A Tragic Return of An Old Flame

Readers of this blog are now familiar with my theory that old flames tend to dance back into my life in triplicate. When I get a phone call or email from one old flame, I am sure to hear from at least two more in the next couple of weeks. This time, the wait for flame number three took a little bit longer, but it came in a tremendously unexpected and tragic way.

But first, a little back story: A little over a year and a half ago, my friend Sarah and I were reunited after losing touch post-high school, growing as close if not more so than we were as teenagers. After I broke things off with V-Man for the final time, she was there constantly to reassure me that I had done the right thing, and that I was an amazing person who deserved and would soon find better. Of course, being newly married, she saw things from a broader perspective than I could in my feeling-sorry-for-myself-state, but deep down I knew she was right.

A week after the breakup, it was Thanksgiving Day. The night after the holidays, people in our hometown usually gather at the local “tavern” for mini-reunions. Sarah and I decided this year, it might actually be fun to go and see which of our classmates were back in town. When we arrived at the pub, we saw a couple people we recognized, but for the most part, the crowd was much younger than us. Like, class of 2008 with fake IDs young.

We sidled up to the bar for some drinks when this guy whipped around and said, “You’re SoloAt30, right?” He was ridiculously tall, lean, with long, flowing hair. He looked like he should be on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel (on a later date, some stupid hicks would ask, “Hey, are you the ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ dude?”), not sitting in the local dive bar, with his bedroom brown eyes and dimpled chin. He was no one I recognized in the slightest, yet he knew me upon sight.

Sarah stared at me, silently demanding an explanation. I shrugged, but I allowed him to flirt and buy us drinks. He told me how he knew my brother. He’d come over our house numerous times to hear the brother’s band and had gotten a couple bass guitar lessons from my dad. “You really don’t remember me?” he asked, feigning hurt. I shrugged my apology. I really wished I did.

Sarah quickly grew bored of our banter and glanced around for familiar faces. “Ah, there’s S,” she said. Harlequin Hero looked over and said, “Oh hey, you know my sister?”

“Yeah, she’s from our class,” I said slowly. Then I put two and two together. “Wait, you’re Harlequin Hero, as in S’s older brother??”  I didn’t remember the face, but I definitely remember the name and the association from growing up. S and I were never close through school, but she had been a long-time best friend of the girl who later also became my best friend, and we got to know each other better as bridesmaids for our mutual friend’s wedding years later. Here I was flirting ridiculously with her brother, who didn’t want to let a familiar (cute and older than 21-year-old) face leave his sight, but feeling a bit freaked, I made my polite goodbyes, and went with Sarah to say hello to S and a couple other classmates.

But the thing is, I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After assessing his dashing looks with Sarah and asking best friend Winnie her opinion of Harlequin Hero, having grown up with him,  I’m embarrassed to say I decided to cyber-stalk him. He raced motocross, so this wasn’t very hard to do. I found him on some extreme sports site. The shameful thing is that I signed up for a profile on this extreme sports site when I hadn’t touched an extreme sport in oh, 8 or 9 years. I sent him a very brief email saying it was really nice meeting him the other night, brazenly gave him my cell number, and said if he ever wanted to do something while he was still in town (for the next month), feel free to call me. I immediately deleted my profile and assumed I would never hear from him again.

A few days later, I get this random text message from a guy saying he’d be up for going out this weekend.  I mulled over the realistic possibilities and realized who this *must* be. So that weekend, Harlequin Hero and I had our first “date” at this bar a couple towns over to hear a band–I think it was a jam band, which is hilarious since all HH listens to are ’80s rock bands like Van Halen.

We spent the whole night talking, and we had our photograph taken by some city scene website. My friend T-dog sent me the link to our photo a couple days later and asked who the hunk was. She said I looked extremely happy. The next day HH asked me what I was doing a day or two later. He had tickets to a college basketball game.

The next couple weeks were filled with basketball dates (included a double date with his sister, who thanked me for making her brother happy after a really rough year), guitar hero dates, karaoke nights, lazy cuddling, stuffing our faces with amazing food cooked by his stepdad, and watching football with the entire family dates, and amazing romps. We laughed over how slightly pervy it was that he had crushed on me when I was just a kid, but now we both could brag.  He completely stunned me by getting me a thoughtful birthday present. And then immediately after, he got terrified, and everything went downhill.

