Saturday, May 1, 2010

I found something I didn't know I'd lost

Last night I found an old letter. It was from an old boyfriend with whom I believe I had the "real thing". Love. In the letter he confirmed the feelings he had for me - for the first time, at least to my limited recollection. We had broken up and he wanted me back. That in itself is not that remarkable but...

We had met at the hospital where both of us worked as housekeepers. For him, it was a summer job. For me, it was a job close to home; I was working to save money so I could move to the city and get my own apartment. Each of our plans were already in the works when we fell in love. And we fell hard. The short time we had together was like one of those Nicholas Sparks novels - magical, but destined not to last.

After the summer we kept up a long distance relationship, writing letters and seeing each other when we could. At times he came up to the city, other times I went downstate to visit him in his dorm. Needless to say, it became too difficult, with each of us trying to adjust to new circumstances.

One day I was returning home from the train station, and a man approached me and we talked in a friendy way as I walked home. Being very naive and young, and lonely - and very hung over - I thought little about letting him come in for a few minutes. The next day when I came home, he was waiting for me in the hallway with a knife. He forced his way into my apartment as I unlocked the door, he raped me, and he stayed for hours until I could convince him to leave (I had no phone yet) - by agreeing to see him again. Foolishly, I did not go to the police then. I had a male friend come over the next day, and he chased the man down the street when he arrived. The next day my apartment was broken into, my little bit of jewelry stolen, my cats gone out the open back door. I did go to the police then. My rapist was eventually caught on another charge.

My enjoyment as an independent young woman in the city was short lived. I moved to a hotel temporarily, then found a roommate. Thus began many years of living in fear and -- while I no longer blame myself for being a victim -- behavior that attracted dangerous circumstances to me and vice versa. Drinking and using drugs to the point of oblivion became my primary occupation, though I did have a day job.

My boyfriend? He was as kind and anyone could be. On his campus, he joined an anti-rape group. He tried his best to be there for me, but it was too much, because my behavior (what little I can recall of it) was pushing him away. At the same time, I was insecure and needy, wanting him to be there more than he was able to. He decided it was best for me if we broke up, so I would not be in a position to be hurt by the separations. I did not believe that was his motive at the time, but I think differently now.

After running into each other at a concert some time later, I must have sent him a letter. I received the long letter that I just re-read last night as if for the first time. In it, he said he never stopped thinking and worrying about me. In it, he said he wanted to get back together. He said he knew he had been too selfish but he wanted to try to do better, and that probably he would fail at times. His other letters had been full of chatty information about school, along with little jokes and cartoons he had drawn. This one was different. Serious and sincere. And how did I respond? I have no idea. For all I know I never did reply. In my journals at that time I stated I did not want to commit to anyone, that I wanted attention from men, and I wanted to party.

This man was a few years younger than me. I had already had two serious boyfriends. I had been pregnant and lost the baby. I had dropped out of college. However I was his first, his first serious girlfriend - his first. Looking back I knew that he was my first also - first love. Maybe the only one. And now having read his letter, I really GET it. For a short time I had love. Not friends with benefits, not someone who was using me, but the real thing.

And so Steve, if by chance you ever read this, thank you. It was no one's fault that the timing was wrong. And it was not your fault, or any one's, that I have this disease of alcoholism, which caused me to pour booze on top of pain, which created more pain, which would then need more booze...

That cycle has been broken these past 20 years, thank God. And now another little piece of my past has gently fallen into place. I was loved, I did love, for however short a time. It did happen for me - and it could happen for me again. Thanks to you, I believe this now.

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