The following question has been in my Sarahah box for almost four months. My apologies to whoever submitted it. It was a difficult request and I have not been particularly inspired lately. Writing fiction is something that I want to be able to do but I have struggled with it. I have worlds in my mind that seem to disappear as soon as I sit down at the keyboard. The truth is, I fear what I write will be bad. I know that is an emotional response and not a logical one, the truth is that what I write WILL be bad but it will likely (hopefully) get better.
Anyway, here is the story of the first time I was truly in love with someone who I could have spent my life with. This probably wasn’t what you expected but it is a love story. In fact, it is even a true(ish) love story. I’ve changed a few details, though a clever person who knew me in college could probably figure it all out.
“Please write a public love story. Dealer’s choice. I am interested in the love story you choose to write. I asked because you seem thoughtful and kind and different from me, and because a love story is a good antidote to daily internet snark and negativity.”
It was her laugh that first drew me to her. She had an infectious laugh that blossomed throughout her entire face. Her cheeks raised up until her eyes were barely a squint, her face already lined with wrinkles showing a lifetime of laughter. Her voice was husky and almost sandy, but distinctly feminine. There was an old soul inside her that had moved beyond the skepticism and apathy that often plagues us as we get older. She was beyond that, she was to the point of seeing joy and love in every moment. Not because she thought everything was perfect or that she would live forever but because she knew that it wasn’t and she wouldn’t. She was one who wanted to suck the beauty out of life and live every moment and that passion came through in her laugh.
At the time I was 27 and a senior at the College of Charleston. My years off after high school and time in the military made me older, though hardly more mature, than my undergraduate classmates. I felt a little odd hanging out with them sometimes and found myself interested in hanging out with the grad students. Which is what I was doing when I first heard her laugh, I was at a grad student party that was mostly Marine Biology students.
Almost without thought, I drifted towards the beer pong table where she was chatting with some friends. I awkwardly tried to join the conversation but spent most of the time listening and trying not to stare. I was painfully aware of my close-cut hair which still reflected my time in the army. I didn’t keep my hair short out of some sort of allegiance or political statement, but because I was broke and literally had no idea what else to do with my hair. Buzzing it monthly was easier and cheaper than going through the anxiety-ridden process of finding a barber, telling them what I want, and suffering through the process of talking with a stranger. Instead, I just buzzed it.
She and I eventually ended up chatting alone as alcohol coursed through our veins. Our inhibitions were low and I was talking openly about my life and she shared her experiences. I learned about her family in the northeast, her studies, and just life in general. I tried to focus on her words but felt captivated by her freckles and dark red hair (I would later find out she is “black Irish”). With every new piece of mental stimulation, my body responded with greater desire. People drifted out of the party and I knew the end was approaching, I wanted the talk to continue, I wanted to kiss her, but I couldn’t bring myself to make either happen.
Instead, we said our goodbyes and I went home, but that wasn’t the end.
Over the next few months, we crossed paths several times at parties and events. Each meeting brought bigger smiles and more talking, and eventually more than that. Our relationship changed after one fateful party when she invited me home with her and I had some of the greatest drunk sex of my life. I shouldn’t have driven to her place that night, I was too drunk to be on the road. That night shouldn’t have happened, but it did and things ended up okay.
After that night we didn’t really discuss what our relationship “was” or if we were exclusive. We both declared what we wanted, I wanted to be open and she wanted to be closed, but we never made a decision. We just assumed the other person was doing what we were doing… which was a mistake. Despite the ambiguity, we grew closer and closer to the point where professors and friends were asking if we were dating, a question we both always just shrugged off but I think others were more perceptive than we were. We were often together, had some of the deepest and most fulfilling conversations, and the most electric sex. We were dating, even if we didn’t want to admit it.
Things continued to go great for about a year. We had told each other that we loved each other and we traveled to meet each other’s family and friends back home. Things were great, but they had to end because our lives were on different trajectories. Upon graduation, I accepted a position in Washington DC and she was staying in Charleston to finish her grad work. I think we wanted to make it work long-distance, but we really couldn’t at that time. We were perfectly in sync and in love, except in the ways that are most important for long-term commitments. We just weren’t going to be in the right places at the right times.
So, after much struggle and suffering, we officially ended things. We tried to remain close friends but neither one of us could really move on as long as the other person was available. We both turned to each other with drunken phone calls and saw each other when I visited Charleston. We had great sex afterward but the spark, the love, the life of our relationship was safely buried to protect our hearts. Eventually, we changed phone numbers and unfriended each other on Facebook. It was love. It was true love. And it was my first. But neither of us were willing to make it happen, and that’s okay because there is no “one and only” and true love can happen many times.
I still wonder about her from time to time, particularly when I hear Flogging Molly or drink a Guinness. I wonder what could have been if I decided to stay in Charleston. I wonder if my life would be different or better, but those thoughts are fleeting. I am happier now than I have ever been and because of our decision to pursue our own lives, I ended up meeting my partner, my second true love, and the best connection, compatibility, and sex of my life. And I think she is doing well too. She is married now to someone she met shortly after we broke up and their connection is deeper than hers and mine was (she told me that shortly before we saw each other last).
Our lives turned out better because we decided to see this love as something that has value even if it isn’t “forever”. In fact, I think the ephemeral nature of it makes it more valuable. It was perfect for a time, but that time had to end. We learned from each other, we grew as people, and both ended up happier in the end.
I love her. I always will. And if she ever reached out to me to rebuild a friendship then I would welcome that. I’d love to meet her husband and I’d love for her to meet my wife. But I don’t think that’ll happen. Instead, I’ll treasure our love and the memory of what we shared together and forever appreciate what we had.
So, that’s my love story. Wanna share yours? Or do you have a question or comment for me? Feel free to use the links below. There is literally nothing that is off-limits (as you will probably notice if you read through the on my AMA page). You can also email me if you want a personal response and I won’t post anything publicly if you want privacy.
Oh, and if you get some value out of this I’m always accepting tips and my book is available via the Amazon link below on Kindle and paperback.
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