Stir it up

August 21, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post several times this week but I’ve been out of sorts.  Granted, with each passing day I feel more “in sorts” but I still feel weird.  Turns out, on Monday, during my semi-regular internet stalk (don’t judge…you know you do it too) of the three men who profoundly affected my life, I found out that my First Love (“FL”) has moved back to my province.  More specifically to the town where we met.  Good times.

Now, when I say moved back to my province, it turns out he’s been here for two years already.  But in another city.  Which oddly enough DH and I spent a lot of time in last summer.  But I didn’t know that, seeing as how I only irregularly internet stalk.  (Clearly I am an epic failure as an online stalker.)  Prior to that he lived two provinces over and really far north.  And I was fine with that.  Far away was good.  Far away was comfortable.  Far away meant that aside from the occasional fantasy, I would never, ever see him again.  Of course I am the Queen of the X degrees of separation and random co-incidental meet up, especially if I am looking particularly bad that day, so all bets are off on the seeing again part.  But let’s just say the chances of us meeting up are slim to none and slim just left town.

I am the first person to say that there is no reason why I should feel this put out.  We dated literally half my lifetime ago and haven’t spoken for 16 years.  And I’m happily married.  And he’s been married since at least 2002, maybe even longer.  I’m assuming happily as well.

I don’t harbour any illusions that he’s pining for me either (although weirdly he did marry a woman who looks a heck of a lot like me….but I’m going with the rationale that he has a “type”) or that he moved back to find me and beg me to take him back.  That kind of stuff only happens in movies and bodice rippers.  The reality is, he’s back because he got a very good promotion and high profile job.  This guy is climbing the corporate ladder (if the military has one) and will be a general before you know it.

After much thought and discussion with friends this week, I think I feel so odd about it all is because the pot has been stirred up and baggage I thought I had checked and stowed (how’s that for mixing up metaphors?) has clearly shifted during the flight.  And it’s causing me some grief.

We met during my first year of university and had the kind of relationship that only unsupervised 19 year olds living away from home for the first time can have….hot, intense and all consuming.  Let’s just say there wasn’t a heck of a lot of talking that went on when we were together.  And because we were 19 we weren’t particularly experienced in adult communication anyway.  When it ended it wasn’t pretty.  Tears were shed (me), alcohol (and lots of it) was drunk (also me) and grudges were held (ummm, me again).

Second year passed (we both found others to be with) but I couldn’t get him out of my head.  I brooded and moped and wished and prayed and begged whatever power that was out there to make him want me again.  Also I bored my housemates to tears by never shutting up about him.  I must have been painful to live with.

Finally, at the start of my third year and newly singly, my housemates staged an intervention.  They were sick of hearing about FL.  If I didn’t call him, they would.  These women didn’t mess around.  So I sucked it up and called and waited.  Back in the day, if you wanted to reach someone at the military college you called the general squadron number, left a message with the duty officer, the message was passed on and you were called back when your party found a free pay phone.  Cell phones didn’t exist outside of movies back then and land lines weren’t allowed for the cadets.  Life was hard for those boys I’m sure.

The relief I felt after making that call was unbelievable.  He would either call me back or he wouldn’t and either way I’d have my answer.  I had taken the first step toward exercising FL from my mind and I was ready for whatever happened next.  And what happened next was that he called back.  And we had a good chat.  And we settled into a routine of calling each other, once every two or so weeks.  He was busy with 40+ hours of class and military obligations a week.  I was not quite as busy with only 15 hours of class a week but as a history major I had probably 100 hours a week of reading and researching and writing.  Not to mention all that other important university student stuff like drinking, partying and sleeping.

Talking on the phone is both more and less intimate than talking face-to-face.  You can’t see the other person’s expressions so it’s less intimate but you can ask them things you’d probably turn beet red asking them to their face.  And it’s been my experience that questions asked over the phone are likely to be answered honestly, if only for the fact that you are nowhere near close enough to beat the living tar out of the person on the other end for giving you an answer you don’t like.

So we talked.  And there was no pressure.  We got to know each other in a way that was no longer distracted by the can’t-keep-our-hands-off-each-other way from the first go around.  Life was good.  I looked forward to FL’s calls but didn’t live for them.  It looked like I was growing up.  And also falling deeper in love.

Part of the problem of getting to know someone you only know on an intimate level was finding out that you actually really liked them and wanted to see if you liked them on that intimate level again.  Although in our case I expect it was going to be a resounding yes if the flirting and innuendos and stomach butterflies (at least on my part) had anything to do with it.

