Since Taylor Swift’s debut album, I’ve always felt a certain kinship with her. With every song she releases, I can’t shake the feeling that she just gets me. Her first album came out when I was a freshman in high school, and for the past ten years, each album has met me exactly where I was, expecting nothing more from me than taking a moment to listen and hear my own experience reflected back through the speakers. My love life – the real relationships, fake relationships I made up in my head, impossible crushes and broken hearts that resulted from all the above – can be traced through her music. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always identified with her; because I saw in her someone equally as crazy as me.
- Invisible – from Taylor Swift (Bonus Tracks)
Sophomore year of high school, I was enamored with a drummer in the marching band. I called him McDreamy, due both to the fact that I thought about him constantly and he had the same tousled curls as Patrick Dempsey.
We had the same lunch period on odd days, and though we never sat together, A said hi to me every time, even if it was just with a nod from the table he sat at with other seniors. I heard from watching band practice that he liked a girl named Rachel. My stomach plummeted because I knew who she was and I didn’t stand a chance. She had long brown hair and an effortless, plain beauty that didn’t need makeup to accentuate it. During the mornings in the commons, I watched from my group of friends as A and Rachel interacted. Maybe my observations were skewed because I had convinced myself that we could be a beautiful miracle, unbelievable, instead of just invisible. If he would just acknowledge me as more than a little sister and sophomore, we could at least have a solid seven month relationship that would last until he went to college. I have to admit that in my head, we would fall so deeply in love that no matter what college he chose, we would date long distance for two years, I’d attend the same college and we’d eventually get married. It seemed obvious to me.
- I’m Only Me When I’m With You – from Taylor Swift (Bonus Tracks)
In mid-July, J had our entire friend group over for a camp out in their expansive backyard. That night, after the bonfire had burned to a smolder and we were all filled with hot dogs and chips and s’mores, J brought out a small quilt.
“Come here,” he told me, motioning with his hand for me to follow.
We walked away from the embers of the fire where everyone else was laughing and talking. He spread the quilt out and lay down on his back. I followed suit. Between us was only an inch or two of space, since the quilt was small and a slight breeze blew, making even a July evening chilly in New York. My heart beat doubletime inside of me as I considered reaching over and grabbing his hand.
The stars shone as brightly as I remembered them on my grandparents’ Virginia farm. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since we were hours away from the city, but it was comforting to feel like a piece of home was with me here. It felt like J had something to do with that, even though I knew that was logically impossible.
“Do you see the big dipper?” he asked.
On that Friday night beneath the stars, in a field behind [his] yard, I studied the sky, but other than noticing whether or not stars were visible, I’d never spent much time looking for constellations.
“Nope,” I told him, unafraid that I looked stupid.
He pointed at the sky to his left, “It’s right there.”
I tried to follow an imaginary line from the tip of his finger to the sky, but I still couldn’t find the stars that formed the most obvious constellation besides Orion’s belt.
J grabbed my hand and lifted it, his pointer finger on top of mine.
“That one’s the North Star,” he said. He moved our hands, painting pictures in the sky, and my heart lodged in my throat making it impossible to talk and difficult to breathe. “And these are the handle.”
By the time he pointed out the ladle, I thought I might pass out.
“Do you see it now?”
He lowered our hands and kept his on top of mine. We laid there without talking, crickets singing. Everything I need is right here by my side.
- Fifteen – from Fearless
About two weeks into our long distance relationship, B became the first boy to tell me he loved me. When you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. Every night when we spoke, I felt like the center of the universe, like a star exploding into brilliant light. I saved every text message he sent me, recording them in a notebook I kept under my bed. He called me princess and sweetheart and told me how beautiful I was. Once, he called me when he knew I was in school (he’d had a day off) and left me a voice message singing a Chris Brown song. That night, I downloaded the song and burned it onto a CD and listened to it on repeat, savoring every lyric as a reminder of B’s love for me. How the hearts all over the world don’t feel how he feels when he’s with me.
The months crawled by as they do in high school, but each day was bearable knowing that B would be on the other end of the phone when I got home. Except he eventually stopped answering. Instead of talking on the phone every night, we’d speak every few nights. He had excuses about homework and his parents’ concern over the long distance phone bill, but it seemed like he was holding something back. In late April, he told me about his girlfriend. I stayed up until three in the morning crying quietly in my room before moving to the couch and snuggling under the old baseball blanket from my mom’s ex-boyfriend. We weren’t allowed to stay up late or watch television after midnight, but I turned it on anyway and watched Tony Little promise results with the use of his Gazelle, the blue light from the screen burning my eyes.
A year later, B and I saw each other at a church event. He kissed me behind the main cabin during a break from sessions. For the rest of the weekend, I allowed myself to wonder where a relationship with him might lead. Maybe this time, things would work out, and I wouldn’t end up crying on the floor of the cafeteria bathroom, my sister’s arms wrapped around me, a hall pass in her hand. Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday, but I realized some bigger dreams of mine. When B hugged me goodbye that Sunday, he let his hands slip from my back to my butt. I was destined for more than that.
- Superman – from Speak Now (Deluxe Edition)
My relationship with H happened completely in my head. He was a six foot three native Alabamian with a slow southern drawl. When I met him, I loved [him] from the very first day.
