Husband was not my first love. That title—and dubious award—goes to another boy.
He I went to the same high school. He was one year older than me, almost to the day. From here on out, I'm going to call him "Jack," because while was not particularly tall, or well-built, or good looking, he had this Jack Nicholson quality to him—this incredible high-volt energy of dangerous boyish charm, this seductive charisma, a magnetism that just pulled everyone right in. When Jack smiled, his eyes would gleam with rascality, begging you to come play with him, join him in his revelry.
Join in, because he was lonely.
I fell hard for Jack. I felt his pull, felt the allure of his spirit; but I also saw, deep down, how lost and lonely he was. It didn't make his effervescent nature any less beguiling—in fact, the exact opposite. It made it more tragic, and therefore, more appealing; because nothing is more appealing to a teenager's heart than veiled, poignant tragedy.
We became friends. Very quickly we realized that we had the same tastes: we liked the same music, watched the same movies...but most importantly, we felt moved by the same things. The universe was filled with secrets and wonder, and we were kindred souls, able to feel the awe, see what others could not, and sense what others missed.
We would hang out together after school, sometimes. But our schooldays were long, and there was homework to get done, and he always seemed to have other things he had to do. Which was fine with me—I mean, I accepted that...even as I seemed to be the only one who felt the pain of our distance.
We would talk on the phone, sometimes. He did most of the talking, and I did most of the listening, but I didn't care—I loved listening to his voice, his inflections, the way he would speed up when he got excited and trail off when his heart grew too fraught with emotion.
Jack didn't laugh, he chortled. It was the most captivating sound I'd ever heard. To this day, I can still hear it, and the memory makes me smile.
We would go places together, sometimes. But I never knew when, or if, Jack would show up or not; he often had things "come up" on him that he forgot about. And he had a bad habit of letting the time run away from him, hours and hours ahead.
I would always wait, no matter how late he was, and I was always giddy to see him. I despaired when he didn't show up at all, but I would forgive him, each and every time.
I couldn't imagine myself thinking about, or caring about, anyone else—not the way I cared about Jack.
But Jack did not feel the same way about me. He would meet other girls, become infatuated with them, and all of a sudden, they would be "going out."
Every time this happened, I would congratulate Jack on his new relationship. But secretly, I would congratulate myself for being so "rational" about the whole thing...because even as I listened to Jack gush on (and on) about this or that new girl in his life, I knew their relationship was doomed.
After all, I was the one who understood him, I was the one who could intuitively feel his mercurial moods, I was the one who took his phone calls at two o'clock in the morning to listen to his innermost thoughts.
And the thing was, I was proven right, every time: he would be spellbound by this new girl for a while...but within a few weeks, the spell would wear off, and he would be calling me again, this time to comfort and console.
Because he was lonely.
And I would be at his side once more.
I thought I was in love.
Only it was not love.
This is what took me a long time to finally grasp. And it did not come in a a great epiphany, or a sudden realization...it was a slow understanding, the kind that can only be felt slowly, because it is a sundering of the heart, and a sundering of that magnitude takes time to be felt to completion.
This wasn't love...I was addicted to this boy. I was so engrossed in my feelings for him, I failed to realized how afflicted I was, tormented by his erratic melancholy and wiling volatility. I thought he'd be my cure:
A cure to my own loneliness.
Because I was lonely.
But he wasn't my pill. He was my poison.
Things spiraled out in a sudden tornado of drama as they so often do, and I told him never to call me again.
And he did not.
We became strangers in the hallways, seeing each other without really seeing. We were each others' ghosts, only everyone else could see us—we just could not see each other.
I hated him for that, hated him for honoring my wishes and never calling me again. Because I didn't really want him to stop calling me; I wanted him to call me and beg for me to come back to him, I wanted him to tell me he was wrong to take me so much for granted, I wanted to hear him say he finally understood what he'd had in front of him all along...that he loved me the way I loved him.
But that call never came.
I learned then that sometimes closure is not brought on with actions or words, not even a look; sometimes closure is the final breath taken, and held, before silence.
And now I finally bring you to the point of my long soliloquy about this boy, Jack.
Jack was not a "douchebag." He was not an asshole, or a weasel, or even a manipulative liar. (I don't think he could've lied if he tried; he didn't have the eyes, or heart, for it.)
He was not trying to lead me on, and he certainly had not meant to break my heart.
Throughout our friendship, Jack had given me all he could.
But it was not as much as I wanted. And it was certainly not as much as I was willing—no, craving—to give him.
And in the end, it was I who was done settling for anything less.
This did not, and does not, make Jack an evil person. What it does is make him human.
It took me a long time to understand that; to understand that the sundering of a human heart can be done without malice and still be just as destructive. One can be angry (horribly, bitterly angry) at a situation, and yet still come to understand that there is no blame to be had—or if there is, the blame must be shared.
The end of my friendship with Jack had been unavoidable all along.
Looking back, I think...I think there were times he had tried to tell me that.
And it had grieved him to hurt me. It took me a long time to realize that, too. I didn't want to. It was easier to just hate him.
A cataclysmic break like that, done without ill will, lingers with a sort of savage irony.
I did get over him, eventually. I went on to have other boyfriends—men who were farther along on their own evolutionary path, men who helped me walk further along on mine...men who wanted to call themselves my boyfriend, and have me call them that, too.
Men who were not so lonely in their own company.
And I forgave Jack for the pain he had caused me. That last remnant of spite finally left the day I realized the real reason why I'd been angry at him for so long: I was mad at him for not loving me. But you can't be angry at someone for not loving you. All you can do is accept it, and move on.
No one owes us love. Civility is expected, Respect is earned...but love is a precious gift, one not to be squandered—
And hopefully, never regretted.