One of my daughters pulled out my old photo album. (It's an old album, and it's full of old photos). Anyway, she was looking through it, yelling "Daddy" whenever I was in a picture. It was really cute, but totally beside the point.
So quite of few of the old pictures are of ex-girlfriends. I was thinking about one in particular, and what happened with her soon after we started dating. This was sparked by a picture of me, shirtless, clock behind me showing a little after 12, and I was holding a White Russian shot. It's layers of kahlua, milk, and vodka. I was good at layered shots, back in the day; but I digress, again. I know this is not how I usually post, but I thought I'd break routine again. Here's that story.
I guess we should start my junior year in college. I was dating a woman named Amy. We dated about 8 months. That was a theme of mine...dating a woman 8 months. I had had two other serious girlfriends up to that point (I told you I was a geek), but Amy was my most serious one up to then. So we broke up towards the end of the school year. We had talked over the summer about getting back together. Finally, around August (right before school started), we had an argument, and she stormed out, calling me asshole as she slammed the door. I proceeded to get a little drunk, hence the picture of me with the shot.
So now we have to go back a bit to freshman year. I was living in a triple. My school had let in too many freshmen, and double-occupancy rooms were tripled up all over campus. So I had two roommates, both great guys. In my typical procrastinator fashion, I never talked to either of them about living together sophomore year, and was a little pissed, frankly, when my best friend told me that he was going to be living next year with roommate #3. So I needed to find a roommate, because lottery was coming up.
I ended up with Jack. A nice guy, and we had hung out a bit freshman year, so I was cool with that. As we were waiting in line at the lottery for rooms, I met Jack's first cousin, Anne. Wow. Now, I'm a crush kind of guy. I'd develop crushes at the drop of a hat. But even for me, this was something. Totally smitten. She was fantastic. The first time we ate together (Jack and Anne were very close, and me living with Jack often put me in close proximity to Anne. Plus, I took every opportunity to be near her), she paid for me. Now, I grew up in Memphis. The Deep South. A woman paying for me was anathema. So we had a long talk about it. She was really smart, and forceful. I always had liked that, and I did here, too.
Of course she had a boyfriend. And of course he was long-distance, and of course she was faithful. The worst of all possible circumstances. Beaten by a guy 1500 miles away.
So, to skip forward a little bit, I crushed on her on and off for about two years. There were various and sundry women for me in between, including Amy, the serious one.
So sometime Junior year, she breaks up with her long-distance beau. Hurray!
So now we come back senior year. We're both unattached. During this time, mind you, I had no indication that she actually liked me. But we had become very good friends, and I was resolved to live with that, to take what I could get.
So we're at this party one night, near the beginning of the year. Both drunk off our asses. She says something along the lines of, "when did you get so cute?" We're off in a hallway, away from the main party, and she kisses me. This woman I've had this massive crush on for two years kisses me. I'd say birds sang, and bells rang, but I was drunk too, so I just kissed her back. Then, after that one kiss, I did the most gentlemanly thing I've ever done, or will ever do: I said, "if you want to chalk that up to the alcohol, I'll understand." Thank G-d, she didn't. And we kissed for a while longer. We talked a bit, and it turns out that she wanted to start something with me. It hadn't been for two years, but for a couple of months, she had been looking at me in a new light, and realized that not only was I her best friend, but that she was really attracted to me. (emphasis hers).
For the next week, well, I know that "feet didn't touch the ground" is a complete cliche. But damn if it wasn't accurate for me. The whole week, literally, I was walking around telling anyone who would listed, "I'm dating Anne, I can't believe I'm dating Anne." All my friends (and even most of my acquaintances) were relieved that I had stopped bemoaning our lack of a relationship, and were looking forward, I'm sure, to being regaled with tails of our budding love.
As a geek, I had done the unrequited love thing quite a bit. Here I was, though, shooting for someone way out of my league, and now I was dating her. For that week, I was as happy as I had ever been. Happier.
After a week, and I don't remember how the subject came up, we spoke about the fight Amy and I had before school started. It turned into a thing. There was something on her side too, but I don't remember what. Maybe the ex-boyfriend had called, or something. Anyway, we're getting to the point.
We decided to put things on hold for a while. Say what you will now of that decision, that's what we decided.
So I started walking out of the room. Her door was closed, and I put my hand out to open it. And froze. I just froze there. I'd say it was for a few minutes, but I frankly don't know how long I was there, with my hand out. I was thinking clearer than I ever had, knowing that what I should do was turn around and tell her that all the crap we just talked about was just that, crap. That the last week had indeed been the happiest in my life. That all I wanted was to be with her. Until she got sick of me, because heaven knows I was never going to be sick of her.
I knew, with absolute certainty, that this was a moment.
Have you ever been to DC? The streets there, it's all traffic circles leading to traffic circles (or rotaries, in the lingo of the town where our college was). So that's my view of life. The different aspects of our life, every once in a while, converge into these traffic circles. And whatever road you take out, that determines where you go, until the next crucial moment. Each crucial moment affects the rest of your life, its direction. Now, you can still get back, even if you go wrong. But you have to go out of your way. (It's how I think of HeroineGirl when I read her blog. She took a really long detour, and is just now getting back, irretrievably changed from her journey).
I knew, with total certainty, that this was one of those times. I was standing there, hand out, thinking, "this is Anne! If I leave, that's it. Maybe I'll get back one day, but it won't be the same as this week. It'll be the analytical thing to do." The past week had been all emotional connection. And I'm so analytical, it meant that much more to me. I might get back together with her, date her. But I would never surrender myself to the experience of dating her the way I had this week. You can only jump off the high dive -- for the first time -- once. The exhilaration of falling through the air, an unknown experience, of hitting the water. The impact, and the immersion. That feeling. I still remember it. It can only happen once. The next time, it's just not the same. Fun, mind you. But not the same.
I knew all that standing there in the doorway. I knew that I had one last chance to salvage that exhilaration.
I walked out the door.
Anne and I actually did end up back together. We started up again towards the end of senior year. We spent 6 weeks in Europe together after graduation, doing the Eurail-backpacking thing. We dated for a good portion of our first year in law school. Then we split up. There was another one of those moments with us, but this time it was her moment, and she blew it with no help from me.
But that's another story.