First Love

Let Me Tell You a Story

You're a young kid growing up in the loud and gang-infested city of Compton, CA...or in one of the quiet suburbs of New England...a town in rural Japan or a war-torn city in Iraq. One day a friend, or parent, or whoever shows you a comic book. It reads "MARVEL" in big bold white letters on a red background. Or maybe it reads "DC" and is encircled, like a badge, with a black and white color theme. There are numbers (#18, #85, #201...) on the cover page, but you have no idea what they mean. It doesn't matter, you don't care. 

There's a ridiculously ripped and cool-looking figure on the cover. It's a guy and he looks like an overgrown, pissed-off bat or an overgrown, but less pissed-off, spider. You don't open it, you're not ready for that, so you just stare at the cover... its looks so real and you can't process it all at once because your brain can't catch up with your eyes. 

You go to bed, restlessly wide awake, thinking about that damn comic book cover and how everything on it exploded off of it at you the second you saw it. Something ignites in your head, must be the neurons on the left side of your brain. They start to fire off for the first time in your young life and they're powered by your memory of that comic book cover. It becomes imprinted, burned even, into your mind's eye, and it doesn't let go of you. It refuses. 

Months fly by, and as they do, you seek out even more images like the first. However, now you know what the numbers mean (issue count) and you start doing better in your 5th-grade language arts class because you've read comics all summer. Before you never had any interest in reading...or maybe you did, but not like this. You don't know the word for what this is, but you know its hold over you is strong. Months fly by again, this time you absorb the images of a muscly boy scout in blue, then a muscly boy scout with a shield. It is summertime again and school is out, and now you've discovered a gorgeous super girl with a lasso and a raging green monster fighting a raging psycho with retractable claws. 

One day, you come home from chillin' with your boys on the basketball court. Your mom is on the couch with your older sister. They're both in tears. You ask, "what's wrong?" Your mom says, "[Your name]...come here. I need to tell you something..." That night, while in bed, you can't sleep because the tears won't stop flowing. Then you remember the origin of a character you've read, and think to yourself, "Wow?...Batman, I get it now...I get it."

A few years later, your mom remarries someone else. A few years after that, he yells at you once...then twice. He likes yelling at you. Now he's yelling more and more, but when he gets tired of that, he starts beating you...he likes that too. Now your mom is crying more and more. You want to hit him back, but you're too small, so you can't, so you don't. Your friends can't help, because they're getting the same treatment. You can't talk to them because they're all about girls, sports, and shit like that...but you're into those images, that art, and now, the words too. 

You can't help yourself so you start skipping classes to go hang out with the "weird kids" just to get your daily fix at the only legitimate place you can: the comic book shop (if your neighborhood had one). You start reading about alien cops with magical green rings and speedsters and how they obsess over the "Speed Force." Years fly by, now you're in high school. You're a little bit taller, your voice has deepened. You always liked girls, but now they like you back, and you start paying more attention to them. You always liked hip-hop too, but you realize the "cool kids" and pretty girls love hip-hop and so now you do too. You forget about your "weird friends" and start calling yourself a nickname. It's a new you, a cooler you. You start getting into fights, and you actually win some. 

You start speaking differently, walking differently. One day, you decide to stand up to your stepdad. Bloody nose, fat lip, cops in your face. You're a minor and now they throw words like "assault"  and "with a deadly weapon" at you. You're bold, though, so you say "He had it coming." 

He hates you, but he never raises a hand to you again. Justice has been served, but it comes at a cost. Your blood family grows distant, so your friends become your family now. Late night parties, a bullshit store job, and weed smoke take up all of your time. You meet a pretty girl at work, she likes your smile. Weeks later, she shows you just how much and you can't believe you went this long without this knowledge. Your friends are happy for you, finally, life is good. But you've totally forgotten your first love, and how it made you feel. You push it out of your mind and you move on. 

A few years later, you're in college now, but then you'd rather just work and make money so you leave college. A few years later, your girlfriend leaves you and your boss tells you, "We're cutting costs by eliminating your position...Thanks." Weeks fly by and you're home playing XBOX 360 when you get a video text from one of your "weird friends." You open the message and see that it's a trailer of a new movie. Your eyes light up, as you read the title of the trailer,"Batman Begins..."

The next day, you go to a Newbury Comics and reacquaint yourself with the one thing you never should've forgotten about: your first love.