Moments

Nostalgia: 21

At 21 I fell in love—so I thought at the time—and when Ilearned that the object of my affections would be moving elsewhere, I quit my job, packed my bags and followed, sort of— I ended up about five hours north ofwhere he lived.

Disregarding the distance between us and what it meant, I began transforming my life to one that I believed would be pleasing to him; I created the image of a pious church-girl. I did such a greatjob that I believe I could put a Hollywood public relations team to shame withmy skills of deceit. Sadly, I wasn’t just fooling the people around me; I began to believe the lies myself.

Despite all of my efforts at being the perfect girl for him,my ‘love’ was unrequited; he never saw me as more than a friend and didn’t pretend to. I saw what I wanted to see. We wrote letters back and forth and visited each other once, then, as will sometimes happen, the time between our letters grew longer and one day what I received in the mail wasn’t a letter, but a wedding announcement. He, Sean, was marrying Shauna. Cute! No?

I’d like to add a dramatic climax to this story and tell you that I was devastated, sobbing into my pillow, unable to sleep and eat for months, but it just wasn’t so. See, five years had passed and in between our letters I had had crushes, I had gone on dates, and more importantly I had built a life full of friendships. My life—the deep part of it, the part that was really me—was full. I was happy.

The news of his impending nuptials incited a bit of sadness at seeing an old dream die, but while I was waving goodbye to that unfulfilled dream I was also waving goodbye to the girl I had pretended to be and welcoming the woman I was just beginning to become.

It was an awakening of sorts. I realized that he and his approval were my only ties to a religion I had never been sure I believed in. I was 26 by then, an old maid in a world where most girls—yes, girls—married by 22. I left religion behind and worked on measuring the value of my life by increments of experiences rather than by with whom I was or wasn’t sharing it—still a work in progress.

About six months to maybe a year later—the timeline of the receipt of that announcement escapes me—I was checked in the hospital having just had back surgery. In a lot of pain and on a lot of drugs, I was surprised by a visit from him. He had graduated nursing school, married and was a nurse in that hospital. He was working on my floor, but on the other side and had seen my “very recognizable and unique” name on a chart.

We exchanged pleasantries and I was as coherent as I could be with drugs in my system. The next day he brought Shaunna in to meet me,“I’ve told her so much about you.” It would be the last time I would ever see him.

I think about him sometimes, not of the ‘what ifs’ but just wonder where they are, did they have children, the nice things. He was one of the good guys—kind, intelligent, sensitive—his only flaw was that he didn’t feel as I did. Sadly, a friendship-ending flaw.

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