I was at my Mom’s early last week, and while she went in the kitchen, I stayed in the hallway and tried to take the photo of me off her hallway wall. It would be too obvious, so I decided to take a picture of it instead. I needed tangible proof of the item that haunts my thoughts. The item that appears in my mind, along with my Mother’s voice, telling me I’ll never be enough because an almost 20 year-old photo in which my bright eyes look lifeless, no smile to be seen, is the only photo of me that my Mom finds worthy of display. My mother is my constant mirror, and this photo is my reflection in her eyes.
So as I’ve been finding the courage within myself to publish these very personal stories, I’ve also thought back to question why I didn’t demand more from men. Staring at that photo that I despise with my entire being, I concluded that if that was the only one moment in my entire adult life when my own Mother found me to look worthy of being displayed on her wall, why would I ever believe that I was worthy of a man’s love? I hated, but subconsciously accepted, that being someone’s dirty little secret might just be the best that I could do.
And how could I not, all at once, become the nicest person in the world and the biggest bitch that ever lived? Ever resentful and hateful for feeling that I had to make everyone happy in order to feel even an ounce of love.
Just last week, a friend read The First Time and pointed out that some ladies, who might be feeling guilty because they’d also been the other woman, would think, “Whoa, he had a girlfriend?” He’s right. I’m sure that there are women, even men, out there who will judge my indiscretion, and they couldn’t judge me anymore harshly than I have judged myself for years. I often justify it by saying that I fell for him long before I knew about her, but even I don’t believe that I shouldn’t have crossed that line, that I couldn’t have been stronger. But I was there and the question in front of me was real and I was not emotionally prepared…
We’re all guilty of thinking in absolutes. At one point in our lives we’ve been asked or asked ourselves to ponder the rhetorical, “What would you do?” and responded with absolute confidence in our choice. “If presented with situation X,I would do Y.”
It’s all about good intentions. We really do imagine that when faced with choosing between right or wrong, we’d choose correctly. But life isn’t about clear cut yes or no, black or white. Reality is messy and emotional, and emotions cloud all of that clarity and conviction, making the ‘right choice’ much more difficult to make than we ever imagined.
Such was the case for more years to come than she’d like to admit…
There shouldn’t have been a First Time, but there was, and though the mistake had already been made, the choice to end it at that point was still available for the taking. He wasn’t hers, he belonged to another. She had met the‘other, liked her even. But none of that was visible through the cloud of emotions she was surrounded by.
She worried that there would be a next time because without temptation, this could stop here. She worried more that there wouldn’t be. Their every encounter is stored in her memory banks, every detail except the order they happened in she’s not clear on which encounter happened next, she only knows it happened. But what to the reader may sound like an illicit affair, really amounted to less than 10 intimate moments due to long months of bitter fighting in between.
She dated many others, slept with some of them. She used them to hurt him. If they were on speaking terms, she’d remind him that he was her friend and would recount the details of her dating life to him. He listened attentively to each story. It was a sick game. At one point, she met a guy whom she really liked, saw a future with and didn’t want to sully it so she didn’t share it with him, but he found out and called her as soon as he could.
“So, I heard you have yourself a young one now.”
“Lord, who told?”
“No one. You know I have someone watching you everywhere.”
“You’re an idiot. Don’t fuck this up for me. I like him.”
He laughed, “Yeah, sure. You’ll probably want to tell him that I said it was okay to lease you for a while, but I own you and will take you back as soon as I’m ready.”
It would be months before they were together again. This time he called her and asked if he could use her shower because his was broken. When he walked in her apartment she prepared herself for the usual games. Some idle chit chat, then play fighting, which would eventually turn into a hard smack on the ass and pulling of the hair, and then into more. But he came in, they chatted for a minute, and he headed to the shower. She was perplexed. He didn’t even seem to want her in the shower. She sat on the sofa and waited for him. He came and sat next to her and they talked for what seemed a few hours. It felt like their old friendship. But of course, this was them and there’s always the inevitable lust lurking in the shadows, but even that was different. They weren’t play fighting. They were two grown ups with obvious intentions, and instead of the usual mad dash on the floor or sofa, he walked her to her bed, lay her down and moved so slowly and softly she didn’t know how to react.
She knew she should just lose herself in it, but her mind was reeling, what is going on here?? Eventually, she shut it off and just let him guide her to wherever he wanted to go. She didn’t want to break the spell. Afterwards, he lay behind her holding her, kissing her neck. She couldn’t breathe, didn’t want to move, afraid that he’d realize what he’d done, where he was, and who he was with. They fell asleep.
The next morning, as they went on their way, she couldn’t help but smile. He text her that evening, talked about picket fences, marriage, children…not theirs, just in general. And then he confessed, he had broken up with his girlfriend. He was now officially single and while that should’ve been good news, she was actually afraid. The conversation about the picket fence, the marriage, the children…they were things he didn’t want. He in fact didn’t know what he wanted and their beautiful night together had not helped to make it any clearer.
They would never recover from this turning point. Their entire relationship after this point would be grounded on his confusion and inability to love her, and on her need to be loved. It was tempestuous on its good days, indescribable on its worst. They couldn’t be together, but they couldn’t stay apart and she would unhappily remain his little secret until this very day.