“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”
–Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) in Bull Durham
A few days ago, I wrote about a new relationship that my honey has been developing. As I did so, I referred to my old love and my previous experiences with something, at least somewhat akin to polyamory. It occurred to me then that perhaps writing and sharing that story would be useful and hopefully, at least a little bit entertaining. My honey knows all of the pieces of the story – or at least effectively all of it – but he has never heard the whole story as a single narrative, so it may even be useful for him and for us.
I was a senior in high school, a couple months shy of seventeen years old and we organized a birthday party for my bestest of friends. Eddie set it up, a friend of his had a place available and so we all headed over to this guys house whom neither I nor she had ever met. The party was small – there were only maybe ten people all night. But it was a great time. My friend hit it off quite well with our new found friend and host.
There was alcohol involved that night. In high school I was not much of a drinker because I have never developed a taste for beer. But this night I was introduced to Fuzzy Navels and I rather enjoyed them. So much so, that I found the nerve to call my parents sometime before midnight and tell them that I would not be coming home because I had been drinking and did not want to drive. It was to their credit that they accepted this immediately – recognizing the value in confirming my choice to admit drinking rather than drive under the influence.
Part of me, of course, wanted to stay and drink and play more, rather than stop drinking and go home. At sixteen, I was more willing to face my parents ire than to give in to curfews and boredom.
In any case, sometime past midnight, I honestly did find I had drunk too much and ended up finding a bedroom to crash in. I was not so drunk as to actually fall asleep, but drunk enough that my head was spinning. Not being accustomed to the sensation, all I wanted was to by comfy and cozy and let my mind wander. At the same time, I kept fighting with myself about going back downstairs because I knew I was missing out.
As these thoughts were going through my head, Eddie came into the room.
Our relationship up to this point had been a bit unusual. He was a player. I knew he had slept with a number of my friends during the six months we had known one another. At first, I hadn’t seen the appeal, but I had gotten to know him, purely platonicly over that time period, we had become friends, and, if I was honest with myself, I discovered myself attracted to him. I was not honest about it, of course. In fact, just a couple weeks prior we had been out and the idea of the two of us, at a party, naked in a bedroom had come up – and we decided that if such a thing happened, we would both laugh at the absurdity. This may well be why he came to find me that night. The challenge? Or perhaps, the recognition that we were both lying through our teeth.
In any case, he came in and laid down on top of me and my pile of cozy blankets. At first he was just playing, but my responses were absolutely serious. Just enough alcohol in my system to prevent me from being coy. At first he was surprised. I can’t say how many times he asked if I was sure, but it was repeated at least a few times.
We spent the night together. And it was good. We… were well suited to one another in any number of ways and that night we explored a few of them. Come morning, I woke early and joined the group downstairs. At some point, I went back upstairs to collect my shoes and whatnot. He woke up just enough to tackle me, pull me back onto the bed and fall back asleep with his head on my breasts and a huge smile on his face. I could have stayed like that all day, but I was expected home so I extricated myself after a few minutes and headed out.
Over the next month, we spent a lot of time together. He continued to see several other girls at the same time, but I was never terribly concerned about that as I figured I knew that was who he was going into it, and that to hold him to some other standard would be simply absurd. In fact, as time progressed, because I had this attitude, I would frequently find myself hanging out with him and one of his other girlfriends. Generally, he would just ‘hang out’ rather than giving any one girl more attention, but when it was me, he knew that I could ‘deal with’ his attentions to someone else. Its all sort of strange, writing about it, but what it comes down to is that it worked for us. And because it worked, we were able to talk about his other relationships (and, later, my other relationships) openly and without reservation.
At the end of that month, he shipped out for basic training. As much as I hated it at the time, this was probably a really good thing for me. Once he was gone, I spent more time developing other friendships and relationships. There were not any other serious relationships for me during this time, but at least there were others, so there was no question of me pining away for him. In fact, I read back through my journals from those days and I discover that even in my own journals I was unwilling to mention how I felt about him. I was obviously just as obsessive about him as any other relationship that I have ever had, but in the journals I masked this with friendship and sideways comments. I continually downplayed that obsession because, as I saw it, such a thing would be absurd – just like holding him to a standard different from whom I knew him to be. We were just friends having fun and expecting more was a sign of my own naiveté, something I could never and would never admit to.
He came home over Christmas that year. Then again the following summer. Things went on between us throughout all of that time. Then, he came home for a short furlow at the end of the summer, and he met Suzanne. That was the end of things for us as lovers, but not the end of our friendship. He even tried to tell me that we could not be friends any more, but I assumed he meant lovers and he did not take the time to correct my assumption. Later that year, Christmas again, as I recall, he came to me, broken hearted and torn up because Megan had broken up with him, and another of his ex-girlfriends had told him off, all in one short afternoon. That evening, as he held me tightly, crying a bit and telling me how much he loved me and that I was the only one that he could trust completely, the only one that was always there for him, that was the day I understood how important our friendship was – to both of us.
From then forward, I wrote him often, particularly when he was serving overseas. I don’t recall the content of those letters, but they were often pages and pages of inconsequential stuff. Whatever was going on in my life, interspersed with jokes and song lyrics and rants against various perceived banalities. They were meant as a tether for him, out there all alone, in the desert or wherever he was at any given time. And he wrote back, though in much shorter form, told me stories about his travels, sent me pictures, kept me informed on what was going on.
Finally, he told me he was going to marry Megan – not just an intention, but with a date attached. Although I still had no ability to admit my feelings, even to myself, I was driven to respond to this news. A couple months before the wedding date, I found an excuse to hit the road and ended up in North Carolina to visit him. That was a week I will never forget. We took every moment we had spent together previously and squeezed a repeat into that four days. Consciously, I told myself that we were seeking closure. Subconsciously, I was looking for any sign that he did not really want to marry her. But it was so deep in my subconscious that even as he counted down the days to me each night as we fell asleep, I did not actively respond to it. Even at the end of the week, when he wanted me to express some displeasure over the fact that we could never do this again, I could only shrug and say ‘yep’. In my mind I had already accepted that this marriage was what he really wanted, that this was what would make him happy – and whatever else I might have wanted, I could not do anything to jeopardize that happiness.
So forty days after leaving North Carolina, I attended his wedding.
If only I had known… once the marriage was done, Megan started cutting off all of his old relationships. I was, unsurprisingly, at the top of her list. To her chagrin, I did not go quietly – I remember calling her up and asking about various things: the one that really sticks with me is the one I will never forgive her for:
Eddie was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army. This was August of 1990: the First Gulf War, and the 82nd Airborne was there. I stared at the TV in horror, the hair on my arms standing straight up, unable to turn away from it: knowing that he was okay, at least for the moment, but dreading each next moment to come. I called her, asking what she knew. I only found out much later that he was on special assignment in Korea at that time: that she had known it all along, but chose to let me think the worst.
Still, she got her way in time. We gradually lost track, and he tried really hard to make their marriage work. But it was not to be. I think they separated after three odd years. I saw him a couple times in there, toward the end, but never for more than a few minutes at a time, and never making the ’emotional connection’ that had once been so natural for us.
Shortly after this, my honey and I got serious, we had a baby, we started to make a life together. I heard he had moved away, perhaps gotten remarried again, and that was that.
<To be continued…>
(Originally Posted January 3, 2007)