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Archive for May, 2013

I’ve been enjoying the thoughts of this young writer and have even shared her posts with my daughter and my son’s girlfriend. Today I particularly enjoyed reading her blog because of its constant use of the word steadfast, which sounds like a great title for a book. (=:

the wild love

Dear Hilary,

I have a question. And it is this: how do you know when it’s time to move on? To give up? I said I wasn’t like anyone else. That I wasn’t going anywhere. And I don’t want to. What if the deep quiet love with a wild and crazy illogical side is the true love. I’m sure I could meet someone new some day and fall in love with them, have a passionate romance, what have you. But what if this is my only chance for that deep true sitting quietly by your side not saying a word just being there love? What if he is the person i could spend the rest of my life with, just like he was terrified of? How do I know whether to let go because clearly he isn’t ready to admit anything yet? If he even actually feels the same at…

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Jealous? Not me.

My first thought when I saw his face on his new wife’s Facebook page was this:  “Wow.  He’s much better-looking than I remembered.  No wonder I was so crazy about him.”

My second thought was this:  “Where’s the bucket?  I want to hurl.”

He and I dated in college, more than thirty years ago.  Yet I still taste the bitterness of our failed and mercifully short relationship.  He was the world’s most awful boyfriend.*

But don’t get the idea that I’m jealous.  My perfect husband and I just celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary.  We have two perfect kids.  I love my job.  I’m excited about writing.  My life rocks.  This is not a post about jealousy.

But why should some other woman get to marry this older and visually improved version?  If he’d looked that good in the picture we had taken at the Homecoming dance, the one where he sat around with his teammates rehashing the game in his suit and tie while his lonesome date turned into a devilish shrew, I might have kept the photo.

I shredded that picture when his car sat in front of my dorm all night.  Parked right there in front of my window.  He wasn’t with his football buddy up on the fifth floor.  Everyone in the entire building, particularly the girl he had to be with, knew he wasn’t with me.  I don’t get angry much.  But I wanted to gather up my rage, march out there and flip that smug little VW right over.  That night, it’s true:  I was jealous.

When my college roommate and I recently got in touch, she spent the first fifteen minutes of our online chat berating me for having ever dated such an awful jerk in the first place.  Which was actually kind of funny, because I met him on a blind date.  It’s not as if I sought him out.

And we had fun on that first date.  I have no earthly idea what we did (it was thirty years ago), but I remember having fun.  And I remember that giddy anxiety that accompanied me the next time or two we met.  I remember meeting his parents and visiting with them during home football games.  I remember that he escorted me to a formal dance I chaperoned during my student teaching, and that he knew exactly where to look for kids who were misbehaving.

But I also remember this:  his roommate was in several of my classes.  And as the relationship continued, the look in his eyes turned from respect to disbelief and then to disappointment.  I caught flashes of disgust.  It’s one thing that my friends thought he was a terrible boyfriend.  It’s another thing entirely that his friends thought he was a terrible boyfriend.

And then I remember fury.  The exact nature of his many crimes escapes me now, but whenever I picture his face or remember his name, the fury returns.  My fury, in fact, grew so large that I ripped out the knife he’d twisted so cruelly in my ribs and figured out a way to plunge it directly into his unsuspecting ribs, twisting it twice for good measure.

But jealous?

No way.

In my saner moments, I understand we weren’t compatible.  I can’t speak for him, of course, but the forces that attracted me to him repelled me in equal measure.  I loved him to pieces and couldn’t stand him.  I wanted to spend every minute with him and then never see him again.  I wanted to nestle in his arms, yet also punch him in the face.  I’d never really punch anyone in the face.  But it crossed my mind.

(Full disclosure:  I’m really not this small-minded.  Really.)

*I treated him as poorly as he treated me.  If confronted on this point, my defense will consist of the time-tested retort:  He did it first!

 

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I’m good at using the internet to find people.  My father was in the Air Force, so my old friends don’t all get together at one particular reunion.  We’re scattered across the country.  Social media has given us the perfect way to stay in touch, and from time to time I get motivated to find more friends from back in the day.  Males are of course the easiest to find.  Men with unusual, distinctive names pop up in one search, no matter where they’ve landed.  Girlfriends are much rarer.  They marry, divorce, make new lives in new states.  Girlfriends, I must hope, will try to find me.  (Fortunately, some do!)

