I’ve loved two men in my entire life. The number I’ve conquered is a far greater tally, but I’ve only truly ever loved two. First love and what I assume to be my current last love. There is no added benefit in shouting the drunken late night couplings with men whose names I can’t recall. They were hiccups in a story and add up to meaning next to nothing in the great long story known as my life.
Late at night, early before the dawn, I remember all the men. My mind sifts through each of them trying to correlate a recognition. What did they mean? If they meant anything at all? I have to calm an obnoxious dream and say to myself, “They have only a little bearing on the person that I am.”
They were just men. We are all just men to a few people.
They were men I spent a few hours with, had some intimate pleasurable times with and they’ve been gone for over a decade. Some of them I dated for mere months, maybe a year or so. One of them I even married. Looking back and taking all-in-all into full account, I can say with the upmost honesty: “I married a man once and I didn’t love him.”
After his abusive tirade of a relationship and my exhaling assurance of finality in divorce, I combed a town over looking for more love. I didn’t find much of anything in these cigarette-filled smoky bars where names no longer exists in a small town: The Wild Dawg. The Stoned Monkey Bar. Fluid. The Union. The Drop Shop (and its twenty reincarnations which followed).
Bars become almost as hard to remember as boys.
College days spent roaming and binge drinking. I remember one boy. I never even knew his name. He taught me a valuable lesson in humbling humility.
I was trying to shoot pool while out on the town with a fellow girl. I’d met her waiting tables and we wanted to go out. Live up the night and our youth. We painted faces with decadent precision. Nails were manicured with meticulous shining french tips. Outfits were chosen to hide our insecurities and accentuate our assets.
I see a boy. Cute. Tall. Broad shoulders. Drowning in masculinity and attraction. His shirt ridiculously too tight and tailored to his confident body. My shyness became conquered by liquor. I write my supposedly all important number down on a white cocktail napkin, hand it to the cute boy and ask him to call me sometime. I flashed my huge, welcoming smile. Radiate love and sexual attraction, remembering to be friendly but not overly desperate. As I turn to walk away, I turned back around for one more glimpse. I sought for a hint that he would call me. I watched as he took my number to the nearest trash can and threw it away. He never called.
No coincidences. He didn’t want to keep that number. He didn’t want to talk to me.
Going back through all of the names. Some I have surnames to attach to first names and some I do not. Some boys were only a fleeting night where they made me smile and they have no story longer than the time it takes you to read the words on this page. They were just a brief intermittent connection in my lifetime.
I say to my husband, “There are no coincidences.”
He replies, “I don’t believe that.”
“Were you a coincidence?” I breath in a long breath to exhale these words. “I thought I was going to hang out with a friend at his house. I didn’t want to go to a party. I didn’t even know he was having a party. I hadn’t done my hair or my make-up. Our friend decided to throw a party. The only party I’d ever attended at his house since we went college, and I knew the kid since I was 9. And there you are. Of all people to come to that party on that night. I came and I met you. And here we are.”
Here we are with a full-on marriage. Hardcore growing up. No more wild nights. No more staying up until the sunrise and hitting McDonald’s drive-thru because they’re finally serving breakfast. We are now a parental unit doing the adult thing: paying bills and teetering on the thin line of love and hate.
My first love was so damn different than this last love. Probably because we didn’t have a marriage or kids or responsibilities and we thought we knew everything when we didn’t know anything. We were young, reckless and just in love.
Maybe there are no coincidences. I met each human for the exact period of time I was supposed to have known them. A few hours, a month, a couple of years, and, finally, the rest of my life. I doubt I’ll love again. I don’t want to. I’ve found love to be too much damn work. The reward not as great as the soul crushing and painstaking tears I’ve placed into the entire thing.
I can’t choose fate though. That’s the catch twenty-two. If there are no coincidences and my bleeding, forever-loving heart is matched at just the right time with another human being, I don’t have a choice in the matter. I just go on loving, even if I don’t want to.