Archive | January, 2013

The Boys I Have Loved, pt 2

21 Jan

Three years post high school, I was very briefly but very crazily in love with Andrew. This was short-lived and obsessive, and of the times I’ve been in love since Junior, this reminded me the most of that relationship.

Unlike Junior, who had grown up with me and had very similar personality and goals, Andrew was nothing like me.  His family was unstable and flaky, and I had come to use mine as my strongest support system. His sister was crazy; mine were my best friends. His aspirations included becoming a personal trainer. He was obsessed with working out. He thought my strong ideas about feminism were admirable. We laughed over him being a stay-at-home-dad.

He loved how smart I was. He loved that I wanted to become a doctor. We met on a cruise, and we spent most nights staring at the stars talking deeply about politics and family and our values and dreams. The sex was fantastic; in such a short amount of time, with no idea whether you’ll get to see each other again after this week, every time is impassioned and reactionary and indomitable.

He beat me at a drawn out, drunk game of shirtless, human-sized chess. I remember him standing there, in the dim lighting of the cruise at night, the dark water behind him. That moment might have been when I fell for him. Instead of holed up in small rooms with our friends, we spent most nights lying on large lounge chairs together on the cruise deck, talking and napping until breakfast came and we would wake up our friends.

He lived very far away, and he came to visit me for a week some time later and we had planned for me to visit him as well and, as it can be expected we fell out of touch. We did not fare well, together, in the real world; merely in the fantasy life that vacation allows to temporarily exist. In the few ways we were similar, neither of us was patient. We both demanded instant gratification. And we were both easily made jealous. Long distance did not suit us well. Even short-distance, long term would not have suited us well. We eventually, slowly, fell out of touch, with the exception of the occasional drunk text – which became fewer and further between as we each graduated into our own very different worlds.

Despite Andrew’s interference, Oaklan was the love of my undergraduate college career. He was a quarterback on Lehigh’s “fantastic-for-our-division” football team; he was six foot four and a lefty and had the best abs I’ve ever had the opportunity to lick. He was from Tennessee, and had a slight accent to prove it …he was also a complete ass, only slightly masked by his drawl. And I loved it.

We had a volatile, demanding love that went unnamed for the majority of our three and a half year relationship. It took me two full years to figure out (or admit) the feelings I had for whom I had previously considered merely my fuck-buddy.  He did not love me… not in the same way I had fallen for him, and – if he did at all – certainly not for as long. It was most certainly not healthy; he was rough, and severely emotionally unavailable. At the time, of course, these things were sexy and adventurous.

I met his family in Maryland; I stayed there overnight with him once. I spent many nights in his small flat. I pulled all-nighters studying for poly-sci finals I would not be tested on; making mnemonics and flashcards and snacks.  We spent hours in my car, talking about what I could only imagine this stone-wall of a man did not share with anyone else – his broken family, trust and relationship issues. His childhood. His ultimate, probably unachievable goals.

We stood taking pictures for an hour in a cemetery on a snowing day in January. He came with me to my Rugby formal, even when he had a girlfriend back home. He did a lot of things with me, even when he had a girlfriend back home. He took me to his football parties, explained plays as we re-watched game tapes. Pushed me into a concrete wall where I scraped my arm once when he was very drunk. He made attempts to befriend my friends … once or twice. Bruised my hips and arms where he grabbed me.  Met my family for dinner before graduation.

It took the separation of graduation – and 800 miles between us – to gain the perspective I needed. Or the perspective, at least, I pretend to have gained in the year and a half since. We have spoken only intermittently; less so, since I bailed, last minute over Christmas, on visiting him.

I dated Russel for an entire year during my Master’s program. I was living at home and commuting into the city. I spent many nights at his apartment in a crappy nearby neighborhood. I probably was not in love with Russel, so he might not fit into this list as well. I cared for him very much, at the time. Russel, however, was very much in love with me. We spent many days doing what I wanted to do – driving to the aquarium I had to see, attending fancy fire-fighter dinners, spending weekends away. The relationship was always on my terms, which I (arrogantly) felt was only fair, since I was the one compromising myself; he deserved to compromise in mostly everything else.

My family disliked him, mostly because they knew I would never be happy with him, I’m sure. He didn’t fit in with my friends, and I spent a laborious year trying to appease both them and him. He was jealous and angry eighty percent of the time, which he was forced to hide because I did not altogether care very much. This was not a relationship where I grew; it was not a relationship I was constantly happy in.

It took me a year to break up with him, which probably wasn’t fair. I knew after three months that it wouldn’t work out, but I was reluctant to so deeply hurt him, as I knew I eventually would. This was the first (named) long term relationship I had been in since high school. Russel taught me, unfortunately, what I didn’t want in a relationship – which was, truly, a shitty position to put him in. I used him to make me feel great about myself, which also wasn’t fair. And while I feel good about helping him become a better person, I deeply regret the year I spent wasting both his time and my opportunity to really spend time with my family for the last time.

I have been loved by five boys, maybe more. I have thought I have been in love with five.

I have not been in love in a very long time. Perhaps it is broken. Or perhaps, as you grow up, you forget how to love innocently, how to love wholly – subsequently, with every time you are hurt. With every kiss you gave and did not mean. With every person you, in turn, have hurt.

