I don’t care what they think
I don’t care what they say
What do they know about this love anyway?
— Melissa Etheridge, Come to My Window
What can I say about D? Well, we met the July before we started at our small, east coast college, at a weekend orientation for incoming freshman. He was tall and skinny – 6’4″, 180 pounds – which for a very long time was precisely my type. I don’t remember how we ended up on the quad til 2:30 in the morning the first night, kissing, but we did. It wasn’t a furious make out session, either, it was a “I kind of really connected with you and I think I might like you, so let’s talk and kiss and talk some more” kind of thing. I remember that we each shared our senior year heartbreaks with each other and talked for hours. And that he told me he’d never rolled down a hill before, which I couldn’t believe. There happened to be a small hill right off the quad, so I went first and convinced him to follow me. He thought I was nuts, but he did it, laughing the whole way down. Later, after we’d been together four or five months, I convinced him to dance with me in the rain. Those are two of my all-time favorite memories.
When we arrived on campus in the fall, we had been talking on the phone a couple times a week, and we found each other’s dorm rooms pretty quickly. We didn’t start dating right away, and he didn’t end up being my first, but like Felicity said about Noel, he should have been.
He was a basketball player, and at our small, D-III school, everyone knew him. He’s black, and when we started dating, he took a bit of flack from some people, because he never tried to hide it. We’d walk to class holding hands, and kiss when we parted, and we never made a secret of the fact that I spent most nights in his room. Once people saw we were serious, they backed off, and no one ever said anything to me directly, but I know that it cost him something in the black community at our school to be with me. If it bothered him, though, he never let on.
D was . . . I can’t say shy, because that’s not it, but reserved, I think. He was very observant and didn’t talk a lot in a crowd or in class. Once we started dating, people would ask me, “Does he ever talk?” I’d kind of smile and say, “Yeah. He talks to me all the time.” It made me feel special. I can’t call him shy, because one of his favorite things to do, when it was just us, was play air guitar to Purple Rain. I won’t do that alone in my own house, but he would just go to town; it was the best (or “de best,” as he liked to say in a funny accent sometimes). He loved Prince. And basketball. And me.
And that’s what I can tell you about D: that of all the men I’ve dated, seriously or otherwise, he is the only one who I know for sure was truly in love with me the way I was in love with him. J, sure, he liked me a whole lot, and he might have even loved me, but he was never in love with me. And I’ve come to realize that M, who you’ll meet in Part 3, was only ever in love with the idea of being in a relationship – he was with me because he wasn’t with anyone else. But D and I, we were in love with each other. We had a good run; we had a very hard thing to deal with in the middle of our relationship, but we got through it and never looked back.
When May rolled around and it was time to head to our respective homes for the summer, I was devastated. We weren’t sure how often we’d get to see each other, and I knew it was going to be hard. We said goodbye for a long time, and I cried and cried. He handed me a letter before he kissed me goodbye for the last time – it was all about how much the year had meant to him, how much his life had changed since meeting me, how much he loved me. At the end, I’ll never forget, he wrote: “Don’t forget to come back to me.” At the time I thought, “What in the world does that mean?”
We saw each other once that summer, wrote each other a million letters, and talked on the phone every other day. It was awful. I missed him terribly, and he missed me. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even talk for minutes at a time, we’d just sit there on the phone, knowing the other was on the other end, and it would be enough. I couldn’t wait to get back to school in August so I could be with him again.
And then, when I got back, I can’t even explain what happened. We were both on campus, and we each knew the other was on campus, but we never called each other. I’m thinking about it now, trying to understand, and I can’t. I don’t think we talked for an entire week, and we didn’t run into each other in that whole time, either. When we did, we both just understood that it was over. I hadn’t forgotten to come back to him, I just couldn’t.
***** ~squealing brakes~ *****
Ok, have you ever remembered something one way only to hear the other person tell it and it’s completely different? That just happened to me, except it was my 17- and 18-year-old self who remembers correctly what happened between me and D. I wrote everything above and then went to re-read my journal from college because I wanted to see how I explained the not talking to each other when we got back to school. It turns out that the truth is, I was a terrible, fickle person who did not deserve him.
When I started this blog, I determined that I had only one rule for myself: no lying (apropos of nothing, and to maybe make you laugh one last time before I come clean, this is also the only rule of I Never, my favorite drinking game). So I’m going to tell you now what I had somehow managed to convince myself wasn’t true or had conveniently forgotten:
I cheated on him. At the end of the summer, just before it was time to head back to school. Oh, and once, I think, the first night back at school with an old friend (I was definitely the girl looking for love in all the wrong places. It apparently was not enough that I’d already found it, and in someone who wanted to love me back, no less, unlike the others.).
And that explains why I didn’t call D or seek him out; I was ashamed. I didn’t know how to tell him or if I should tell him. My journal says that prior to cheating and getting back to school, I had already been feeling like I wanted to break up with him, I was just waiting to be “sure,” because I’d already hurt him before and didn’t think he’d be as inclined to forgive me this time if I changed my mind again. (Something else I’d forgotten was that we’d broken up twice in February – shortly after the “very hard thing” alluded to above – because I’d decided I wanted to see other people, and he took me back when I realized I’d made a huge mistake. He knew I’d been struggling with that for a while, and when I crawled into his bed the night we go back together, crying and apologetic, he whispered in my ear, “I’ll never give up on you.”)
I should change the opening quote to Fiona Apple:
I’ve been a bad, bad girl
I’ve been careless with a delicate man.