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Letter to my 15-year-old self
One night you will find yourself running across town…. The snow is falling, and you marvel at the steam of your breath. You are somehow acutely aware that you are young and alive. It’s like that penultimate scene in When Harry Met Sally (which, now that I think of it, you won’t see for a few more years but, trust me, it’s awesome). You run, and your heart is pounding. Not because you’re running – you’re just a kid, and I note with jealousy that right now you can still run forever – but because your heart aches. Your heart wants to explode out of your chest.
You knock on the door and she answers. She knew you were coming. You were just on the phone with her eight minutes ago, and that phone still dangles just as you left it when you took off running. What you have to say to her you have to say in person. She must know this too because she’s answering the door, isn’t she?
Her mom and dad are home, so she throws on a duffle coat. She looks like a character from a fairy tale. You look up and see flakes falling between the barren tree branches and dancing in the beams of the street light. They glitter in the night.
You don’t say much until you’re a block or two away. You grab her hands. There’s not much to feel through the woollen mittens. Mittens! You’re both so adorable.
You tell her you think about her all the time. You can’t get her out of your mind. She’s driving you crazy. Then, you tell your first lie to her.
“I really, really, really like you.” I know you want to say “love,” but you can’t bring yourself to do it.
That’s okay. You’re just 15 years old. One day you will learn that your heart is not your betrayer. One day you will learn that it can break and it can mend. More than once.
But that’s not why I’m writing to you.
Here’s the thing. I want you to pay attention. Read this more than once if you have to.
You will kiss her and she will kiss you.
Remember that kiss. Try to slow your heart down and take it all in.
What it feels like. How she tastes. How she smells. The look in her Winona Ryder eyes. Both of you so young.
Remember all of it because I’m older now, at least in your eyes, and I’ve reached the age where the things that happened in the past are beginning to matter more than the things that will happen next.
And for the life of me, I can’t remember that moment.
Would you do that for me, kid?
In 2012, JJ Lee won a Gold National Magazine Award for his ELLE First essay about the first time he told a girl she was beautiful. He says the young girl he writes about here isn’t the same girl. (He’s a hopeless romantic!) Read 15 of our favourite ELLE First essays at ELLECanada.com/ellefirst.