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.

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