What does it mean to be profoundly lonely? It’s the sense that you’re watching something that could be perfect, and it falls through the cracks. It is the sense that nothing is good enough; and that, of course, must stem from the common denominator: that you, in turn, are not good enough. It’s watching your closest friends find relationships that satisfy them, that they grow through.

It is noticing, as the five boys you have loved get listed in black ink on a white page, that none of these would provide a sustainable or happy future for you.

It’s the realization that, unless you want to grow old with seven cats swarming around you, something has to change. Perceptions have to change. Motivations have to change: after all, cats are aloof, snotty creatures – and they are attracted to defeat. And they make most people sneeze. You don’t want to be surrounded by them.



21 Jan

Sometimes, when you listen really closely, you can hear the sound of a moment ending. It’s a tinny-faint-crashing sound beneath the silence; a ringing so far into your ears it could just be your imagination. But you can’t rid it. It is persistent, and it aches: from your ears to your throat down to your vacuumed chest and gripping the edges of your stomach, curling in on itself.

The Boys I Have Loved, pt 1

17 Jan

There are five boys I have loved.

I fell in love with Junior when I was thirteen.  Love, at thirteen, is not mature; it is not conservative or sensible or contained. The feelings I had for him were intensely impassioned, loud and public. They were shallow, I have come to realize, but in the moment they were all consuming. Every fiber of my small, underdeveloped thirteen-year-old body was in a constant state of obsession over Junior.

He first kissed me on March 27th. Well, I think so – he always disputed this. While I asserted our first kiss was outside his house as he got out of my best friend’s mom’s car, he maintains that it was in the stairwell the next day, when we were hiding and talking instead of working on our after-school projects.

I’m obviously right. I remember how fast my heart was beating when I got back into the car. I remember replaying that moment over and over in my head, not able to sleep that night. I remember the ridiculous smile I didn’t even realize was on my face for days. I remember dreaming of our lives growing old together: a child’s fantasy, to postulate beyond the realm of middle school. For years after our inevitable break-up, Junior would act as the gold standard for the boys in my life.

That was in eighth grade; the majority of that year was spent forcing my three best friends not only to obsess about him with me, but to force them to respectively obsess over his three best friends. Two of those were successful. One unrequited obsession may be ongoing. With that exception noted, that is what thirteen-year-old love is: learning kisses in the dark with a thread of saliva hanging between our mouths. Locking eyes across the room for over half of Social Studies. Running my hands down his back during games of keep away. Feeling electric as his knee touched mine under the table in our reading class.

It was world-rocking and heart-shattering and so perfectly innocent, as first loves are wont to be. Similarly, it came to a wrenching end not so long after it began.


But high school did begin, and this is where I fell in love with Des.

I will preface this with the disclaimer: my boss and mentor in my Leadership Program pronounced the pair of us the “worst-matched pair, probably in the history of ever.” After we graduated, there was a strong recommendation put in place that no two people date within the Leadership Program, due to ‘disruptions in the Leadership Process.’

I was lonely in high school, depressed leaving my best friends behind. I had known Des for many years, and it was so simple to fall into a relationship with him. It elevated my spirits and gave me something to concentrate on outside of my schoolwork. Gave me a best friend to talk to. Social status in a school I had previously been a hermit at. I loved him for these reasons.

For three years, it didn’t matter how horribly matched we were. What would matter, eventually, were the daily fights. Were being pushed against lockers and, worse, ignored when he was angry with me. The girls he kissed “at baseball practice…” they mattered. What should have mattered was our inability to compromise on anything.

I remember vividly, during 11th grade Health Class, being assigned a mechanical baby to take care of. Des and I were partners, and, at first, we had worked out a schedule to take care of the small robot. Duties involved changing the magnetic diaper; feeding the tiny magnetic mouth and burping the hard plastic back afterwards. Nothing too outlandish. Students were expected to adjust their sleep schedules (the babies went off religiously at 4:15 am) and work around school work (finding baby-sitters during test periods, for instance) during this week. Days 1-4 went swimmingly. It was the fourth night shift, which I had taken, that was particularly exhausting. On then the fifth day, having dragged myself and a screaming toy robot to the school and handing it to Des, I was headed off to my mentor’s office for a nap during my free hour.

I remember him saying, “Can’t you just take him this morning?” I had said no. Vehemently. “Come on, you have a free period.” Absolutely not. “Stop being a bitch. Just take him.” Anger, now, bubbling up next to exhaustion. This turned into a yelling match, outside of our homeroom at 8:15 in the morning; a small carrier with a metal robot sitting on the floor between us. Both assuming the other would give in, I stalked away from him and the carrier; he did the same in the other direction. Hours later, right before Health class, we walked towards the room at the same time. He appeared unsure. “Where’s…the baby?” It was his turn to take the damn thing. He knew it was. We walked in, eyes wide, to see the small child-thing sitting on the Health teacher’s desk.  It had been screaming it’s little robotic scream in the hallway for an hour before a fed-up principal brought it to the health teacher’s room.

It was the only assignment I failed in high school. Until only a couple of years ago, I was still violently opposed to having children.

Much like the robot child would have under our supervision for any longer, our relationship (and seventeen years of friendship) erupted in a fury of lies and jealousy and hurt and anger – a blackened, charred end of a very long, unstable relationship.