She was a track star, a straight “A” student, and she did everything right. So right, in fact, that she yearned to do wrong; to be wild, to let go, to grow up.
I, apparently, was someone wrong at exactly the right time. Suspended from school for fighting and cutting classes, talking back to the teachers, saying whatever I thought or felt. I had started a process of giving up on what I had believed in, a process which was to last more than a decade; but I was seventeen, and I didn’t care.
So, we ended up together: for almost a year and half, even into college. She held onto me for that while as a way of showing she wasn’t just going to read off of the family script anymore. And I wore her like a prize: look, you all said I was nobody, but she’s with me.
We poured almost every drop of nascent passion we had into each other. I say ‘almost’ because, it turns out, we each had someone on the side. She had a boy from another school she saw at track meets. I had a girl who took piano from my old teacher. And so it went, until she ended it because she’d met someone else.
That was more than thirty-five years ago, and she’s still with that same “someone else”. I bounced around from girl to girl, then woman to woman, trying to find someone else who fit my maladapted behavior. Still, for years, I thought about her. It wasn’t that she was the most passionate love I’d ever had, although she was more-or-less the first. It was that she made feel like a better person, while she felt like a worse one — which was what she was after, at the time. Her fundamental decency, however, she could never really overcome with me, nor did I want her to.
But even though I was only a step for her on the road to who she wanted to be, she saw something in me; and even after a breakup, and all the heartache that entailed, she left me with a gift: the realization that I could, after all, be with somebody, and both of us enjoy it. We were not meant to spend our lives together, but I learned a lot from her and our interaction; eventually, we both realized (although she much sooner) that running from who we were was never going to change who we were.
So I have my memories of her; I see her, thoughtful, sitting down by the water’s edge, dreaming of something, something she had yet to find, but that she did find. And I also realize, that I loved her, not just for what she did for me, but because I took delight in her, and wanted her to be happy even after we split.
For love is like any other type of activity, we only get better at it by doing it.