“The first time I saw you, I knew I would love you. When I kissed you, I lost my heart completely, and all we wanted was just to stay that way…”
A road that winds through my memory. Trees covered in leaves, each a sliver of remembrance. Crystal waters, and cool, crisp air. Sometimes when I breathe deep, it's still with me. The freshness, the joy… the sorrows.
One stolen weekend, two lost hearts.
* * * * *
Flash. It was a number I hadn’t called in so many years, but once had dialed it several hundred times in young, breathy anticipation. I was calling a print shop for a current project I’d been working on. It all came rushing at me in a fierce gale of memories – the stolen moments of watching him at work – waiting for a glance, a word, or a thought. A minute of sinful dereliction, followed by an hour of selfish remorse, and an eternity of yearning.
He hadn’t worked there in ages, and neither had I patronized the store, in fear of being haunted by the two crossed lovers that lingered in my mind. A young woman, perched on the counter from to , talking away some nights, quietly lending her presence on others. The broken spirit of a weary ghosted man whose graveyard became his haven.
A love lost in the dark corners of my mind came scurrying into the light, and I couldn’t sit anything but still, as it overtook me, blocking out the sun and taking me back to those lost, desperate times.
Sure, I’ve had wonderings – where is he? What’s he doing now? Did he ever.. but it’s been a long… long time since I sat and reminisced. This is one that I’ve been afraid to remember. I don’t like to live my life by what-if’s – there’s no use in it. No point in conjuring up fantasies because if it was meant to be, it would have been. The realist in me has always been a knife to the heart of the romanticist.
I grew up learning not to want for much. Were we poor? No. A bed to sleep in, toys to play with, food to eat. What was lacking, and secretly coveted, couldn’t be bought with saved up pennies. Love, security, self-awareness.
As adulthood came rushing at me long before it should have, I vacated further into a well of isolation. Siblings I couldn’t rely on, shifted from home to home, feeling quite unwanted, I was like a pinball – bouncing senselessly, with noise all around, but made of steel.
In my early twenties and already feeling in my forties, living alone, I don’t know which was stronger, the hunger or the anger. I had absolutely no reason for living, nothing to keep me going other than my unwanted survival instinct. I wasn’t a beautiful creature, didn’t stand out in a crowd. Eyes cast downward, not wanting to see much of anything, and yet seeing too much of everything.
One night I walked into an all-night copy store, and fell into the rabbit hole. A vortex of feelings swept over me, and it’s something I’ve not ever felt since. Blue eyes, a worldly charm of yesteryear in his familiar smile, a stab of desire at my hollow heart – all came together in a complex melody that echoed inside, pulling me under to drown, and for the first time there was no inclination to save myself.
Somewhere, I’d known this man. I’d known him in past lives, in this current one, and I was going to know him in a future life. Though hazy at times as the moon passes overhead, this sudden understanding I felt that evening has never wavered.
That night was the beginning of a sweeping affair that spanned over the next few years. I shouldn’t feel so breathless now, remembering, but I’m betrayed by my heart. The words are difficult in coming – how do you describe a flame that destroys what its own rich colors create?
And, she knew. His wife knew. I had no remorse, and still don’t. It was his sense of “honor,” refusing to leave his children, that captivated and wounded me both. He was someone who was never going to hurt his children by “walking away.”
I hear this a lot, in my conversations with men. What parents don’t seem to predict is what happens when the kids find out. What does one say to their little girl, who discovers her daddy isn’t the hero she wants to find and marry when she grows up? How about to their son when finding out he knows more than they think he does about what goes on in an unhappy marriage? The best thing my parents did was call it quits. I was only a year old, my brother was five, but we would have lived in misery listening to them scream at each other.
Little did we know we’d grow up with it anyway throughout endless custody battles.
There were other men in between our trysts. Sometimes months went by without a word between us, as our lives flowed alongside each other, separate currents that occasionally joined together for a moment. Most often I preferred my company to be older. Looking back, I can see that in probing their minds, I was searching for answers to possibly understand my own paternal relationship. Funny, I think that perhaps I spent much of our time away from each other drawing parallels to my father, and his distance from his children.
But I stand by their decision. Nobody should live their life being unhappy at the end of every day.
I stand by my own decisions as well, and it’s a hard stance to take. Just today, at the mere mention of him, my lifelong friend reminded me rather harshly of the higher road that she walked. There hadn’t been any support when I needed it, from the few whom I’d trusted to tell. It seemed at the time, and even still, more important to hold their morals high above them like a banner, rather than hold out a hand to their friend.
I was simply the outsider, not the one making the decision to break their vows. It wasn’t my marriage to answer to. There are things we are powerless to, and the intensity of my feelings for this man left me vulnerable in its wake. It was an unfamiliar feeling, and like a child given a box with all the wisdom in the world inside, I had no idea what to do with it.
