File under: things I wish were fiction.
My first boyfriend had bright blue eyes and curly brown hair and we would go to Macquarie Centre after school and hang out and we’d hold hands and sometimes we’d make out and he was a good kisser. He went to the boys school a few suburbs over from my school, lived in Hornsby and his favourite band was the Smashing Pumpkins. I was fifteen and he was seventeen but he was really cool and never pressured me to do anything I didn’t want to do. Sometimes he bought me flowers when he saw me — tulips because they were my favourites.
I liked him a lot, and he said he liked me. He was smart and funny and he laughed at my jokes. He was a great first boyfriend.
Or he would have been.
If he existed at all.
He wasn’t my idea. He was conceived one afternoon in my best friend B’s bedroom, the result of a long conversation about how all the boys I liked just thought of me as a friend and I was sick of being one of the guys. B had never had that problem. She wasn’t one of the guys. She was pretty and girly and tiny and she looked like a porcelain doll. Lots of boys liked her a lot, not as a friend. Next to her I felt lumpy and dumpy and my nose felt too big on my face. We sat on her bed and we pondered my dilemma and then she sat straight up and grinned and told me that what I needed was a boyfriend. Yeah, I laughed, that’s the whole problem.
Well, she said, you could always just make one up.
I looked at her like she was crazy and she told me she was serious and I looked at her like she was crazy some more.
But he stuck, gestating in the bubble of our friendship. She explained her reasoning — if I had a boyfriend then maybe the boys I liked would realise that I actually was a girl, maybe they’d be jealous — and I’d look at her like she was crazy, or, if we were on the phone, I’d tell her she was. Still, she fed him, and despite my reservations, he grew and grew and grew.
It’ll be fun, she said. We can make up a whole person and it’s not like anyone will find out and if they do we can pretend it was all a practical joke.
And so M was born, fully-formed, cute and nice but with braces, because he couldn’t be too perfect or it would be obvious. I’d never kissed anyone with braces — I’d never kissed anyone — so she had to explain to me how it was a bit weird and sometimes they banged against your teeth but you got used to them.
I don’t remember how we met, which is a terrible thing to admit about your first boyfriend, but I’m sure it was a meetcute straight out of Sweet Valley High. On our first date he brought me a single red rose — he didn’t know about the tulips yet — and we ate pizza and on Monday at school B and I tried to be all whispery and secretive about it but of course in a way that was obvious so everyone would ask what was going on.
I don’t want to talk about it, I said, in case I jinx it.
But of course I did talk about it. Talking about it was the whole point.
I didn’t really think it would be a big deal, but it was. People would ask me questions and I’d have to make up answers on the spot and because I was fifteen and a terrible liar I’d go into way too much detail until they were practically begging me to stop talking. One girl in particular would hound me for information and then she’d look at me funny when I fumbled over my facts. We were friends but we weren’t. Once I had told her I liked a boy and she’d smiled and said well I don’t know why he wouldn’t like you back. I mean you’ve got— you’re very— you’re really— oh you’ve got a nice personality, shrugging and laughing as she walked away. And we’d both known exactly what she meant. My nose really was too big.
But now she’d sidle up to me like we were besties and want to know everything. Where he lived and his middle name and what his parents did for a living, things I wasn’t sure I’d know even if he did exist. He sounds so nice, she’d say, I’m so happy for you, but she was as bad a liar as I was.
The boy I liked didn’t even notice. No matter how loudly we whispered or how hard we giggled. No other boys noticed either. No other boys looked at me and suddenly realised that I was, in fact, a girl, as the sun rose in the sky behind me and jaunty music swelled in the background.
In that regard, M was completely hopeless.
In the end we broke up. I lived too far away and he didn’t have a car and it was too hard to see each other and he had to concentrate on his school work because he wanted to get into law. I was sad but I understood. We were going to stay friends, but we never saw each other again. He never even told me he loved me.
Everyone was really nice to me and I didn’t really want to talk about it so we didn’t and then someone else had a boyfriend and just like that, he was gone.
B and I buried him in a private ceremony in same room he’d been conceived in. Well, we said, that was fun. Maybe we should write a novel together. So we did that instead, for a while, but we never mentioned him again.
A few months later we were sitting in the quad, talking about the formal because that was all we ever talked about, and one girl was complaining, again, about not having a boyfriend. Well, said my friend who thought I had a nice personality, who wasn’t really my friend, looking right at me, you could always make one up.