I got into a conversation over the weekend about how a song can evoke strong feelings about a person and I stubbornly refused to believe I had anything like that in my past. I've always shied away from associating a band or a song with a person because I would never want someone or a period of time to ruin a song for me. But over the weekend, I went to a concert and heard a particular song and suddenly I was transported back to when I wrote this post.
Halfway around the world lies the one thing that you want
Buried in the ground, hundreds of miles down
The first thing that arises in your mind when you awake
I've never had any regrets when it comes to men. I go after what I want, often blindly, and without paying attention to the consequences. And I've done it all proudly with a damn-it-to-hell grin on my face. However, there is one person (or situation) where I've held my subtle-as-a-wrecking-ball mentality in check. I've been thinking about him a lot lately, because it's around the time when I usually see him and because I've been recently accused of being "utterly and completely callous" when it comes to the opposite sex. I wonder what the person who accused me of this would think about this story and about this period in my life.
I guess, if you had to put him in a category- since I do that so often in this blog- he might be TOTGA. I'll let you puzzle that acronym out, readers.
Maybe it was because when we were together our bodies would automatically angle towards each other, or maybe it was because our fingertips were always touching without actually entwining, or maybe it was because in a crowd of 400 plus people we would always, somehow, find our way to each other within minutes but people always assumed there was something going on between us. Which was true. But not in the way everyone thought.
In the seven years we knew each other, our lips never even touched.
I met him when I was in the middle of a horrible relationship that I stubbornly refused to extract myself from due to a seriously misguided sense of loyalty. It was during a happy hour and he knew about me before he met me so the very first time we were introduced, he said immediately- and with what would become the trademark wry smile that I liked so much-,"So you're Lola...I was told in no certain terms that I needed to watch out for you."
The connection was instant, powerful, and skirted just on the edge of burning. James had a checkered past, a knife's edge sense of humor, and a tenable kindness that belied his cadence of speech. He also looked at me through brown eyes flecked with bottle green and a quiet intensity that suggested so much more than I was ready for.
It was a heady combination.
Over the course of about a week, we spent every free moment we could together. There were nights that we were up far, far past the time anyone around us had gone to bed. We snuck out of the bar early once just to walk in the cool night air alone, arms brushing and heads bent close together. When we bumped into someone we knew she lifted a suspicious brow and said simply," I approve." We just laughed because nothing had happened and it was both amusing and awkward that people recognized the tension that had begun to build between us.
I think he had a lot more of an idea what was happening than I did. I remained stubbornly unaware so that I could enjoy the sanctuary he provided.
When it came time to leave and head back to reality I considered extending my trip, ending my relationship, and following him on an adventure before he flew back home. But I got a phone call from the ex that was an apologetic and passionate plea so I ended up heading home to try and salvage my crumbling relationship.
My decision turned out to be a huge mistake but that's another story, for another blog.
Despite my best attempts to work on my relationship, I couldn't stop the pages and pages of emails fraught with unspoken longing that were sent back and forth between James and I. We were very careful about the things we said to each other so that it wasn't inappropriate but there was still an undercurrent of electricity and comfort, oddly enough, that had been missing in my life. He was the first person I ever truly and deeply trusted almost immediately. He was also the first to broach the subject of the dreaded f word by ending one of his emails with "How can I be falling for someone that is so very, very far away from me and who, for all intensive purposes, I don't really know?"
By the time he actually said the words, I had begun to fall back into my relationship again and decided that it was best to find happiness close to home. But there was always a little part of me that would wonder as the years passed and we remained friends.
A few years ago, suddenly my life irrevocably became complicated and my relationship ended in an explosion that would shatter any need I had to be connected to anyone else. And I went just a bit crazy in my personal life (see all previous posts).
Soon after my life changed so drastically I was confronted with the prospect of seeing James again. And I was surprised at how excited I was. When I first saw him I couldn't control the shaking of my hands or how my body pulsed with an energy I hadn't felt in years. I remember his arms slipping around me and the smell of his cologne as the scratch of his stubble brushed my cheek. He held me tight, my head tucked right under his chin, and I swear, as cliched as it fucking sounds, it was as if no time had gone by. That connection was instantly reignited.
This time he was the one who had someone waiting for him back home. So again we found ourselves in a situation where we couldn't really touch and still managed to spend every free second together. For someone who was so used to getting what they wanted when they wanted it, it was pretty damn near torturous for me. But as screwed up as I was about men, I never wanted to cross that line and break apart someone else's relationship.
Our last night together was spent watching a really, really crappy movie. I don't even remember what it was or who was in it because I was barely paying attention. It was the first time I had allowed myself to be wrapped up in someone- even counting my past relationship- and it felt easy and exciting and fun. When he left my place that night and looked down at me to give me one last hug, I remember chanting in my head just kiss me just kiss me just kiss me because I cannot do it.
I knew if I had just said something, done something, he would have told her. He said as much later on and about how the open ended way we had left things that night had plagued him incessantly. But at the time I had just gotten out of a long relationship and I had that wildness within me that would not be quelled. And my first instinct was to run. Not really a big surprise there, given my track record. I also felt the distance between us was insurmountable and it was too soon and too complicated to handle so I ignored, and then buried, any trace of those feelings.
I remember having dinner a little while ago with our mutual friend who was on holiday in New York and he said to me that when James came back from that first trip, he couldn't stop beaming. That it was entirely obvious to everyone around him how he felt. This friend had also seen us together in person on more than one occasion and remarked, not for the first time, how there had been "this bright, infectious infatuation" sparking between us that was impossible to miss.
"But it's for the best," he said slowly as he watched me through knowing, hooded eyes. "As he's happy with her now. And you're happy with your... multiples."
I remember laughing it off but still, every once in awhile, that intangible what if flickers across my mind unbidden.
To this day I've told very few people in my life about him and what almost happened. I've gotten the "It's never too late" adage several times. But it is too late. Maybe it has to be.
But if I had one regret, it would be that I never took that chance.
A lot of time has passed since writing that and I now know, for sure, I was never meant to take that chance. Because when tragedy struck my life, he provided an uncomplicated safe haven that I'll never forget and will be forever thankful for.
Besides, there is always a reason why you run. And always a reason why you don't.