Scattered moments were collected like seashells. A day spent at the piers in
, looking out over the sea lions as the wind brushed against us, giving us reason to hold each other close against it. We felt free that day – nobody knew we were a secret. Hands held together in the light of day, kisses that blazed with the sun setting over the bay. San Francisco
For the first time, caution was thrown to the waves, and I allowed myself to drown in these feelings. His renaissance air had me in a spell. In his eyes, there was a reflection of the beauty he seemed to see in me. Any other relationship that had occurred in my young life was always held at arm’s length. I wanted to revel in this grown-up love. And I did love him. The pull that I still feel in my heart at the thought of him tells me so.
I remember clearly the day that I told him. We’d gone away to Tahoe for the weekend, and were walking along the banks of
. It was spring, the colors were beautifully bright, families were everywhere and we seemed to be the only lovers to walk hand in hand. The breeze whispered all around us as I gave my feelings to him. It had been about two years of stealing moments whenever and wherever we could, moments like rare gems. Emerald Bay
He gently let me know that while he had a great passion for me, and the woman he’d seen me become, he couldn’t say he was in love with me. In his world, love was reserved strictly for his children. He’d tossed his own needs aside for so long, he didn’t ever expect to ask anything of anyone anymore – of his wife, or of me. This he didn’t say aloud, but I knew. I admired his loyalty, and loathed it equally.
It wasn’t clear to me then how he could confide his dreams, share his wishes, and tell me stories of his life with the need for me to know him as no one else did – and yet, he wouldn’t love me.
Something else about that trip has stayed in my memory. It was the first night of the weekend, and we were staying in a cozy little attic room at a Tahoe chalet hotel. With fifteen years between us in age, I was young and understood passion to mean only one thing – the craving of the other’s body, the possession of the other’s desire.
The flames that had consumed us on those first fiery nights together, in the beginning of our romance, were now smoldering ashes to glow in the darkened room.
Lying in bed, I’ll never forget these words: “Can we just hold each other? That’s what I miss the most...” He had a faraway look in his eyes, as they pleaded with me to understand.
I had absolutely no concept of this. Just to hold each other? I wasn’t comfortable enough with such intimacy. Sex, yes – touch and go on my merry way. Allowing someone to hold me in his arms all night?
I wanted to flee like a ghost into the night.
And when we returned, I did.
Perhaps it was trying to sort through this mess I now found myself in that prompted me to be so open about my deep harbored feelings. It certainly wasn’t out of courage, or hope.
Truthfully, looking back, I think it was my way to end things. On some level, I knew the feelings wouldn’t be reciprocated, that my pride would be the outlet to walking away.
We returned home with the unspoken knowledge that this was to be a lost weekend, and a last one.
It was a year later, maybe two, that we crossed paths. Standing there making small talk at the flea market while his son clung to his hand was torture. Finding out that my resolve to move on was nothing more than a sand castle crumbling beneath a crashing wave struck me hard.
I’d managed to begin and end a relationship in that time.
When the call came, I agreed to see him. What he had to tell me left me silent, and disbelieving.
It had been several years that I’d loved this man. Years of tear-filled nights, pent up frustration and anger at secretly wanting what I could not have – fury at being powerless against any of it. Moments of teetering on the edge of sanity, wrapped up in this inferno.
Now.. now he had a proposal. Now he wanted to tell me that he was beginning to envision a life with me. That he’d spent much of our time apart wishing that we hadn’t been.
Now he wanted me.
And I walked away.
I walked away, terrified and refusing to let the river break free – a river of emotions, a river filled with tears.
If I’d just stayed.. if I’d taken his hand in mine and accepted what was mine at last…
And now I’ll never know. But I do know the need to be held. I get it now, all these years later. It is an ache that comes from a dark place that lives in each of us, and it’s called loneliness.
I never saw him again. Life moved on, as I struggled to. I broke down at some point, beneath the weight of it all. I crumbled like the sand castle that was the statue of my resolve. The days blurred, and a familiar numbness settled into my weary bones. Not only had I fallen hard, but I stood with the scarlet shadow painted all over me. I was left to stand alone to face the choices I’d made. But, was it a choice? Can we, in fact, choose whom we love? It seems if we had that power, the mystical magic of it would vanish.
I went on to destroy what little esteem I’d ever had, with my self-destructive behavior. I didn’t seem to care much anymore whom I gave my body to, as long as my heart and mind stayed barbed and guarded, and intoxicated.
It would be an eternity before allowing myself to feel anything so profound again. When that day came, I didn’t run. Now, lying beside my husband every night gives me the peace of knowing I chose wisely.
Still, there are times when I wish that being right didn’t have to hurt so damn much.
“How could I know that everything would change, except the way I miss you – I still catch my breath when someone mentions you. We move on and put those dreams away, hoping that we’ll find them, come some rainy day…”
© Kymberlie Ingalls,
April 1, 2010
Lyrics: Come Some Rainy Day / Wynonna Judd
Leaving’s Not The Only Way To Go / Roger Miller