The First Break


It’s not unusual for me to wake up from a nap or in the middle of the night scrambling for a piece of paper and pen. I am a vivid dreamer, always have been, and more often than not I wake up from these dreams with thoughts, images, or phrases itching to be written down before they fade away into the grind of the day. On rare occasions, I wake up frustrated, grasping at rapidly dissolving edges that never  quite solidify. On these occasions I’m left with a terribly empty feeling… an almost desperate need to recall the story my subconscious was writing. I woke up this morning around 3 am in such a state, restless and frustrated as the watery edges of a dream taunted me. I couldn’t remember any details about the dream except for the image of one person and a hollow pain echoing in my chest.

After tossing and turning for over an hour, I finally decided to just get up. I found myself a few minutes later wrapped in my favorite quilt and curled up in the hammock in the backyard, staring up into a deep midnight blue sky. It felt like the most logical thing to do at the time I suppose. After a few minutes of peaceful early morning quiet, I decided to play some music on my phone. Scrolling through my playlists I selected a song, hoping that between the sway of the hammock and the haunting sounds of Daughter, I might be lulled back to my dream. I fell asleep with the opening lyrics of the song Youth whispering through my head…

“Shadows settle on the place, that you left….Our minds are troubled by the emptiness….”

A little after 5 am, with the song still playing softly on repeat, I scribbled away some pieces of the dream (see scribble below) into my phone notes, the words lifting a weight off my chest with every letter written down.

I am amazed at how clearly dreams can speak at times, how they can sort out and make sense of the hidden things. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the dream except to say it was a conversation…a conversation with the first boy to ever steal my heart… a conversation about the man who will receive it now. More than a decade has passed since that first boy left my heart in pieces for another girl. It crushed me then and unfortunately I allowed it to shut me down for a very long time, fearing love all together. He’s one of the reasons I fell into the habit of hiding.

I honestly don’t think of him very often anymore. But sometimes, when an old friend mentions his name or an old photograph resurfaces or some exquisite song lyric strikes at just the right memory, he will appear so suddenly, so unexpectedly, a raw twinge still shoots its way to the surface as if he only left yesterday.

I wanted him to be for always, but he was only meant for a season. Though a ghost now, sadly, he claimed so many of my firsts….  What about first loves is it exactly that seems to fuse with the very core of us for always? Why is it when they are lost to us, even though we know the loss is for the best, their ghosts continue to roam the halls of our memory as the comparison for those that follow?

It took great courage to love again after my first real heartbreak, but through the years other firsts have been given, other pieces offered to other people who have treated them with more care and less youthful fear. I’m different now, as I’m sure he is too. The anger has faded. And though something precious was lost all those years ago, other treasures have been found, and a different man will receive a much stronger version of my heart…


You took what should have always belonged to him…  My purest heart.

You squandered, out of fear, what should have been given to him whole…  My trust.

You collected, for your own ego, what should have been his to hear first…  My words.


How do I know?


Because even though I’m less,  his love makes me so much more.

Even though I’m stitched back together,  he embraces the beauty of my scars.

And even though I’m haunted,  he chooses to fight back against the darkness.


You ran, flinging empty words behind you….

He’s not afraid to stay.


Chelsey Whitlow








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