Falling in Love (Before I Knew How)

I fell in love for the first time this past year. It was passionate and messy and blew up in my face. However, it yielded much needed self-reflection and realization that facilitated unprecedented growth within myself.

Shortly after my first semester began, I found myself in something that resembled a relationship with another NYU student. I was hungry for life when I arrived at college and he nourished my soul. We thought we could get away with not putting a label on ourselves, though. He had just gotten out of a five-year-long relationship and I had just gotten over a short, mediocre one. My mistake was thinking I could control my emotions. I thought I could spend my days with this boy and be embraced with his sweet kisses without getting too attached. I thought wrong. I fell for him much more quickly than I ever believed possible.

As soon as I got out of class, my first thought was when can I see him again? Even if it was for twenty minutes, I wanted to be in his presence. He brought calm into the normal chaos that was my daily life. He held me while I had panic attacks and made me say every single thing I was grateful about, from my little brother back home to the cheese and grape platter I always bought from Sidestein. When I was with him, I didn’t think about the pain brought by the loss of my father or the invalidation from my mother. I didn’t think about the nights I went to sleep for dinner. He even stopped the daily night terrors I would have about my mom’s boyfriend.

The thing about college, though, is that we often get much more freedom than we have ever been exposed to before. I didn’t have to wait until my uncle was at work for a boy to drive twenty minutes to pick me up. This boy literally lived right across the hall from me. Boundaries exist for a reason, but I broke them. It felt too good to be with someone that had also struggled, that understood much of my pain. He was hesitant about us, though. He would constantly have talks with me to make sure I wasn’t getting too attached. He had just gotten out of a long relationship and made it clear he wasn’t ready for a new one. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt me. So, I told him I wasn’t falling. I lied.

 I lied to myself for a long time. I told myself that I didn’t have deep feelings for him. That we were just casual and having fun, but deep down, I knew. I wrote a poem two months in that went:


a beautiful night

heart inflamed

my soul awakens

in the presence of you


i love you

but im not in love with you

i promise

i know you dont want that


you dont want to be limited again!

you shout from the rooftops

you shout so loud that windows shatter

i eat the glass


every night

you hold me

but when im not there

i cry


i cry because i know

i love you

but not like in love with you

i promise

As our not-relationship progressed, I became dependent. I expected him to constantly  long to see me as well and to not be with anyone else, even though we had never made that clear. When my expectations weren’t always met, I began feeling empty. So, I started overcompensating. I stopped going out of my way to see friends. I spent more money on him than I had to spare. I sacrificed sleep each night to drowsily stay up doing homework with him. These were my own conscious choices; he never asked for any of it.

Our days were often sweet and bright, but I knew we were running on borrowed time. The expiration date was closing in on us like the four white walls of loveless apartments I grew up in. Because of this, I never had sufficient time to brace myself for the fall.

It all exploded one night. I saw him check in another girl to our residence hall. My friends were trying to keep me away so I wouldn’t see, but the plan failed. He walked past without even looking at me. My eyes locked with the girl. My heart shattered.

I walked outside and the cool night air wrapped itself around my cold skin as I collapsed against the brick wall. I can’t do this anymore. The nights when he spun me around and called me his girl, when we sat in Washington Square Park eating pizza and he told me his dreams about helping low income communities, waking up to his soft kisses after he got back late from the library, it wasn’t enough anymore. This hurt more than I can ever put into words and my battered soul couldn’t bear another moment.

He was a mess after seeing me and made the girl leave. He begged me to come over but I told him it would just make things worse. I would yell. He said it didn’t matter. I stormed in and let myself go. I stopped trying to be what I thought he wanted. I had never yelled at anyone like that in my life. I trusted him. I loved him. I told him he was selfish. But I left out the part that I was, too. I cried; so did he. He said it was his first time in years. Big deal, I told him, I had been crying all week. That night we held the pieces of what was left of us in our tired hands and attempted to mend them back together. They didn’t fit anymore. He texted me at two in the morning and said he wished I was laying in his arms. His bed felt cold without me.

My heart broke repeatedly that week. The next morning was my Spanish final. I tried to tell my friend what happened before it started but I ended up running to the bathroom and breaking down all over again. I am a writer. I write about my pain. But this? This was something I couldn’t even think about without feeling sick to my stomach. He said he was practically writing an anthology. I couldn’t bring myself to reflect on it long enough without feeling like my knees were about to buckle and my lungs would give out. It made me physically ill.

I have endured exponentially more awful experiences in my life than heartbreak, but for some reason, this hurt the most.


By Jaelynn Grace Ortiz

Jaelynn is a rising sophomore at NYU majoring in Journalism and Social and Cultural Analysis with a focus in Latino studies and is minoring in Creative Writing. The list of her hobbies is almost as drawn out as her majors are. She writes poetry, essays and stories, she dances, mentors high schoolers in the Bronx and often plans environmental events in NYU Residence Halls. She has a poem published in the introspective study Inside My World by the Live Poets Society. Despite vehemently condemning social media, she ironically has instagram which you could follow her on. 

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