The first time he called, it was to offer condolences on my Father's death. Turned out his mom had gone too young as well. We commiserated. Talked about life. Our kids, our spouses. Dear old friends. Nothing more.
But there it was. The Voice. The voice of home, of youth -- of a time of infinite possibility. The first male voice, other than my dad's, that had told me I was beautiful, lovable.
And so, something was stirred up. But not in the way it sounds. I was married, thoroughly. I wouldn't consider crossing the line; that course of action simply didn't exist. If it had, I would have taken it by then.
My former husband spent a lot of time away from home. One of the neighbors had even assumed that we weren't married. So, I could have found a way to stray if I had wanted to. And I can think of a few people who would have assisted with that. But no. I was a rock. Coated in Teflon.
The conversations grew more personal. Eventually, old Hometown dared to make "the inquiry" and suggested that we meet. My reflexive answer to the thought of being unfaithful was "Oh, Sparky (not his real name), there would have to be a death or a divorce before that could even become a possibility." And I followed up with the assurance that I was inviting neither of those endings. I had taken my vows to heart, and to soul.
If I could, I would now time-travel back to my 2008 self, shake her by the shoulders until she chipped a tooth, and command her not to take one more phone call from the guy.
There is a danger greater than the cute co-worker, more insidious than the stay-at-home dad across the street, even worse than the buff dude who always seems to be leaving the gym at the same time you are. Whether he's gone bald, gained 40 pounds, or both, this is a creature who can push buttons you may have thought were long since disconnected.
Did my First Love kill my marriage? Of course not. My marriage killed my marriage. But a last-minute flirtation can serve quite effectively as one of the final nails in the coffin. OK, he may have nudged things along with the dumbass move of having flowers "anonymously" delivered to my house. It was delightful, and surprising, to receive a bouquet for the first time in forever, for no apparent reason. I instantly called my mother to say thank you.
It has taken years to recover from the shame and horror of the unthinkable realization -- no, not that I could ever, possibly, have been a cheater. Something much worse than that: That I could be a cliche, dammit. Finally I have come full circle to a place of earnest, detached curiosity.
What is it about that first one?
The best article I found so far is three years old, but still getting a substantial response. In "Reuniting With Your First Love, On the Net" Dr. Rob Dobrenski, PhD, at ShrinkTalk.net struck a nerve that has not stopped twitching for many people. Read the comments! Refill your coffee mug first.
Not only is the "Return of the First Love" a common phenomenon, it is more virulent than other types of infidelity, and more likely to survive than just any old home-wrecking affair.
First Love Reversion: the comfort food of the online adultery buffet. And now so conveniently available! Facebook and other sites may have facilitated it, but they didn't create the phenomenon. It's just easier now for those who were previously too lazy or fearful to make contact.
I guess there is a sad logic to it: Life has worn you down, the zing is gone, and maybe worse -- you don't even feel the contentment that might be expected in a long-term marriage. And Hometown offers the whole package: Your First could never be a sleazy affair, after all; they have deep roots in your life story. It's not the empty thrill of newness, it's the redemptive ideal of renewal. Could be Magic. More likely Tragic.
My friends and relatives have their own stories: One was immune; her First had no such superpowers. Long married, in a way that is loving and solid, if not blissful, my mod-cool neighbor snort-laughed at the notion. Not tempted, not even remotely interested in her First. He was a decidedly easy act to follow. Good for her. And for her cool husband.
Others? The co-worker who is irritated by inappropriate contact from hers, but not quite irritated enough to tell him to stop. The relative whose marriage has become a question mark, who finds himself tracking His First online. These are people who would not put up with or seek extra-marital flirtation as a general rule. Yet, they make exceptions for Old Sparky or Sparkle.
Turns out I dodged a bullet. Four years and one divorce later, my former husband has since found The One and is happily remarried. I have made Detente, if not complete Peace, with myself. And now a little raven tells me that old Hometown recently has joined the ranks of the Unmarried as well. Funny, when faced with actual possibility, I am clear-eyed, certain. I will not pick up the phone.
There's a time for First Love. Now, I'm focused on the one who will be my Last.