From being the couple in a bar that people watched with envy because of the vibrant magnetism and fun between us to being a moody and distant pair who couldn’t go through two days without a fight, I was at a loss for what I had done wrong. His ex-fiancé had been in touch. He didn’t want to be back together with her. She had been terrible to him and completely broken his heart. But he was still broken, and he wasn’t ready to go all in. I was exactly the kind of thoughtful, passionate, smart, beautiful, funny girl he wanted to be with, he said. Someday. He just wasn’t in the right headspace for me now.

I tried very hard to respect this, but it stung like hell. Especially when he still kept reaching out. When he’d call and invite me over before he left because he needed to say goodbye. When he’d call me to talk about a motocross event we both were watching. When he’d invite me down to visit him in Florida anyway.  But he needed to be selfish, and I needed to move on to someone who was ready for me. So he did what he needed to do to get his career momentum back, and I did what I needed to do to get my groove back. To say falling in love again with someone new was never the same is an understatement. At least, it definitely felt that way until a couple months ago. But that’s a different story for a different time.

To circle back to the theory of threes, Friday night I was flipping through the newspaper and my eye fell across the obituaries. It’s an old habit from being a writer–you find fascinating people and stories that way sometimes–and also just from growing up in a small town–you’re bound to come across a relative of someone you know in there. My heart sank as I read the name of HH’s baby sister. Twenty-one years of age, killed in a car accident early that morning. I immediately jumped to my cell phone to text HH. I sent emails to S and later another FB message to HH. He responded to the FB message with gratitude, saying he didn’t have my cell number anymore. He said he could really use my support and hugs this week, so I’m glad I reached out.

Tomorrow, my brother and I will go to HH’s baby sister’s wake. Winnie and I will go to the funeral together on Tuesday. Less than a year and a half ago, I was giving this baby sister advice about her future. She and her best friend were talking about going to Colorado. She was excited about the idea but afraid to leave home, and I encouraged her to go for it now while she was young and the opportunity was presenting itself. She could always come back home later, and the experiences she’d live through would teach her so much about herself.  Now she’ll never get that chance. She was so fun and full of life. If I had a baby sister, I imagined one like her.

My heart breaks for HH and his family. I will not be there for him in the role of his lover this time. I will be his friend, his shoulder to lean on, a harbor in which he can safely cry. That’s the thing about the kind of love he invoked in me long ago. Whenever, if ever, he needs me, I will be there for him.

Advertisements

Does He Always Come in Threes? Part II

Where we last left off, I was describing the trend in my life of old flames coming back in triplicate. One of those times brought me back in touch with an ex for whom and with whom closure was severely needed. Unfortunately, true closure has never occurred with the long-term relationship that followed with V-Man. Ironically, of all my exes, we probably have remained in touch the most and been the closest post-break up.

After two years of a relationship, and one year of time apart, V-Man and I are buddies. We have spurts where he calls several times a week, or we text back and forth throughout a day. He’s watched my cat when I went on vacation in the early days. We’ve hung out as friends-only last year when we were officially no longer a couple, going to concerts, meeting for meals, seeing fireworks.
During the times when we both knew better, there were times when we gave into the attraction that was still electric between us and enjoyed extra benefits. I’ve gotten confused, overreacted, rehashing the issues that caused me to break up with him in the first place and never were resolved back then and still fester from time to time, and he’s wisely withdrawn. Then two weeks later, he texts: “How doin?” as if nothing ever happened. And things go back to normal again.
This year, when I was in the hospital for a week, he came to see me though he hates doctors and “medical stuff.” He held my hand during the horrible seizure-like episodes, and he came to visit when I got to come home. He was the first person to take me out to do something fun, see a concert. My boyfriend at the time didn’t do that. The V-Man held me protectively and tenderly, treating me like a fragile china doll only when necessary, but also let me feel free to be normal when I could.
So why the confusion? Well, late last year, when I was obviously dating someone else, the V-Man turned alpha male, for the third time that year. He talked into my ear with urgency how the only reason he and I aren’t still together is because of me. He talked about how my parents have misconceptions about him because of lies or half-truths I told them about him, because I have this misconceptions about him, that I don’t know everything about how he really feels. He was overtly flirtatious, which is normal, but this other side of him that was basically saying, it’s still your move made me think, is he really saying this doesn’t have to be the end of our story? Do I want it to be?
It took me getting sick and seeing the way he tended to me so lovingly to really take the question seriously again. So, after breaking up with said boyfriend, I brought it up. In a text, blech. He said, “Why do you always do this over emails and texts. Let’s do this face-to-face, so you can hear my side of things and know how I really feel. I want you to get better first. [my emphasis hereI’m not going anywhere.” So, days and weeks pass. He constantly asks my status. Are you eating well? Are you gaining weight? How many episodes did you have today? How are you walking? No mention at all of the topic.
Today was the first time we’ve seen each other since then. We’ve talked plenty. When he was covering the NCAA Women’s Tournament in Dayton, he called me first after he arrived before he called his mom. He’d call to ask me where he should go to eat. He called the next night when he was waiting to get food. He’s called several times this week about various stuff just to share random or crazy work or life stuff.
Then today, he said he wanted to have the cat play date before I left for vacation. Since we broke up, he finally moved his cat into the no-longer new house, so my cat has never met him. We worried there’d be some strife. There was. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the “SexySweets”, the touching, the “what do you want to do?” bit. Bent over to rescue my cat from under the sofa, the V-Man was envisioning an entirely different bending over. Figures. I know he still lusts, he still loves, but he doesn’t seem to want the relationship. I really don’t think I want it anymore either, but what gives?

