Word came to me through a grapevine late last week: a woman I met 30 years ago and dated for not quite three years passed away last November. I’m not quite sure how to feel, or what to feel.
I’ve shared rooms with a lot of people over the years, men and woman. The commonality? Once they walk out the door they never return, not to knock, not to crack the door to even sneak a peek.
This woman was no different. The relationship ended badly for me. She was eight years my senior, a user and a manipulator. But that’s what I was back then: a rescuer. Show her enough love and she would come to reciprocate.
I never got closure after the breakup. For me, from what I wrongly believed was love to hate to compromise, the getting over took a long time. The anger is gone. I forgave her long ago, and myself, too, for the role I played in staying far too long in a toxic relationship. I certainly have no fond feelings for her, having dated several other women since she and I split, and marrying the best of them. I now know it was never love between us. The lesson she taught me was not about what I wanted, but about what I didn’t want.
So why do I feel so unsettled?
Maybe there are a whole heap of whys.
I confess: there were times over the years I thought of her, wondered if she ever met that 747 captain she always dreamed of marrying (she was a gate agent for a major airline). She was looking for someone to take care of her, enable her to quit her stressful job. Maybe I wanted to know if she’d met him, although she was then, after we broke up, over forty. Too old, I thought then in my anger. Anyone with a six-figure job flying 747s can have their pick of flight attendants—younger and more beautiful. Why settle for an over forty Italian even if she is well-preserved, eats well, exercises often, keeps her figure? But I never told her that. In time, after I let go the anger, I wished her well, hoped she found what she sought. That’s the kind of man I am: I don’t wish ill on anyone.
Maybe I still wanted that closure I never got. While she was still, in my mind, alive and kicking, like the alcoholic going through the steps of recovery, she might yet get in touch to apologize for the pain she caused me. Not like I fell off the planet. Now she never will.
She had ample time to make her peace, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t want to. And I’m fairly certain she never gave me a thought in the twenty-seven years after she broke up with me.
Today I’m ashamed to admit I considered, after my first book was published twenty years ago, sending her a copy of it, wondering if she might recognize herself in the antagonist. Nah, she was too self-absorbed. Or maybe she’d matured, grown wiser. I’ll never know.
Maybe it’s just a microcosm of life, that she was mortal, that I’m mortal. Losing my parents drove that point home twenty years ago. Hell, I already know I’m mortal. Six years ago I wondered if that Mazda I bought might be my last car. Now I’m wondering if the car I might purchase in the next year or two or three might be the last one.
Learning a couple years ago about the passing of my first boss—he was not yet even sixty—hit me hard, in part because another part of my life, a part from my long ago youth, was gone forever.
But she’d been gone, after the not quite three years we dated, for nearly twenty-eight years. Might as well have been the forever of nearly half my life.
More maybes? Maybe. Maybe the right maybe just hasn’t yet occurred to me.