I fell in love for the very first time when I was twelve years old -a little boy named Jorge who wasn’t twelve yet, but had all the girls, even the older ones crazy over him, and had nurses running back and forth like messenger pigeons delivering love letters, drawings and notes from one end of the hospital to another.   I was the new kid on the block and simply watched the revolving doors of many young hearts as they fell in and out of love with each other like a real life soap-opera which unfolded in the midst of surgeries and therapy sessions, ivy’s, body casts and the able-bodied interpretation of what our bodies should look like.   Despite all this, we were able to just be kids learning about the birds and the bees on our own.  Nobody talked to us about anything having to do with our bodies as evolving sexual beings.  The nurses found the whole thing cute and played along with the daily drama –drama I had been quietly witnessing until Cupid’s arrow hit me straight in the heart.  Yes.  I too fell for Jorge. 

For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what it was or how it happened.   It took me years to understand his type….the Diego Riveras of the world.   After years of loving men, I think I now understand there are those whose energy simply engulfs you, swallows you and leaves you hungry for more.   Of course at age twelve, my biggest fantasy was to be French kissed because it was the one thing all the girls in the ward were talking about.   They had been Frenched kissed…supposedly by Jorge…this eleven year old Diego who brought girls to surrender their hearts at the drop of a hat; at the drop of a kiss.  I had sworn to not become one of those girls.  I had pride—I told myself.  I did.  Still, and I’m not sure how, a rumor got started after the last Jorge drama with one of the older girls.  Rumor had it that Jorge had his eyes on me.   Me?  The girl with the funny little glasses and big words?   The one who has never even smiled at him or fallen for his big brown eyes and dimpled smile?  Nah….It couldn’t be.  But it was.  There it was…a letter from Jorge. 

The letter was child-like…a short paragraph saying he’s in love with me and that I am the love of his life.  Below his words was a crayon drawing of a house and a road and a happy family.  In the center of the drawing it read: “Jorge and Maria together forever”.   Being that I felt much older than I was and had always imagined my first love to be a man…not a boy, I was not immediately impressed so I responded to him with a message asking him why he had fallen in love with me.   I wanted to know what it was he saw in me that made him love me.   He promised to answer the next time we came together for our school session….meaning that afternoon.  Every day, the kids who were not in pain, recovering from surgery or attached to machinery were pushed (bed and all) down the hall to the huge space where over forty beds could be parked next to each other and formed a semi-circle allowing us to experience coming together like other kids do.  We all treasured our school time.  This is when all the romancing and flirting took place and fast moving relationships got started.   Doctors, nurses, therapists and often visitors were part of the experience.   And everybody knew when Maria fell in love with Jorge.  

So, that afternoon, when the nurses rolled our beds to the classroom, we requested to be placed next to each other and we held hands for the first time.  A shiver of something I’d never felt before went up and down my spine.  What it is about me you love? I asked.  Others were listening because we were the latest gossip in the building.  “Your voice”, Jorge responded.  “I fell in love with your voice”.   I was not surprised at his answer since for several weeks I had been entertaining and filling song requests for my peers.  My reputation for singing had made me a mini celebrity in the hospital and often had requests from nurses and therapists who swore I’d one day become a star.   Yeah, I loved to sing and I did love my voice too, and as much as Jorge’s answer made me fall in love with him, it also disappointed me because in my twelve year old psyche, I wanted to be wanted for my looks….I wanted to feel physically beautiful.  I wanted to feel desired in the physical sense.  I wanted to be French kissed.   He promised to kiss me, but that kiss never came although I fell hard for Jorge.   He was the first Diego of my life.  His flirtatious ways broke my heart, and in the end I really did have too much pride.  I broke up with Jorge after two weeks that felt like two years –two weeks that gave me a glimpse of how intense love can be and how it does not have to involve sexual contact to bring us to the very core of passion.  

True love affairs may not always involve sex, but will always involve love.   Now I realize that us girls fell in love with Jorge because he simply knew how to focus on the uniqueness of each one of us.  He romanced our positive qualities and our strengths and made us feel special….made us want to be with him.  He was a young Don Juan and someone who knew how to touch a girl’s heart the right way before letting it break when letting go.  

Jorge was my first heart ache and my first love poem, my first dream of a kiss and the prelude to my woman fire.  I have loved many times since that innocent first time, and I have given my heart away with every single love.  Wherever you are, Jorge, I hope you remember the girl named Maria who sang for you once upon a hospital lovestory.