Years and years ago, so many years it's embarrassing to count them, I had a best friend named Julie. If this were a movie or someone's memoir of their nostalgic childhood, I'd say we lived down the street from each other and played together after school every day. We didn't live that close, but sometimes her mom would pick us up after school and take us to her house, or my mom would pick us up and she'd come home with me. Sometimes we'd play together on weekends, at the park or the public pool or in each other's yards. Her parents were always nice to me.
Julie was fun and silly and liked horses and dogs and folk singers. She looked like her mom, who was Puerto Rican, and she had an older sister who looked like their dad, who was white. She had curly brown hair and black eyes and I thought she was beautiful.
Julie and I never fought, we never argued, but we were young, and we'd both been taught to make nice. I think even back then I knew I was always going to like girls - boys our age had cooties, but I wasn't that interested in the boys on TV either - although when I told her she was my best friend and I loved her, I meant it in the way of little girls, without understanding what the word could really mean.
Her parents moved when we were eight, and we wrote to each other for a while, but then we found new best friends and got used to being without each other and we lost touch, in the way of girls who grow up and grow apart.
I don't think that me would recognize any part of my adult self. I survived high school and went to college and got a job and made a career. I came out to my parents - my mom cried and my dad blamed my mom's cousin Gail, whose son Jerry was gay - I dated some wonderful girls and some real bitches. My parents came to accept me. I found a woman to spend the rest of my life with. We have a house and friends and a dog and a good life. My parents are nice to her, and I love her.
The women I chased before I came out to myself, the women I wanted to be friends with, wanted to be with, were mostly beautiful dark Latina (or Latina-looking) women, and even after I was comfortable enough with my sexuality to recognize that I had a definite type, it took years for me to figure out why.
I love my partner. I want to spend the rest of my life with her, to plant tomatoes with her and travel with her and sit on the front porch and be cranky old lesbian ladies with her. I want to fall asleep next to her every night and wake up next to her every morning. Her people came from England and Scotland and France, and I don't care what color her hair is, and I think she's beautiful.
So many things have happened in the years since Julie was my best friend that I remember those years like they're photographs. I remember them as stories my mom or I sometimes tell. Remember when the Langhams took you riding for Julie's birthday, and Mr Langham fell right off the horse when he tried to climb in the saddle? But part of the adult me still knows how the young me felt, and always will.
Because you don't forget your first love, not even if you were just a little kid at the time.