I imagined us falling in love at his house on Monte Sano Mountain. Every encounter we had cemented in my brain, and I replayed them over and over, hoping that one day we would smile as we retold them as part of our love story. He tried to teach me how to smoke hookah, but I didn’t understand and coughed the whole time. When I got stood up on a date, I went to his house, and we watched the Atlanta Falcons play, content in silence except when his fantasy football team scored points. He didn’t say anything about the date when I told him, which was weirdly comforting. Even though I wanted him to kiss me in my vulnerability, I knew that was too cliche.
I’d meet his parents, who would love me instantly, boasting at how great a match I was for their son. His brother would love me, and my parents would adore him. In my mind, we hiked in Monte Santo State Park, took trips to Nashville and posed for pictures by the “I Believe in Nashville” sign, spent lazy Sundays switching between football games on television. We’d take turns cooking meals. I never let myself imagine the proposal; I wanted that to be a surprise.
He was still in school, so I edited papers for him and sometimes did work while he studied for the LSAT. I wanted to be there when he took the test and again when he got accepted into his dream school. I hoped that he would end up in Chicago or New Orleans, the two places I expected to be for graduate school. Since we’d both be alone in a new city, our love would be inevitable. I imagined watching him [put] papers in his briefcase and drive away to save the world or go to work. It’s the same thing to me.
One Saturday, a bunch of us went to a hockey game. My friends knew the extent of my imaginary relationship with H, so they arranged for the two of us to sit together at the game. H had played hockey in high school, and this was my first hockey game ever. The entire night, he answered my questions as I tried to keep up with the game. Every time a fight broke out, H let out a whoop.
“Fighting’s half the fun,” he told me. I remained unconvinced.
Later that night, when we all posed for a picture, H leaned in close, his temple touching mine. I was sure that he felt the spike in my heart rate and the heat suddenly emanating from my cheeks. After the game, we went to the movies and despite the cliche, we shared a Coke. It wasn’t as magical as the advertisements made it seem. Nothing happened.
- Everything Has Changed feat. Ed Sheeran – from Red
Jamie introduced me to S at one a.m on a Thursday in October. We were both drunk, so we sat on the plaid love seat in the foyer of the frat house and laughed at the people stumbling in and out of the bathrooms. When he didn’t ask for my number, I gave him mine.
That weekend, I visited my sister, and I thought about S the entire drive there. All I’ve seen since eighteen hours ago is green eyes and freckles and your smile. He texted me the entire time I was gone. Every time I looked at my phone, my sister asked me why I was smiling. The newness of his interest in me surprised me and made me nervous.
We studied at the library every night. Even when we didn’t talk, sitting next to him made my cheeks flush. After the library, we’d sit in my car, talking by the tennis courts until two a.m. I just want to know you better, know you better, know you better.
Two weeks after we first met, he walked me home and kissed me. We stood outside the door to the sorority house making out for so long that he missed the last D.D. ride and the last bus. He insisted that he would walk home, that it was no problem. I invited him to stay with me, instead. Even though we slept curled into each other in my twin bed, we did nothing more than kiss.
When we woke up in the morning, we rode the bus together to campus trying to be inconspicuous. This was nearly impossible, since he was still wearing the same blue polo he’d worn to the frat house the night before. We both went to our 9 a.m. classes with the promise of meeting for breakfast right after. By the time we got to Au Bon Pain, all the seating was taken, so we sat in the student center on a couch. Once our breakfast bagels were gone, we sat there holding hands. It took us a few more months to solidify our relationship, but it was that morning on a couch in Squires that I traced it back to. That was the morning everything [had] changed.
- Bad Blood – from 1989
It was a simple arrangement, really. N would text me, and we’d hook up. He was the first person I’d slept with after my two year relationship with S. We met on Tinder. Against my better judgment, I invited him over to my apartment to hang out on a Sunday afternoon. We spent an hour laying on the couch before he kissed me.
“We don’t have to have sex,” he said. “I mean, you’re planning on seeing me again right?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Then I can wait.”
The novelty of this proposition, that he didn’t expect sex from me outright, made him even more attractive. I was thinking that [he] could be trusted. It was either this or the fact that it’d been a year since I’d had sex that convinced me to jump into bed with him right away.
We fell into an easy rhythm. I would wait for him to text me after work on the weekends, and around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, we’d have sex and then he’d leave. To his credit, he never left immediately. Usually we’d lay in bed for a little while, talking about his soccer team and how he wanted to go to the University of Central Florida to study film. He even told me he wanted to take me to the movies to see Hotel Transylvania 2, the sequel to his favorite kid’s movie. Though I didn’t necessarily want anything more than sex with him, this comment sparked a hope in me. Maybe things would move forward.
After a few weeks, N asked me if he could stay the night on Saturday. I went out with friends but didn’t drink so that when N texted me, I could go home. He was supposed to get off work at eleven and come right over. At ten-thirty he texted me that he had to mop the floors, so he’d be later than he thought. Around midnight, he said he was on his way. I waited an hour before I realized he wasn’t coming. Did you have to hit me where I’m weak?
A few months later, I got a call from his girlfriend.
Baby, now we’ve got bad blood.
Morgan is a native Virginia pursuing her MFA at Georgia College. Her work has appeared in The Atticus Review, Lunch Ticket, and various other journals. She is an assistant fiction editor for Arts & Letters and the Director of Publicity for 2040 Books. She loves Taylor Swift (obviously), cowboy boots, and glitter. Find more of her work at www.morgancoyner.com. Connect with her on Twitter: @MCoynz