He and I discovered each other decades ago. We bumped into each other years after we’d attended high school and found ourselves back in our hometown. A few days later I asked him to see a film with me; I was temporarily living with my parents and needed a night out badly. When we returned to his house, he invited me in for a beer and before I knew it we’d talked effortlessly until four in the morning.
He was smart and I liked it as much as his unique sense of humor. He was a musician, which delighted me and guaranteed many hours of conversation. Our sensibilities were complimentary; that first night we spoke about Miro, the smell of rain in a forest and the beauty of weather-worn buildings and the rusty patina of ancient metal. Our talks were at first a delightful see-saw of discovery, then became exclamations of agreement and finally, indulgent, intoxicating hours of thrall and excitement, lasting deep into the dawn, with the pulse of connection overcoming any hint of fatigue.
He loved me. He drew me close and all of my little girl fairy tales, teenage romanticism and the aching sorrow of my first love lost became trivial and silly. This was the love I never dreamed of, this was a place I’d never been. Even the most exaggerated expressions of devotion no match for my feelings, no other experience had prepared me for the way he made me feel. He called me a miracle, I called him mine and, suddenly, everything around me looked brighter, teeming with life, as if God had turned up the volume and polished the sun’s rays, just so we could have a world worthy of our joyful and holy connection.
He took me camping, I took him to art museums. We listened to music like people read scripture. Soon, a lyric or a riff or a voice became discoveries we could hardly wait to share with each other. Every weekend was a feast for the senses; I cooked and he marveled at my creations, we walked till our legs ached as we discovered nature’s treasures. He read poetry as my head rested on his chest, I read him stories as he stroked the spirals of my hair. He passionately ranted about injustices, big and small, and in those moments I was distracted, loving his boundless energy and the conviction that was his spirit’s signature. We sang, we danced, we went to dives for dinner and to diners for wee-hour breakfasts. He practiced his sax and I sat at my loom and when our work was done we collapsed into each other, grinning into each other’s eyes and fitting together easily as we hugged.
He murmured “mmmhhh…” every time our lips moved together. When we made love we discovered new landscapes, with delicate fingers that drew sighs of contentment and gasps of pleasure. Our scents and limbs and greedy hands mingled and moved and I marveled at just how close we could become. It seemed we became one, soul to soul, cell to cell, through and through. More than once, in afterglow, I thanked God for my lover and our love. Our weekends made us beautifully vulnerable and sweetly sensitive; Monday was a cold shower, a shock to the senses as I found myself back in the harsh, hard-edged place outside the chapel of our union. I felt the need for a layer of protection as I slowly became acclimated to reality.
He broke up with me. I was stunned and completely blindsided and he was cruel, making it more unbearable. With a single, cold sentence he slashed my heart open, mere hours after he’d tenderly kissed me goodnight. He said he’d felt a door close inside of him, but I’d have to wait for a clearer explanation of his decision. To make matters worse, we were bound together for the weekend. What was meant to be a lovely escape in the woods became what seemed like a life sentence in a small space where creating distance was impossible. Even the weather was in on the conspiracy; it rained so long and hard I couldn’t escape outside. At midnight, he turned his back to me and fell asleep, under the tree limbs that scratched the A-frame’s roof. I stared at the wooden slats above me, wide awake till dawn, my mind racing and searching every crevice of my memory for something that would explain what I’d done wrong.
He finally told me, many silent days later. He pulled out a scrap of paper with notes he’d written down to make his explanation efficient. Pushing through a thick fog of denial, I listened closely to each word, as if I needed to memorize them all. Suddenly, I realized he was describing things that couples worked through and that I’d made no unforgivable mistake. Nothing he mentioned had any more importance than the cliché of an uncapped tube of toothpaste. I didn’t speak these words to him, I made no protest. I was young and confused and not brave enough, yet. And what would be the point? There would be no reconsideration; if I knew one thing for certain it was that his mind wouldn’t be changed.
He finished talking and I simply said I understood. I asked him to leave, holding back my tears until I closed the door behind him, closing the door on the “us” I’d taken for granted. I leaned back and listened as he shut his car’s door. I listened as he turned the key and the engine sputtered and growled. I listened as his car’s tires splashed through puddles, the noise fading away as he switched gears and drove faster. And I thought how convenient it would be if I could just put my life in reverse, so I could skip our first evening together and avoid all the long evenings without him that were just beginning.