In ninth grade I got my first boyfriend. There were a lot of reasons I liked him. We both were teased by our circles of friends for not wearing jeans. Jeans aren’t comfortable! No one else understood. But he and I, we got each other. We both preferred walking through parks over malls. Another boy would have thought I was fucking weird when I announced, “I want to roll down a hill” while walking in Golden Gate Park one afternoon. My 9th grade boyfriend thought I was fucking cute instead.
Another teenager would have wanted to go skinny dipping, or bungee jumping, break into an abandoned building, drink a six-pack, or do drugs. Me? The rush of rolling down a hill was all I needed. It’s really the safest, out-of-control thing you can do. To connect with grass, feel the rush of speed and adrenaline as my body rolled without my controlling it. The feeling of exhilaration when the hill leveled out and my body came to a stop. Stretching out my limbs on the green grass, looking up at the blue sky, and feeling so very alive.
We looked for a hill that day in Golden Gate Park, but we weren’t in the right part of the park for hills. We both had to be home for dinner. I didn’t get my wish, it didn’t really bother me, I didn’t give it much of a second thought.
Next time we met up it was near his house. He had a plan and he wouldn’t tell me. What teenage girl doesn’t like surprises from her cute boyfriend? He led me to a park near his house. Walking in parks was kind of our thing. When I say “walking in parks” I actually mean that. That’s not code for “Making out in parks”. I never made out with my 9th grade boyfriend. He and I would kiss but in an incredibly G rated kind of way. I was a really innocent 14-year-old.
He lead me to the park, down a path, and stopped at a fork in the road.
“Here we are,” he said. There was a pond in front of us, a grassy hill on the left, another path lined with trees on the right. I didn’t get it. I stared at him blankly.
“You said you wanted to roll down a hill. Here’s a hill.”
He’d listened. He’d remembered what I’d said. Much better than I had. He’d granted my wish.
Other 14-year-old girls had boyfriends who brought them roses or teddy bears. My ninth grade boyfriend brought me to a random hill in the middle of a park. He’d done it just to make me happy. It was kinda the most romantic thing ever.
In the 15 years since, boys have bought me flowers and jewelry, they’ve brought me chicken soup when I was sick, they’ve cooked me dinner. I’ve watched the sun set over lakes, held hands across the Brooklyn bridge, been kissed in the middle of Grand Central, flown to the Colorado mountains. None of it has been quite as sweet as rolling down that grassy hill, laughing out of control with my first boyfriend ever.
Teens in 2001 who didn’t like jeans or malls, hadn’t seen a single episode of Dawson’s Creek, and were happy rolling down a grassy hill. We were fucking weird together. I think I’ve been searching for another boy to roll down hills with and be fucking weird together with ever since.