This practice hasn’t been without its sad moments.  One of my best friends from the seventh grade died before her ten-year reunion.  A boy I knew in the same neighborhood was murdered.  A high school boyfriend died under mysterious circumstances, and the last guy I dated before dating my husband has died of heart disease.

This week I had one of those bursts of curiosity that sends me to my keyboard.  I had the urge to find a couple of guys from high school.

Our final move, when my dad retired, landed me in Spokane at the start of my sophomore year of high school.  And for reasons that would take far too long to explain, I found myself, for the first time, without an active social life.

After my first lonesome year, I knew of one more way to gain acceptance on the social scene.  Today, a lonely girl would attend a few club meetings to find one in search of new members.  Heck, today, that girl would start a new club.  Me, I looked for a boy in need of a girlfriend.  I’m too old to be embarrassed about it.  It was a standard gambit for a girl of my era.  So stop judging me already.

I found him in the back of my German class.  Steve was a gifted athlete one year older with a glum expression and a bad case of acne.  Besides our strange interest in German, he was, like me, a bit of a social outcast.  I discovered through diligent research—no need to call it stalking—that his father had a drinking problem.  Mine did, too.  I also discovered that he lived in the same not-quite-up-to-snuff neighborhood where I lived.  He already gave me a slight lift of the chin if he saw me in the halls.  All I had to do was wait for the right moment, which in my day meant waiting for the dance which required the girls to do the asking.  I knew we would hit it off and get along beautifully.  The plan involved more details, of course, many more details, but I won’t bore you with them here.  Just take my word for it:  I took all the right steps, and my plan could not fail.

You already know, of course, that when I mustered up the courage to invite him to the dance, he didn’t say yes.  Instead, he looked confused and said just about the worst thing a boy could say.  He said, “I was hoping someone else would ask me.”  You don’t need me to tell you how I froze in the hall as he continued on his way.  You don’t need me to explain that I spent the next two weeks fixated on my shoes as I walked the halls, afraid to let anyone read my bewildered expression.

You see, another girl had moved to town several months after I did.  Two of them, actually; they were twins.  They fit in better than I did, and one of them noticed, as you probably already guessed, that there was a talented athlete walking the halls without a girlfriend.  Everything I had in common with Steve, all my good intentions, they weren’t of enough value to him.  He needed a ticket to the inside, too.  I could offer him affection.  But she had true social currency.  She already belonged.

Steve continued to play sports well, though not well enough to play in college.  He attended a local community college and became a chef.

I saw him only once more after his graduation.  He was at a party, probably during the summer, standing in the doorway looking just as glum as I remembered.  But instead of raising his chin in greeting, he reached out his long arms to give me a hug.  And he apologized.  He told me he was sorry about what he’d said to me and for not accepting my invitation.  He hadn’t enjoyed his date with the other girl at all.  He knew he’d have had a much better time with me.

He wasn’t one of the first people I wanted to look up online.  I typed his name into Google just yesterday.

Steve died in a house fire in 2001.  The reporter shared his athletic achievements in football, basketball, and the high hurdles, explained his restaurant career.  I was pleased he included all those things, but less pleased that he shared explicit details about how Steve was found.

Today I tried to find my Sr. Prom date, Mike.  I first met Mike working at The Early Dawn Ice Creamery, one of those old fashioned soda-fountain places.  Mike was handsome, funny, and smart.  Most teenagers wanted to talk about other kids or sports figures or celebrities.  Mike liked to talk about movies and food and current events.  We dated briefly (he broke up with me out of the blue) but remained friends.  He later transferred to my high school, and I invited him to be my prom date.  At our 10-year reunion I learned he was working in a nearby city, and intended to get in touch to have coffee or something.  But I never did.

Mike died in 1995.  His obituary doesn’t state the cause of death—unusual for a young man of 35.  It does mention a companion, and asks that remembrances be made to the Seattle AIDS Support Group.  Mike was, of course, one of the guys who inspired me to write Steadfast.  I never imagined he might have actually met the same fate as the character in that book.

I’m taking a break from finding old friends.  It’s just too sad.

 

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