A Shadow of My Former Self

I took a trip back in time on Saturday.  I left Mr. X and our napping children, stole his car and headed across the lake to meet up with two of my friends from college, both in town for our 15th reunion.  I was very excited to go.  I looked forward to the reminiscing, the visiting of old haunts and the telling of old stories.  And, frankly, I was just as excited about not having any children or husbands in tow.  I was a single gal, at least for an afternoon.

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Photo by zimpensifh, Creative Commons

I was also excited because one of the two friends I was meeting up with was an ex of mine.  I had a major bee in my bonnet for this boy for most of college and frankly, a few years afterwards.  Even when we were dating, though, I knew that we could not be together for any long period of time because we just brought out the worst in each other.  But, we did have a chemistry that was undeniable.  The last I had heard from him before the Facebook Era was right around the time I was getting married to Mr. X.  The Ex called to see how life was going and to report that he too had found someone and was getting hitched.  I was surprised, to be honest, since he had terrible commitment issues when I knew him and I couldn’t see him changing this so quickly. I wished him well, but was a little piqued that I still wasn’t the right lady for him.  Ten years later and he is now divorced and a single father of two.   And I am a happily married mother of two.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have at least a spark of attraction left for him.  But why? Because he was the one who sort of got away even though even at the time I knew he wasn’t right for me? No, I think it’s mostly because I never quite knew where I stood with him – did he like me, did he not like me? I could go through a garden full of flowers picking petals right and left and still wouldn’t have found out the answer. I wanted him to like me, I wanted to be The Girl He Wanted because he was the boy that I wanted.

When I joined Facebook in 2010, we reconnected.  We caught up and eventually came around to discuss our time together.  He apologized for leading me on, and I apologized for coming on too strong.  But, neither expression really captured what was going on. We were playing a game of push and pull with exquisitely bad timing and misreading of signals as only young adults can do so well.  At that time, I allowed myself to think about actually being with the Ex again and felt an almost immediate rush of … revulsion.  He wasn’t what I wanted.  But, I still wanted to be what he wanted. I still wanted to know, once and for all, if he really ever wanted to be with me.

So, fast forward to yesterday, sitting in the university center which was at once so familiar and also so modernized to be unrecognizable.  His mannerisms are driving me crazy again and we’re bickering, just like we always did. I said something about how I loved that my phone chirped and he said, “God, I missed you.”  “Missed who?”, I said. My phone? “No,” he said. “You.”

Later, after dinner hearing the really terrible tale of his divorce, I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek before leaving.  I realized in that moment that I still care about him, but now, it’s the same care I would feel for a brother (if I had one).  I wanted to mother him, make sure he was doing ok and find him a nice girl. I wanted to give him words of encouragement for getting through the tough years of being a single parent and getting his business off the ground.  Most of all, I wanted to tell him it was ok, I know that he did want me, just the way that he should.

History, Herstory

I went to college in the deep, deep South of New Orleans as in if you went any further South, you would be in the Gulf of Mexico. Well, you had to still drive a ways, but that was more a function of the shitty roads down there than distance.   I moved there at age 18 years and six months to embark on my illustrious collegiate career after living for 14 years in the uptight, frigid (temperature and otherwise) and all around wretched mid-Atlantic.

By Sidereal via Flickr Creative Commons

In choosing Tulane, that illustrious alma mater of such luminaries as Jerry Springer, Newt Gingrich and Amy Carter, I yearned for the following: a) warm weather; b) warm weather and c) warm weather. It was indeed warm – saunas were cooler – and I was Dorothy in Oz having been deposited there at my wish by the good folks at US Airways. The same bastards who lost my luggage.  I flew Aeroflot to Moscow in 1992 and they didn’t lose my luggage.  There was duct tape on the wings of that lovely little Aeroflot jet and an engineer looking at parts of the engine quizzically, but they still managed to handle the bags.  How on earth did US Airways manage to do it on a domestic direct flight, the flight that took me to college? Almost 18 years later this still annoys me no end.

It was at Tulane during my sophomore year that I also came to know  an honest to Gawd Cajun Boy.   He had the accent, the cooking skills and the dance moves. He was so exotic to me being from the frigid uptight Northeast, yet by Louisiana standards, he was pretty normal.  Provocateur that I was, I let slip very early in our conversation that I was an atheist and he, being the Good Catholic that he was, reacted as if being hit with holy water.  I think he called me a heathen which made me laugh and just flustered him even more.  I was immediately smitten and I knew that he was interested too.    We got to know each other, he managed to look past the atheist thing and we sort of started to date, although it was more me chasing after him and him playing hard to get.  I knew deep down that we were never going to be together in the normal, boy/girl way because he had issues and I didn’t have the patience to deal with it.  But, the time I spent with him was some of my happiest in college.  After graduation, we kept in touch, but I was still harboring feelings for him and he had even more issues at that point, so I let him go.

I also let him go because I was embarrassed at how I had treated him sometimes in those days.  I see now that I was a very normal, typical 20-something who was still a little stunted socially and had trouble navigating the muddy waters of being friends with other people.  I never did anything cruel, but I wasn’t what I now consider to be a good friend.  So, I continued to feel badly about how I thought I had treated him.

We reconnected last year on Facebook and I had the opportunity several months ago to finally apologize for how I had treated him.  I didn’t know if he would respond, or if he did, what he would say and to be honest, I didn’t really care.  It was more important at that point to tell him.  He did respond, and rather than accept my apology, he gave one of his own for what he claimed was leading me on all of those years.  I just had to smile at this.  It was such a good reminder that what we consider to be a fault or problem is usually not even noticed by others.  Here I had spent several years not wanting to contact him because I felt badly about how I had treated him and he had spent that time thinking that he had led me on in college.

I thanked him for his apology while making sure that he understood that it was completely unnecessary because I knew that he was like that from the beginning and I accepted it.  I also told him that I knew he was hard to get and I eventually became happy just to be with him as a friend rather than anything more because I just enjoyed his company (oh, and did I mention that the boy could cook?).   I didn’t hear anything further from him, but I had to hope that his heart had been lightened a little just as mine had.

Has telling the truth brought you similar experiences? Please share.