Where do relationships go when they die? Looking back on my own boyfriends, I see that I have even forgotten the broad outlines of some of those relationships, let alone the feelings that inspired them. I can remember thinking that I'd love those boys forever, that I'd lay down my life for them, that I'd never love anyone else. I can't remember why, sometimes, though.
But there is an exception lurking among my past relationships. The one that got away, that left me after a tumultuous, passionate year for another woman, a woman that (I just learned this week) he married and moved to Scotland with. When he left me, he wasn't doing well in many ways. His mother had died a few short months beforehand. He was only 19. He'd lost his job, he was very depressed, and he'd told me he'd thought about killing himself. I'd worried about him for many years. I googled his name. I tried to contact his cousin to find out what became of him. I did a deed search on his old house. I even paid $19.95 for one of those reports. I'd resigned myself long ago to never knowing the end of the story, so it was a real shock to hear it this week, just casually, from a co-worker who is the mother of his best friend. To me, it was like he was resurrected from the dead.
If a new ending to the Lord of the Rings series had been uncovered and printed in the paper, the first thing fans of the series would do after reading it would be to go back and re-read the rest of the books. And so it is with this relationship. I've been thinking, all week long, about things I haven't remembered in years.
I remembered going up to his family's camp in upstate New York, the fun of riding ATVs together (the only time I ever have), and how romantic it was to drink hot chocolate and dry out our clothes by the campfire later on.
I remembered sneaking beers out from a reception at work, and sneaking them into the drive-in and drinking them and watching the movie under a blanket in the back of his pickup truck.
I remembered hiking down by Devil's Hole with him on our first date. Romantic, and original as hell. Most guys just take you to Applebee's or something.
I remembered our very first kiss, during the fireworks at the Labor Day fair, and kissing for hours in the car in my driveway.
I remembered buying a sexy nightgown for the hotel room we got the night of our company Christmas party, and how little sleep we got that night.
I remembered getting all dressed up to have lunch at his house before work when we first started dating, even though I knew my outfit would get totaled at work (I worked with developmentally disabled people; open-toed high heels are not a good thing to wear to work).
I remembered eating dinner together on the river at the turn of the millennium, and pulling over in the middle of nowhere at midnight to kiss.
I remembered hanging out with the cousin I later tried to contact, and his friends, and how they got scammed into buying a bag of oregano on Main Street and his cousin wouldn't admit it and smoked three bowls of it by himself.
I remembered how I bought him a bonsai tree for Christmas, and then learned that he'd bought himself the exact same tree from the same place at the mall. When I went on a fishing expedition to make sure it was him who'd mentioned the bonsai and not some other friend, apparently, it reminded him of how much he wanted one and he bought it for himself!
I remembered going to Planet Hollywood in Niagara Falls with him, and how he ordered some badass manly drink with whiskey or gin or some damn thing, and he took one sip of it and couldn't finish it. I shared my fruity girly concoction with him.
I remembered all the times we walked together over the Rainbow Bridge to Canada, and how I never got tired of how terrifying and romantic the Falls were; they made every night special.
I know I made it sound perfect, and made him sound like the perfect guy. It wasn't, and he wasn't. We broke up twice before the last time, and the stress of it all made him be horrible to me sometimes. I was having trouble adjusting to life after college, and I'm sure I was horrible to him on occasion too. The way it ended, of course, was a horrible and painful shock. I think I helped him through everything, though, and that's not a small thing. I'm glad he's happy now, although part of me continues to wish that it had been me.
But despite the way it all ended, I'm glad I had it at all. If I could do it again, knowing that I couldn't change the outcome, I would.