Here’s a story that I haven’t told before. I’m not sure that it needs telling, but it seems only proper that I continue to share stories of my past because I’m unsure of my future. As with many stories, old stories, memories fade and details are lost. Conversations especially. I wish that I could make this story something more than a narrative, but it is not fiction, and to place dialog into this story would create a work of fiction. It simply is an event from long ago.
A few years before I met my now husband I was engaged. I had a wedding dress. If I remember right my fiance and I were discussing a May wedding, or maybe it was September. His name was Tim.
I met Tim through a mutual friend just after high school ended. I hadn’t dated much in high school. One boyfriend in my senior year and a few other guys who were off and on dates during my sophomore and junior years. Yes, I was pretty naive. I was definitely a virgin. The sexual revolution hadn’t quite caught up to my personal feminist beliefs in 1978. The good girl still prevailed, but I was working diligently to change that.
Tim may have been just as naive. I don’t think he dated much, or maybe at all, before meeting me. I remember him as sweet, and kind, and funny. Quiet, maybe even shy. He was missing a lower front tooth so he wore this little flipper thing connected to a orthodontic retainer. I wish I could remember why the tooth was missing, but I don’t.
Tim and I did things. No, I am not referring to sexual things here. We actually did things, like taking trips on the weekends, or outdoor activities like hiking or horseback riding. I wish that I could remember more about the good things, or what we talked about, because I know we talked a lot. However, what stands out is that things fell apart, and one day after we had lived together for about a year, I found myself moving out and into an apartment, alone.
Somewhere late in that final year together he started using drugs. Pot for sure, and I suspect other drugs as well. He also came to realize that being married wasn’t what he wanted. I didn’t like that he had turned to using drugs. Part of me wasn’t surprised. Many in his family were heavily into all sorts of illegal substances, although I don’t think it was really any of them that encouraged him to start. I slowly managed to learn that a guy on drugs wasn’t who I really wanted to be with. The break up didn’t happen in a nice way and I fought it for a while, but it happened none-the-less. Close to the end, he once played me the song ‘Ramble On’ by Led Zeppelin. He probably said it was his theme song or something stupid like that. Still, over thirty-five years later, when I hear that song I have to stop for a moment and think, and remember. It’s actually playing purposefully in the background right now.
We had so many mutual friends that we continued to see each other, and be around each other. I refer to this time as my sexual revenge period. I was determined that what Tim and I could barely make work during our time together was going to change, and in the process I was going to make him jealous. I don’t think I have to say more. You can all imagine how that plan worked itself out. There were moments when I believe Tim was jealous, or at least I kid myself that he was.
I learned that being on my own wasn’t so bad. I had a new career, I was dirt poor, but life was okay. Then I met the man I am married to now, and of course IRONY jumped into the story. As I was beginning to grow closer to my now husband, one night there was a knock on my apartment door. You know who was standing there. Just for a moment I almost let him in, but I stopped myself and said no. I do remember clearly closing the door and feeling slightly smug because I had told myself so many times that one day he would realize…
I saw him twice more after that. Once at a mutual friends wedding. It was brief and awkward. Some time later I met him at another friends. He was with his then wife, who was largely pregnant. That moment happened. The one where you see yourself changing places with the person standing in front of you.
“That might have been me,” I thought as I looked at her. I felt sorry for that child, anticipating how drug use had, and would continue to play a role in its life. I also felt grateful that it wasn’t me. I had been devastated when Tim chose drugs, and decided not to choose me. When I saw him that final time, I really wanted to say thank you, but I didn’t. By then I was well established in my new relationship. I was in love. I thought that I would be in love forever. I probably thought that very same thing when I was engaged to Tim. Now I have to wonder if I ended up on the receiving end of that irony after all.
Postscript: Many years later, through a friend on Facebook, who was also friends with Tim, I came to learn that he had divorced, remarried and had become a very conservative Christian. And yes, I did ponder one more time what might have been and I knew that the outcome and life he lived now still had never been intended to include me.