.  I enquired of them as to how they felt about their dates, they were not pushed, they both actually fancied my guy and I said “you can have him, I’m not interested”.  We were ambling towards the 19a bus stop when I noticed a 13 bus that would take us near to home.  I mischievously suggested to the girls that we jump on the bus and ditch the lads.  They were game ball.  We ran upstairs and the lads were still playing it cool, throwing shapes and hair flicking and we opened the top window of the bus and shouted out “see ya around lads”.  The look of astonishment on their faces was a sight to behold.  We laughed all the way home.  I thought that would be the last I would see of him.  That night I opened the door and there he was with one of his friends.  “What was that today then?” He asked. “What”.  “You jumping on the bus”.  “I didn’t like your attitude” I replied.  He stared at me, suddenly I had his attention. He suggested another date, just the two of us, and I told him I would consider it if he treated me properly and that I didn’t let boys treat me badly.  He promised he would.  I cannot for the life of me think what the second date was.  We were young and had no money, so it was probably a walk down the road and a choc ice on the way home, but I do remember dancing with him at the next disco.  Over the next few months, we broke up a few times and then Saturday night would come and we would be at the disco dancing with other people during the slow set, and suddenly our eyes would meet and we would practically drop whoever we were with on the floor and he would send someone over to ask me to go back with him.  Finally we settled into our relationship.  We met everyday and everytime we had a row he would be spotted by someone in town looking in the window of a jewellery shop at engagement rings!. We even met with an aunt of his who was home from Canada and we had planned to get married and go to live and work in Canada, at this stage I was 17 and he was 16!.

There were pivotal moments like the day I just decided to be brave and call into his house with my school uniform on.  The nuns had made sure our uniforms were sacks in order to disguise our bodies and I was always mindful of never letting a boy see me in this hideous uniform.  The day I decided to call in was a liberating moment. He opened the door and his eyes lit up, he was so happy to see me. He was in the middle of mowing the lawn and I just sat on the fence and stared at him happily.  Or the night he invited me up to his house and lit a fire in the dining room and his mum opened the door and he introduced me and we sat on the couch in the dining room and talked.  I knew he had spent the day getting the room ready for my visit. I remember my 17th birthday, be brought me Charley Perfume (yes I know its disgusting but it was a big deal then!) and a silver necklace of a kissing couple. My friends were in awe. “He’s obviously madly in love with you”, they told me. Valentines day came and a huge card arrived with personalised poems on it.  I sat down analysing each poem.  I began to think he was in love with me and one day he told me he was.  I was so happy.  This was it, this was my man.  I was going to love him forever.  My mum took me away for a week to the Isle of Man to get me away from him.  He wrote to me everyday. He had no house phone, so I memorised the number of the public phone box nearest to his house and spent my pocket money ringing him every day.  We would arrange to talk at 3 o’clock and somehow he was there everyday, I don’t know how he managed it. My mum was distraught that the plan went all wrong.  I returned home and we fell into each others arms. We told each other things we had never told anybody else.  We planned our future, talked about our kids and our lives together and agreed that neither of us could ever love anyone else. This was it.

When I finally realised that love was not enough, it was quite a shock to me.  I realised that respect and honesty had to co-exist with love. 10 years after I finished with him he called into my parents house.  I was away on a drama course in Gormanstown.  I actually think I might have arranged to meet him.  A friend had suggested that we met in ten years time and I think I made a date with him, I’m not sure.  He was quite drunk and sat down with my mum and my sister and started talking about me and all the times we had.  He was quite sad.  He was married and had three kids.  It could have been me, except for that little switch inside my head.  I haven’t heard anything about him for years but I always wish him well and hope he is happy.  I treated him badly too, there was definitely two of us in it, but I was always honest.  I will never forget him for awakening me to love and passion and the lessons I learnt.  I never went out with another guy I didn’t trust after him. He thought me about everything I wanted in a relationship, but also everything I did not want.   In the words of the wonderful Janis Ian, I learnt the truth at 17.

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