I think I was around seven years old at the time. My family had relocated to Switzerland and I was attending grammar school. Switzerland was small and cramped. The streets were brick and narrow. Every corner had a bakery and the air always smelled like pine. Despite the fact that the country still had neo-nazi tendencies I felt safe for the most part, as safe as a seven year old could feel I guess.
I was attending school and I remember when he first sat next to me. He would follow me everywhere. You see, the Swiss are very holistic in their approach to elementary education. The day would start off with putting my slippers on (yes, we wore slippers to school) and handing Frau (Mrs.) Schafner an apple. She would then carve a silly face into it smile at me and give it back. That was breakfast. The rest of the day would consist of playing, laughing and making small crafts. I was happy.
One thing I remember about him was that he had a head full of almond colored hair. It was curly and framed his face. His skin was pale and he had bright brown eyes. He said I looked like cacao (chocolate in German). This was when I realized I was the only Black girl in the class. Coming to terms with the fact that you are “different” is always an interesting process. Before that I never paid attention to it. He said it very innocently and matter of factly. You know, the way kids typically state things. Almost every time we paired off he would slyly scoot closer to me. We would play together. He’d follow me. We’d fight. He would get on my nerves. Then we would be back to playing the next day.
Basel was a small city so you would run into people you knew all the time. One time I was walking with my mother and I heard someone scream my name. He ran up to me and pulled me to the playground. I liked to be with him. He made me happy.
Later that year, we moved back to the U.S. I never saw him again.
I think about this experience from time to time. The innocence that accompanies childhood is so pure. You love without reason or consequence. You love wholeheartedly. You are too young to realize the pain and hurt that comes along with love.
As adults, what if we loved like this?
Take away all the rational and self reasoning. What if you solely paid attention to how your heart was drawn to others. As children we were drawn to one another. Can one ever question matters of the heart?
I can’t even recall his name but the experience stuck with me.
That was my first time.
The first time I fell in love.