“Don’t ever tell anybody anything, If you do, you start missing everybody,” — Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In The Rye.
When I went to New York last weekend for work I asked my old boyfriend John to meet me for breakfast on Sunday morning.
I hadn’t seen him in almost twenty years. I searched my motives and determined they were clean. Of course, I hoped he would still find me as beautiful and captivating as I was twenty years ago, but I also knew that what I missed most about John over the years was our friendship and how much he made me laugh.
So there I sat in a window seat at a neighborhood diner called The French Roast on the upper west side waiting for a piece of my young adult life to walk through the door.
He was a little late which served me right. I never took him seriously when we were dating. I made him wait. I stood him up. His feelings didn’t seem as real or as important as mine.
I’d had one long-term relationship before John with the man I thought I’d marry. John was supposed to be the rebound guy. I leapt quickly without thinking too much. He was easy to torment because he was quick tempered – half Italian, half Jewish – with a tender heart.
When I’d behave like a cad he’d bluster and threaten and storm out. Only to call five minutes later to tell me that if I wanted to apologize he would come back. Of course I’d refuse, which would lead him to race back to tell me how impossible I was and how it was over and I couldn’t treat him that way.
Then I’d ask if he wanted to spend the night and he’d say yes.
John was me in the long term relationship I’d had before him, with the man I was supposed to marry. Who I threatened and stormed out on, only to skulk back later and beg to be let in.
I watched the glass front door of The French Roast closely for John’s arrival, and then there he was. My old flame looked exactly the same. EXACTLY the same. Not a wrinkle and fit as a fiddle. Which was slightly annoying. I reflexively patted the extra flesh just under my chin.
I watched as he peered about looking for me and I saw the familiar conscientious expression on his face. Worried he was a little too late. And I realized in that moment that I still loved him.
Not in a way that would threaten my marriage or my life, but that I loved him with no agenda or self-interest. That I wanted the world for him. That he’d left a deep imprint on my life. That I’m a better person for having known him and been the recipient of his generous heart. And that I was sorry I’d been such a shit.
We talked for two hours.
We’ve traveled similar roads. Both of us have had to do a lot of internal work to wrestle our demons to the ground. And the work is ongoing. He spoke a language I understand so well now, a language we didn’t know when we were twenty-five. And I realized there are a lot of different paths to becoming whole and was so proud that he is walking his.
Too quickly it was time to say good-bye. He could have berated me and told me how badly I’d treated him all of those years ago, but instead he was generous. As always.
I’ve lived my life in chapters. Some have been happier than others. The one I’m living right now with Henry and my girls is so sweet. And I know, watching my parents age, that there will still be very difficult chapters to come. But as I write my life here in this space and unearth the stories of the people who have shaped the person I am today and who I will become, I just miss them so much.
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