We were inching towards meeting up when the beginning of the end happened.  Against my better judgement, I went out with one of my housemates one night and met a guy (BF).  Who was available every day.  Who pursued me relentlessly.  Who treated me like I was the most precious thing on earth.  He didn’t give me quite the same goosebumps FL did but hey, close enough and he was there for me all the time, unlike FL who had a harsh mistress in the Air Force.

But the heart wants what the heart wants and I kept talking to FL, even though BF and I were clearly a couple.  I couldn’t help it.  FL has never been easy to exercise from my brain.  And the little voice, the one that whispers to you in the dark of night, kept telling me that BF wouldn’t dump me come April like FL did.  BF would never rip my heart out and stomp on it either.  BF was the bird in the hand and while he wasn’t FL, he was a sure thing.

I held off listening to the little voice for a long time but in the end it won out.  I chickened out on meeting up with FL (at my house, alone…and yes it was my suggestion) after Christmas vacation and I stopped calling him so much.  Our last phone call was what did it though.  FL called as BF, my housemate and I were just heading out the door to the movies (I think it was the Lion King but just isn’t agreeing on the release date with me so maybe it was something else) and I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.  And weirdly like I was having an out of body experience too.  I remember looking down at myself as I was talking to him and having time pass very very slowly although it was all over in a matter of seconds.

FL asked me how I was and I replied fine.  I told him I was just on my way out to the movies and I’d call him back, probably the next day.  He said fine.  Then BF yelled to  me and here’s where the six words that changed my life occurred.  In response to BF I said Ok baby, hang on, I’m coming.  As soon as they were out of my mouth I would have sold my mother to get them back.  I never called BF baby.  Ever.  I have no idea to this day why I said that.  Probably self-sabotage so that the relationship ended and I didn’t almost die from heartbreak again.

FL’s tone became icy and he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.  And that was it.  We were done.  I didn’t bother to call back, why should I?  Choosing BF was the right choice.  Uh huh.  Sure he was the right choice….for mind games and manipulation until four years later we imploded with the fire-y heat of a thousand suns and I left the province to start my life over.

So the like the first time we met, I started it but this time  I ended it.  And now, after all these years, he’s close by.  Not close enough that I’ll see him on a daily basis (holy crap no word of a lie I’d put the Money Pit up for sale and tell DH to accept the first available transfer to Australia), but close enough by in a town we visit often.  DH has good friends who live there and I went to school there and it’s the perfect place to stop on the way from our house to Montreal.  Which we do.  It was a place we were considering going for our anniversary.  It’s a place my old housemate and I discuss going to for a girl’s weekend.  Now, because I am the Queen of co-incidental run-ins, I am going nowhere near it.

I don’t want to see him.  I don’t want to know if the sparks are still there.  Well, truth be told, I do want to know but I don’t want to be put in a position where I’d act on it.  Or make it obvious to anyone around me (his wife, my husband) that I’d act on it.  And it shames me to admit that if FL showed any interest it’s very likely I would act on it.  And then where would we be?  Without a doubt, in divorce court.

Of course all of this emo whining business is predicated on him wanting to jump me as well and I don’t know if that’s true.  It could be.  But it’s probably not.  I’m probably just a nicely faded memory that he occasionally thinks about when he runs past my old residence or the bar we met at or some other place where we spent some time together.  Maybe he sees a tallish blonde and thinks she looks familiar and can’t quite place her but that’s probably about as far as it goes.

Like I said, I don’t really have any grounds for feeling this way and I really need to suck it up and move on.  We made choices and we have to live with them.  I’m not prepared to put my marriage at risk for a wisp of memory.

People change and who’s to say I’d even like FL now.  I’ve spent a lot of time walking down memory lane this week, remembering our time together.  After dinner today DH  was doing something dorky and annoying and I got snappish with him because of it.  As he walked into the other room, I uncharitably thought FL wouldn’t do that.  And then it occurred to me…I have no idea what FL would or wouldn’t do.  And more importantly I realized, that for every husband who is drop dead gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful, there’s a wife who doesn’t want to put up with his crap anymore.

And that my friends was the kick in the pants I needed.  Yes, I will continue to think about FL.  Probably for a few more days and then he’ll sink back to the depths of my memory.  Yes I’ll also keep stalking him.  He’s bound to take another promotion and move away again and then I can visit my old university town with no fear of an awkward encounter.  Or maybe I’ll drag DH with me regardless of where FL is.  It’s a free country and I can go where I please.

No, there will likely never be closure for me with respect to FL.  You never forget, and probably never get over your first love.  And he will likely continue to be smoking hot for the rest of his life, which is patently unfair.  But life goes on.  I love DH and he loves me.  It’s time to exercise some ghosts.