You know what it’s like when you meet someone and you can’t breathe and you feel like someone’s given you a date drug but you know that’s not possible and you keep wanting to stare at the person and you are so self-conscious you can hardly talk? Remember that? Pretty much, most people remember that if they are lucky.
And then what happens is that memory, that electric memory, just goes away and we’re left with whatever decision we made about that person along the way. We could’ve married them, we could’ve dated them, we could’ve just thought about them, it doesn’t really matter. That feeling that you get when you’re attracted to someone is so dangerous because it can cloud rational thinking for your entire life.
I remember having that feeling. I remember meeting someone and thinking that it was the most surprising meeting I’ve ever had in my whole life.
Looking back, I remember after our first dinner we were waiting for our respective cars and it was a cold night and somehow without thinking I leaned back into him and he said something like “ is this OK?”
I didn’t respond to that because we both knew that it was.
We spent a year together off and on because our children were young and sometimes we had to be alone with them and not with each other. We tried to plan our weeks so that we each had our kids at the same time and we wouldn’t be lonely. I remember thinking I wasn’t lonely because I had my kids and I had him and I was fully convinced that he loved me more than anyone had ever loved me before.
Once, when we were on our way to a restaurant in San Francisco and walking past an alley, he grabbed me, pulled me into the dark of the alley, and kissed me in a way that I’ve never been kissed before, to quote a song.
We went to Paris together, we went to Lake Tahoe together, we went to New York together where he asked me to marry him.
We had been dating at that time for maybe eight months and I had not even been divorced a year. Neither had he. We were sitting in a hotel room on the upper east side and he said there’s something I want to ask you. He was pacing at the time which I’ve never seen him do. He said, “stand up”and so I did and he said “the only way I can solve this dilemma is if you marry me”.
I said what dilemma? And then he told me that his ex wife was trying to get back into his life and he felt guilty because after all he was an Irish Catholic and there were two children to consider and if we were married she would stop doing that.
I looked at him.
He said to me you don’t have to say anything I can tell how you feel. You look like a deer caught in headlights.
To be honest, I was panicked. This was the first I had ever heard of this and we’ve been together almost 9 months at this point. I was scared shitless but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe that this was really happening because I was so convinced what we had together was so strong it would never be broken apart.
I said to him I can’t marry you because I’ve just gotten divorced and it would mean so much upheaval for my children. I think it would be too hard. Let’s just keep on having a great time and after a while I know it’s gonna work out. You can’t go back to your wife. You were miserable!
He said oh just forget about it let’s go out to dinner and things were never the same between us.
We got back to California. There was Christmas to get through and suddenly he just stopped calling. At first I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Honest to God it never occurred to me that this great passion would have an ending. This camaraderie, this intellectual compatibility, this deep understanding of each other: it never occurred to me that this was going to go away. I didn’t believe this could ever happen or even think about it. Nothing could take this away for me as it was the first and last time I’ve ever felt like this.
I called, I wrote, we had dinner, but he never had the guts to sit down and look me in the eye and say “this is breaking my heart but I have to go back to my wife and my family even though it’s you that I love”.
He left phone calls unreturned. Once in a while we would have dinner but he would never come home to my house. I heard through friends that he had moved back in with his wife. It was the most unbelievable thing to me that I had ever heard. I had spent months hearing from him how that would never happen and how she had lied and cheated and he would never go back. I believed him. Just as I believe the clock on my iPhone now.
I thought we would be together forever because it was so good.
I behaved badly for a few more years. I was so embarrassed about my behavior but I couldn’t help it. I would call him and write to him and try to see what he was doing. I couldn’t get him out of my mind.
Years have gone by since things between us ended. To be honest, I don’t really think about him much anymore.We did meet one night in a bar and had too much wine together. Unfortunately it broke my heart all over again and there’s nothing that hurts more than having to put something together a second time.There are so many more pieces.
Last fall I went with a friend to a funeral out in Marin and I chose my seat on the side of the tent very carefully because I did not want to see or be near him. I knew he would be there. A nice young man came and sat next to me and I said to him he looked familiar. As the service was beginning he said I am married to blank blank who is the daughter of this man. For a moment I thought I have to get up and move and run out of here but I decided that at this time in my life I would stay put.
I watched my friend give his tribute to his old friend who had died. It was clear to me that he had noticed me. It had probably been close to 15 years since we’d seen each other. I can’t comment on how he looked because I knew I still loved him and he could be 500 pounds and purple and I still would.
He had the power to make my heart turn in my chest and to make me feel tremendously sad which is a feeling that I have had all too often in my life. It’s almost like if you’re going to sleep and you know you need another blanket so you take the same one from the end of the bed and put it over you but it doesn’t warm you it only makes you immobilized for time.
I’ll probably never see him again. We will never be together. The future I saw so clearly in 1995 will never exist. I don’t know whether it’s better or worse to have felt this kind of love for someone else and to have felt this kind of passion or if life would have been easier never knowing the feeling? People talk about sustainable farming. I wonder if sustainable passion exists?
I only know that with this man I felt like a woman first and It didn’t matter that he was alcoholic, completely sexist, rude, sometimes mean, in the long run I can’t explain it. We had a chemistry that was different and magic and it never changed over the time we were together.
If he came and knocked on my door tomorrow I’d pack my bag and leave with him. There’d be no turning back, there would be no questioning. He’s the first and last guy that I trusted enough to consider traveling with through life and letting him drive.
But then again I’ve made a lot of bad decisions about men.