I met him on November 27, 1984. I was at cheerleading practice, wearing my Prince t-shirt from the Purple Rain tour. He was the wrestler on a break from his own practice, walking by, wearing the very same t-shirt. My friend, who already knew him, and I talked to him a few minutes before returning to our practices. She said afterward, I think he likes you. Later, when he passed again, he poked me in the side and kept walking. I would write this in my diary, and the next day would note that I saw him again, and the day after that, and the day after that. By December 10th, I would declare to God that he was “so cute!” An incurable flirt and oblivious to nothing, I would also note how I would catch him staring at me, all the way through the 15th of December at a wrestling meet where he spent a great deal of time chatting with my friend sitting right next to me. Hours later, after a school dance that evening, I wrote how I had hoped he would be there, and how he “had the nerve” to show up with another girl while he continued to stare at me, and how I came home and cried the indignant tears of a 15-year-old scorned.
Fast forward one year, and again we would find ourselves in the same circle as he wrestled and I cheered. And this time he would finally get up the nerve to ask me to go out. I don’t remember our first date, or the second maybe, but I remember how we spent New Year’s Eve together, in my room, listening to Prince music and talking the night away. He was what I conjured up to be a “bad boy,” an artist with an earring, who wore a leather motorcycle jacket, who drove a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle – at heart-stopping speeds – with a muffler that identified him a mile before he pulled into the driveway. He was quiet and deeply thoughtful, mysterious and temperamental. We had wonderful, meaningful, deep conversations about everything that teenagers consider important, and we cocooned ourselves against the world at large as we slowly buried ourselves into each other. It was intense. I loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone – ever – at the tender age of sixteen. I had given up diaries for the more dramatic, creative poetry I could express my feelings in; I would write about the bond between us, so strong and cavernous, and yet “so fragile that it could break at any moment.”
The Fall of my senior year would see the end of this intensity, though not without the trauma and anguish that accompanies the end of a such a relationship. We were stretched as far as we could go – he off to college and me focused on my high school social life – our relationship was far too intense for our ages, I wanted new experiences, and eventually he would let me go and walk away. It was one of the most painful breakups I would ever experience.
And the years that passed would have me thinking of him from time to time, wondering where he was and occasionally journaling my thoughts about him, writing about him in my creative writing classes. It took me years to smell leather and not think of him. He always held a piece of me that I could never own myself. There were occasional exchanges between us, like a letter he sent me my first year at NYU, where he penciled me a drawing of a rose. He told me years later, “I used to drive by your mom’s house when I came back for visits, I really wanted to visit you and your mom, but I could not pull myself to do it…I was a kid, lots of fears…. So I drove the roads…reminiscing the times I ran that bug back and forth just to see you.”
And, just as suddenly, the communications stopped. These were the years we lived our separate lives, either involved or married to other people. Then came Classmates.com. He was there. His picture was there. Then came Facebook. He was there. Then a day came while I was driving in my car, on the very same road his best friend lived on (unbeknownst to me) and I heard that Bon Jovi song on the radio, and the band, they played our favorite song…. And we danced so close, we danced so slow and I swore I’d never let you go… and soon we were communicating, again.
NO, we did not have an affair. Let’s just clear that one up. No matter what the “others” choose to believe, I did NOT break up his toxic 10 year relationship. He did NOT break up my toxic, 12 year marriage. We were both just in the same cyber place, at the same cyber time. He became my friend again, and I became his. I supported him and encouraged him to do right in his relationship. He supported me and encouraged me in mine. But more importantly, he helped me remember who I was before I became somebody else, and he didn’t even know it. He knew me, and he wouldn’t let me forget the free spirit he had loved nearly 25 years ago. And somewhere along the way, I remembered ME.
Todd and I had our moment of reunion… the first time we saw each other in over 20 years, and it was like someone turned a light on in a room that had been darkened for an eternity. He picked up my hand and held it in his, and I looked down and – I knew that hand. I didn’t need to study it, for it was already familiar – like an old favorite sweater. It was like coming home, and the rest is history. Or, rather, it will be history, when our story is done. But it is just beginning.
He was my first love, that first boy who steals your heart in an irretrievable way, the one you will never forget. And we have this most magical JOYFUL thing called reunited. We’ve had some very awesome moments together today, in the present, in the middle of what I call my own personal descent into hell. He has stood by me through it all, through the process of divorce and the subsequent custody battle that would’ve liked to kill me if not for the grace of God. Not too many men would have, but this man is special. And not because I think so, but because he really is, in spite of me. I am blessed to have known him 25 years ago, and more blessed because he is still mine nearly a lifetime later.
On November 11th this year, he planned a special night out for us at – of all places – my mother’s restaurant – because, as he said, 11-11-11 is a magical date and we need to spend that night together. I already knew what he had in mind, that is, until he told me at some point he didn’t want me to think it was “more than what it was supposed to be.” But we sat down at the best table in the house, and he presented me with a book full of memories both past and present, and a box that contained an ornament for our first tree, and in the bottom – another box with the ring that would make me his forever. And three minutes after I said “yes!” I looked up and saw his mom and dad, who live two hours away, staring down at me… and soon after found another handful of dear friends, all there by his invitation, to celebrate the love that conquered all. It was a magical night, sadly no pictures, but magical all the same. Because, he knows me. He knows me, like I know myself. I can only hope that what I have to give him brings him as much Joy as he has given me.