by Petersen Vargas

This is a story about my first love. But before I tell you about my first love, let me tell you what my name is first. My name is Hil Petersen Vargas, and I was called Petersen for the first half of my life, and Hil for the second half up until now. And that’s my name. Now for the story.

The memory of my first love is about 10 years, 125 months, 520 weeks, 3,650 days, 87,600 hours, 5,256,000 minutes, and more than 1,000,000,000 seconds old.

It began one day when I felt my heart lash out from its inner cage. It began one humid afternoon, my cartoon character-branded trolley bag in one hand, and the other on my chest, the music of my heartbeat unsteady, as if resembling outrageous jazz chords. It began when I ran to the comfort room, still one hand on the left part of my chest, when the vibrating muscle that is my heart quaked its way to a magnitude infinity that began to bother me. It began when I saw my reflection in the comfort room’s mirror, flushed to a certain shade of red and pink, as if someone put too much makeup on my face. It began with the thud-thud, lub-dub, dug-dug-dug’s; the tinted blush on my cheeks; and my twee senses coming to functionality.

It began—

(This is a story about my first love.)

By now, I have already forgotten his name, even the exact specifics of his face. All I’m left with are two letters. His initials? His nickname? PR. Those two letters could mean anything. Was his name overly American (Peter Robert), or was it of a certain Filipino nature (Pedring Robertino)? I have forgotten his eyes, their unique shape, the colors. Or how his hair was (curly? straight? wavy? spiky?), or what his built was (was he fat? skinny? just average?). Nope, nothing at all.

(But before I tell you about my first love,)

If I were to get this straight, I would say I never really did know him that well. I never knew how old he was, what grade he was in, who his friends were. If I’ll be frank, I would say I never realized how little my knowledge about him was, how few these jigsaw puzzle pieces that served as memory of him were, even to just complete his exterior. If I were to be honest, I’d gladly tell you how I never knew if he liked Pokémon as much as I liked it then, how I never knew if he abhorred basketball as much as I abhorred it then, how I never knew if he was into boys as much as I was then. If I were to be brutally truthful, I would tell all of you, with all sincerity, that I never knew who PR was exactly—I only knew but a fragment of him, which were those two letters that served as his mere initials.

(let me tell you what my name is first.)

But I knew who I was, 10 years ago, back when I fell in love with a fragile piece of my memory. I was Petersen Vargas, age 8, who fell in love with a boy he barely knew, a boy he would soon learn he would never, ever remember vividly in the future. I was Petersen Vargas, surreptitiously queer, who fell in love with a boy he saw one humid afternoon, with his hand clenched on the handle of his cartoon character-modeled trolley bag, and the other, on the left part of his chest, feeling his heartbeat experience an uneasy turbulence, when he saw a boy he was going to call his first love.

(My name is Hil Petersen Vargas, and I was called Petersen)

If it’s any consolation, I do remember a few things, some irrelevant pointers that may have something to do with PR. He called me Petersen. He was a friend of my service-mate (someone I rode the school van with). And he was certainly my type of guy. I don’t remember how we were introduced, but we were introduced anyway by our common friend, the service-mate. I remember how I felt his arms stretched to an arc by my shoulders, how we eventually became friends, how I fantasized about us being more than friends, and how I treated each gesture of friendship as a gesture of affection, a gesture of (what would I call it? well, for the heck of it:) love.

(for the first half of my life,)

You may ask, as an 8-year-old kid, what did I know about love? To tell you honestly, I didn’t really know. But would you agree that those nuances that I felt in my heartbeat were love? Would you think the way I remembered being ecstatic about school, just because I could get to see PR, love? Would you consider the time when a part of our house was still wet with cement, and there I left both our initials (PV, PR) together, carved, so as to serve as a reminder of how I felt, love?

(and Hil, for the second half up until now.)

Now that I think about it, I suddenly doubt if ever there was a PR in my life. Maybe he did exist, but only belonged to that tricky bag in my mind, summoned only out of my childhood imagination. Now that I think about it, I’ll be happy to return to my time with PR to see for myself if 1) his initials were really PR; 2) if he ever really existed in the first place; 3) if we ever really became friends and shared days and moments and a lot of time together; and finally, 4) if our initials together carved in wet cement were ever really there.

(And that’s my name.)

I still have this crazy fantasy that 10 years, 125 months, 520 weeks, 3,650 days, 87,600 hours, 5,256,000 minutes, and more than 1,000,000,000 seconds after, he would still remember me just as much as I still (partly? vaguely? wholly?) remember him. I still wonder if he ever thinks about a 10-year-old memory, in grade school, where he met a soft-spoken and skinny gentleman named Hil Petersen, but was fondly called Petersen. I still wonder if he also has these thoughts of my possible nonexistence, or, just like me, only clings to a memory so terribly vague, but anyway, which feels entirely real. And I wonder among all wonderings: did he ever fall in love with me, too?

(Now for the story.)

If he wrote about me as well, would he do it the same way I am writing about him now? Would it include the same jittery and giddy sentiments? He was my first love, PR. Was I his first love, too? Until now, just thinking about it—our initials possibly immortalized on cement—I bring myself back to my 8-year-old innocent self, without any suggestion of malice, feeling my heart outrageous in its pulsing, forcing a cosmic-scale Big Bang in my insides, a galaxy of stars bursting into undying flames, dressing up arson in the territories of my emotions, my affections, for this guy, for this boy, for PR. It brings me back when—

(The memory of my first love is about 10 years, 125 months, 520 weeks, 3,650 days, 87,600 hours, 5,256,000 minutes, and more than 1,000,000,000 seconds old.)

—it began one day when I felt my heart lash out from its inner cage. It began one humid afternoon, my cartoon character-branded trolley bag in one hand, and the other on my chest, the music of my heartbeat unsteady, as if resembling outrageous jazz chords. It began when I ran to the comfort room, still one hand on the left part of my chest, when the vibrating muscle that is my heart quaked its way to a magnitude infinity that began to bother me. It began when I saw my reflection in the comfort room’s mirror, flushed to a certain shade of red and pink, as if someone put too much makeup on my face. It began with the thud-thud, lub-dub, dug-dug-dug’s; the tinted blush on my cheeks; and my twee senses coming to functionality.

It began—cut shortly, when I first saw him, my dear first boy who owned those two letters, his initials, explicitly carved, innocently etched, on a wall, and engraved mystifyingly up until now, on the cement that builds the walls of my heart. ☁

Originally published on We Come of Age. Revisions by the author.
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