When I was 16, I fell in love for the first time, with a boy who had chosen me to love as well. Up to that point I had "gone steady" for a day or two, had infatuations and suitors, but never had I had a long term relationship. Jeff was smart, athletic and spiritual. I loved watching him play basketball on Friday nights - he was a star - and I was "somebody" by association. He was destined to be someone, there was no doubt. Maybe, I would be someone too.
While he was bringing down all A's and excelling in everything he did, I was majoring in my social life...and him. I had long ago given up on academics despite the fact that I knew I had a brain in my head.
We stayed together for two years, spending many a night on the phone and most weekend nights together - going to football games (when he wasn't playing), out for pizza after his basketball game...and parking. He was my date for my Senior Prom followed by a day at the beach. His Dad took us to see the Harlem Globe Trotters at Madison Square Garden. We double dated with my best friend; went ice skating and to the movies.
We talked endlessly about religion and faith. He was a devoted Baha'i -- I was always questioning. He was dedicated to his faith as was his family. His Dad, who was an attorney, had been Jewish before becoming a Baha'i, his mother an Episcopalian (like me)...The Baha'i faith was and is a uniting faith. I respected them deeply. Jeff's commitment impressed me (even if at the time I found it a bit tedious). I wanted to be like him and joined the faith for a time, but I wasn't that strong or committed at 16. I watched each year as he participated in a fast that took place during basketball season, going without eating from sun up to sun down, even if he had practice and a game. I gave up candy for Lent - that was the extent of my religious sacrifice.
One Valentine's Day, while sitting in the stands watching a JV game, he gave me a gold heart necklace...which I still have. No one had ever treated me so well.
We broke up when I went to college. He had one more year of high school and then went on to Amherst to become someone, while I dropped out of school and sunk into a depression. He hadn't broken my heart, I let someone else do that.
Years later I heard he was working in Haifa at the Baha'i headquarters. I went on to study traditional theology. Faith had been a strong connection between us, even as teens, and was a common thread throughout our lives. But, we lost touch and our relationship went the way of most teenage romances.
I bumped into his brother online over the weekend - Facebook I think - and I got up the courage to inquire about Jeff. Where was he, what was he up to? Hadn't heard anything in years.
The world shifted slightly on its axis when he responded with an email telling me that Jeff had died 13 years ago at 44 leaving a wife and two kids. He's buried in Haifa.