I tend to fall in love very quickly and, usually, with the wrong woman. Even to this day I still believe Judy, the Time-Life operator, is just playing hard to get. After all, she did send me a football phone (and she wouldn't do that for just anyone, right?)
I blame movies for my failures in love. I was taught, at a very young age, that when you fall in love, you will know it. There will be fireworks, the soundtrack of your life will swell to a magnificent crescendo and, if you are very lucky, there will be some slow motion running in a field of flowers. Unfortunately for me, no one else seems to be watching the same movie that I am. That's not to say that I haven't sabotaged the script myself once or twice in my quest. Sometimes not only am I not watching the movie, but I've left the theatre, got into my car, and crashed into a tree on the way home.
One afternoon, when I was about 18 years old, I was talking with my older brother.
"Who is that girl that works at the pharmacy?" he asked. "She is gorgeous."
"Oh, her?" I replied, and then said something that I regret even to this day.
If, in the future, I am given one-time only access to a time machine, I would not go back to talk to Jesus, nor would I go back and kill the baby Hitler. What I would do is go back to 10 seconds before this conversation took place, and punch my 18-year-old self right in the mouth.
"That's Kathy," I said with an undeserved smugness, from an unsupported ego and a false bravado that several decades later I still cringe over when I think about it. "Yeah, she's in love with me."
My brother's head cocked to the side, his mind clearly entertaining the thought that I was adopted, that there was no way we could be related and that my real family would be coming for me any minute now. He then said something that pretty much summed up my love life from that moment through today.
"What are you," he asked, "an asshole?"
Kathy was beautiful, and sweet, and the nicest person I have ever met in my entire life and yet, I did not want to date her. I wanted to hang out with my friends; I wanted to drink beer and go down to the Shore; I wanted to go out and find the love of my life.
So, yes -- I was an asshole.
A few years ago I met a woman whom I really liked. Her name was Hollie and on our first date we met for drinks. We hit it off right away. Loved the same music, movies, books and understood each other's jokes. After drinks we left the bar and walked toward her car.
"Can I give you a lift?" she asked, and at the moment I was very glad I had parked my 2002 Saturn with the missing hubcaps in a parking garage.
"Sure," I replied as I stepped into her brand new silver Jaguar. "I'm just around the corner."
A second date followed, along with dozens of very funny emails (some guys have looks, some guys can dance, I do funny emails). A third date was in the planning stage when I received an email, one I felt Charlotte Bronte might have sent if computers were available in the 19th century:
"My deceit has caught up to me, and I can never see you again."
I was devastated. It had only been two dates, but I had already imagined the great life we were going to have together. The witty conversations, the laughter from jokes no one else could understand, the sex. All my follow-up emails were ignored so I searched the internet for clues. I tend to get somewhat obsessive. It's not healthy, and I know it's wrong; I still remember the license plate number of a girl I had a crush on in high school (I know, scares me, too).
Eventually I gave up -- I found nothing. I would have to chalk it up to experience, start the movie again and hope someone else would buy a ticket to the show.
A few months later I was meeting another woman for drinks. The place we were to meet was a very large restaurant with many rooms, each with its own bar. I was there early, so I walked around, moved from room to room, bar to bar, and that's when I saw her. Hollie. She was standing alone; she did not see me coming as I moved up beside her.
"Hello," I said.
There is that split second when you first see someone that your face betrays your thoughts, gives you up to the police, hands the invasion plans over to the enemy. Those milliseconds before you have the chance to put on the bullshit smile and say how happy you are to see me.
She was not happy to see me.
We begin the small talk, I ask how she has been and what was she doing here. She tells me she was meeting a friend, but it looks like the friend's a no show, so she was leaving after this drink. We talk some more, then I ask the question she was hoping I would not ask, but I was tired of tripping over loose ends.
"What was the deceit?"
She refused to discuss it, and then miraculously answered her cell phone that never rang. She then mouths, "I need to take this, I'll be right back," and gathered her things and headed toward the front door.
The entrance to the restaurant is very large, more like a garage then a doorway. I watched as she put her cell phone back in her purse just as an older man -- tall and distinguished, except for hair like Albert Einstein's -- walked up to her in the parking lot. I can see them talking, a few hand gestures from Hollie ("For the love of God, we can't go back in there), then the two walked toward her silver Jaguar.
I watched as Hollie, a woman I am sure I would never see again, and the man with Einstein hair whom I was sure had a great deal of money and a very large penis, get into her car and drive away.
As I watched I thought about how I felt about this woman, how I pined for her and thought if I could only see her again I knew I could change her mind. Then another thought came to me. Not so much a thought, but a memory. A conversation I had with my friend Tammy after first meeting Hollie, before the deceit would end things, when I was still walking on air. I told her I had met a woman, and she had a unique way of spelling her name.
"H-O-L-L-I-E," I said.
Tammy thought for a second. "'I-E' and not a 'Y'?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied.
I was comforted by what Tammy said next, and the reason I love my friends.
"Yeah," she said, "she's a f*ckin' whore bag."
The movie of my life may not have a leading lady yet, but it does have a wonderful supporting cast.
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