Last night, the most recent ex who claims to be un-datable but still wants to go on dates that aren’t dates, hold hands, hug, and kiss, asks me to sleep over. I don’t. Today, the other ex wants to give me a “complimentary special.” There are only two and half more days until Vegas. Do you think I can make it through without any more temptations? Because I haven’t even told you what’s awaiting me there…

Read and post comments

Does He Always Come in Threes? Part I

For reasons that will become apparent later in this [way too long] post, tonight I started thinking about things that come in threes. According to Google: bad luck comes in threes. Bad news comes in threes. Trouble. Death. Good luck. Apparently even comedy comes in threes?
Thinking about my dating life, it always seems like romantic opportunity usually comes in threes. In most cases, this usually comes in the form of old flames. For me, when one old flame flickers back into the picture, I always have an eye out for at least two others to shortly follow. They usually do within a week or two. I always feel like God is pulling a sick joke on me when this happens.
At one point in my life, a guy I had dated for a month emailed over a year later to re-kindle our friendship (read: ring for a booty call while his nearly live-in girlfriend was away on a business trip, ass). At the same time, an old lover, always kindred spirit and good friend, from maybe six years earlier announced he was coming to town and was finally completely single at a time when I actually was too. Meanwhile, my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had lived for over two years and dated off and on for three, was making contact finally after close to two years.
The last time we had talked, he had admitted impregnating his (formerly our) neighbor shortly after we had last seen each other, which was a nightmarish scenario when I walked into a bar with my new boyfriend only to see him, the man who was still in love with me after four or so months.
This particular old-flame reunion was the most cherished one for me, as it was the first time R had picked up the phone to reach out to me and ask to meet. Some mutual friends were throwing a concert at our old stomping ground. He and the mother of his daughter had finally broken up, presumably for the last time, so he felt it was okay reaching out to me.
He talked to me about everything. He seemed a changed man; one, he was completely pot-free; two, he was a father of a beautiful little girl who he absolutely adored; three, he as changing his career back to teaching and coaching; and four, he was the fittest I’d ever seen him. I told him how proud I was of him, and I meant it. He took me back to the house, let me see my cats that he forced me to leave behind when I moved out. A lot of old memories swirled together with the new changes, and we stayed up until maybe 4 a.m.
Our relationship had never had resolution or closure before. When he had called me those years before to tell me his girlfriend was pregnant, he had been in tears, saying he still had love for me and hadn’t even been sure our story was over yet. As painful as it was to hear, I told him, this was his story now, and if he wanted to be a good father to his daughter, he had to be a good partner to the mother now. I told him I knew he loved the mother, especially if she was bearing his child. I knew his heart. He had to let go of the past and look to the future.
Sadly, this mean he cut everything off completely. I sent emails of congratulations when news passed via our mutual friends, I remembered his birthdays, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t reciprocate anything back. I understood why it had to be that way, but it still stung to have been so close so many years and now be nothing at all.
Today, we do not remain in touch. We finally had our one chance to say everything that needed to be said. Sometimes we are never given an opportunity to have full closure with someone we once loved. I feel especially blessed that I did with R because I never have had the opportunity to with V-Man, the one who came afterward.