A long time ago my friend from church decided to set me up with a friend of hers from college and invited me to a small gathering where we would have the opportunity to meet. She was certain that Cathy and I would hit it off (I've never understood that phrase -- what are we hitting?). With apologies to my friend, I found myself completely bored with the object of the setup and totally smitten with Dana, our hostess.
Dana was tall, with a large, tumbling mane of wavy brown hair, and piercing blue eyes that paralyzed me with fascination. She was beautiful, smart, and completely unimpressed with me, barely seeming to notice my presence in the room, and I perceived her to be resoundingly unattainable. So, naturally, I became obsessed with her.
Over the next few weeks I was invited to more gatherings of these same girls, and as time passed, Dana and I began to make eye contact, which totally freaked me out (but in a really good way). One night I brought my guitar and serenaded the group with my original songs of longing, unrequited love, and pain. It was ridiculous. The hardest part was pretending not to care if she was listening or not, because of course, I cared about little else. Prior to hearing my music, I think Dana perceived me as a strange little person who never said much about what was happening inside that "pretty little head" of mine, but now we seemed to have a lot in common. We started having dinner without the group, talking into all hours of the night about our lives and our histories, making amazing comparisons and finding so many common threads that we could have made a quilt. Up until this point, I felt as though I had lived my entire life in a country where nobody spoke the same language as I did.
Suddenly we were dating, but under the crushing weight of her desire to keep her well-meaning friends out of our romance, for she was so afraid that they would somehow ruin everything. Experiencing this powerful honeymoon phase in secrecy was a dreadful and exhausting thing. One summer night we all trooped off to the local county fair, both of us convinced that nobody would notice that we were completely in love (because love makes people quite stupid). When we kissed at the top of the ferris wheel, thoroughly convinced that nobody below could see what was happening, there might as well have been a television crew dangling from the car above us. The secret was out and apparently had been since the first time we allowed ourselves to be in the same room with anyone else. I remember how genuinely surprised we were.
Our romance was full of intensity and joy, and for the first time I found myself looking forward to each new day. I wrote love songs like a machine, and I was excited all the time, anxious to see what she would be wearing, to hear about her day, to have one of our marathon conversations, and to get to know who she was. I suppose it did scare me a bit, for it was all so very new to me, but I was too stupid to realize that what I was feeling was fear. I interpreted this sensation as feeling alive, and I liked it. Dana was apparently not so stupid, and one day she ran away from me in complete terror, and I had no idea that I was supposed to chase after her. Having little experience, I was unaware of what I was expected to do, and with no "emotional Hogwarts" to teach me how to use the crystal ball I unknowingly had in my possession, I decided that if she wanted to run, I shouldn't try to stop her, even if I didn't understand why she wanted to leave. I kept picturing the poster on the wall in my guidance counselor's office in high school that said if I loved something, I should set it free. And so I lost her. I was devastated and confused, with no idea what had happened or why, and I felt worthless and pathetic for longer than I care to admit.
It wasn't until we reconnected recently on Facebook that we had a dialogue about our entire relationship, and why it ended. Just as we had done all those years ago, we talked and talked until we literally ran out of things to say, and I finally understood (sort of) what had happened. We talk pretty regularly these days, and even though the dynamic of our relationship has changed, that old familiar comfort remains, and I find myself willing to share just about anything that pops into my head. In many ways we are still that same singular person.
I marvel a bit at how naïve I was all those years ago, but to be honest, I really don't feel that different now. I think if you are scared, you should say you are scared. And I think if you decide to run away, it should be because you are done, and not because you want or expect someone to chase you. Although I'm currently without a whirlwind in my life, I still believe that love is the greatest feeling in the world, and that everyone should have a chance to experience it, even if only once. A life with a partner who gets you and really knows who you are is a life worth celebrating every single day. I don't think love should be as complicated as we make it, and if that's naïveté, I'm good with that.
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