I've got two of 'em. Which makes me either incredibly lucky to have experienced love like that not just one time, but TWICE...or else incredibly stupid to have let love like that slip between my fingers not just one time, but TWICE. Sigh.
The first one was my college boyfriend. I went to a state university "Up North", after taking a year off to find myself (aka: get my shit together and save up some $). There is no other feeling in the world like that of moving into a dorm your freshman year. Nothing else like it. That sweet taste of freedom, the terrifying knowledge that "this is it", being away from the constant harping and open billfold of mommy..it was a feeling like no other.
My roommate was a tall, beautiful girl named Holly. This was her second year at school, so she had an in with all the right peeps. We bonded almost instantly, over a pack of Marlboro Lights and the squeals of mutual joy when we each pulled out our mix tapes and saw The Cure on both of them. Those first few nights were a fuzzy collage of smoke, beer and "Love Cats" being played ad nauseum.
Holly and I never missed a kegger, never missed a Monday "Quarter Taps" night at the local bar, never missed a chance to wiggle into our Guess jeans and let the boys know that we were all that and a bag of chips.
We each had a small succession of victims. There were guys from the hockey team, a couple of guys from the next hall down, several random fellows in between. One particularly scary night with the token Loner Dude who wore an old Army jacket and combat boots.
And then I met Tom.
Holly and I had invented a game in which we went through the Freshman Faces Book (get it? Face-Book. If only the internet had been invented, and if only I had a crystal ball) and put check marks by all the guys we thought had potential.
There was one in particular that I had not only checked, but double-checked AND starred. He was adorable, with a mop of curly hair and gorgeous blue eyes. His name was Tom, and his hometown was a city not too far from mine.
One night, after fueling up with a half dozen or so Coors Lights, Holly and I gave Tom a call. He and his roommate came over, and I remember my shock and horror as my role model, my inspiration, my Mr. Miyagi, my roomie Holly put the moves on the boy I had checked. Harlot. Slut. I was aghast. Never before had I experienced this kind of evil! But there wasn't any need to fret. Tom and I had fallen into like at first sight, and our small snippet of life together officially began that night.
My trust in Holly began eroding that evening, and after my newfound couplehood began, our friendship quickly soured. She moved out of the dorm room by winter break, leaving me with two extra-long twin beds and a whole lot of privacy. Tom and I moved the beds together and he unofficially moved in. I remember thanking God at this point that the Resident Advisor for my dorm was a sweet but constantly baked stoner who barely knew my name and never once questioned the fact that I only left my room for trips to the vending machine and the occasional class.
First love rocks. I thank my lucky stars that no matter what else has transpired in my life, I have felt that rush, that indescribable drenching of emotions that being in love for the first time gives you. I pray that my kids feel this someday, and that they are fortunate enough to experience it with someone like my Tom.
We met each others parents over the long winter break that year. The drive between our houses was about 20 minutes, and we spent every possible second together. As you may have surmised by now, studying wasn't a high priority for either of us and our grades showed it. Our parents were pissed, and rightly so. We went back to school after winter break with threats of pulled funding looming over our heads.
We pulled it together and made the ma and pa people happy. Spring in the midwest is always lovely, and if you are cocooned in the sweet embrace of young love it's even better. We finished up that school year with semi-decent grades and a grim determination to make it through three whole months of living apart and trying to find time to wallow in our mutual love for one another while working our summer jobs. Somehow, we made it work, despite my two part-time jobs and his full time one. Together we perfected the art of sneaking around nosy parents and annoying siblings to get "alone" time. My mom's laundry room, the backseat of his dad's Caddy (one very embarrassing experience involving a cop, a flashlight and a heavy dash of shame comes to mind), these were the places we would go, together. September couldn't come fast enough for either of us.
September did come, and the school year went by in a flash. We were not going to win any accolades or special tassels for our academic progress, but somehow we made it through. By now we were lost in our own world, a fantastical Tom and Jenny Land, where there was no room for anyone else. Our parents, Tom's in particular, were worried about this land, and started to pressure him to step back a bit. My own parents were happy that I was happy, but also questioned the intensity of this coupling. I remember my mom warning me about babies, telling me to keep my feet on the ground. Apparently Romeo and Juliet had this same sort of parental pressure....but just like those two lovebirds we didn't cave.
Long story a bit shorter: our third year in college turned out to be our last. If only our desire to succeed in school had been as strong as the urge to just be together. We both moved back home and on to menial jobs, Tom as an exterminator (good times getting picked up for dates in the Bug Truck) and I went back to the Mom and Pop bakery I had toiled at for the past few summers. By then I had started getting the flight attendant itch (which is not slang for what happens after a night of mini-vodka bottles and dirty pilots) and Tom's dad had started nudging (nudging with a cannon) him towards becoming an enlisted man.
So we became The Stewardess and the Sailor. Tom was stationed in Hawaii and I was sent to Detroit. We kept the long distance thing going for a good long time, but things sort of unraveled. We did see each other some time later, when Big Daddy and I had already started dating. It was a bittersweet, flashback filled night that left me feeling empty and sad, wishing things had turned out differently.
Years later, I Googled his name and found him. I sent him an email just saying hello and much to my surprise, he responded. We emailed back and forth together for several months, getting all caught up on our once enmeshed lives. He's an electrician in a neighboring state now, married to a nice girl and the daddy to two little ones. We haven't corresponded since my life went swirling into the depths of hell, and I miss it. I'm not one to toss about quotes, but this one from Thomas Wolfe pretty much sums up how I feel, even now, when I think about Tom and the past we share:
"My dear, dear girl [. . .] we can't turn back the days that have gone. We can't turn life back to the hours when our lungs were sound, our blood hot, our bodies young. We are a flash of fire--a brain, a heart, a spirit. And we are three-cents-worth of lime and iron--which we cannot get back."
But, I was able to experience something just as intense, several years after my sweet time with Tom. It was with this lost love that I found myself at the old proverbial fork in the road, and I made the fateful choice which led to my life today.
His name was Andy.