Thoughts on love lost and found

by DaniGirl on June 23, 2009 · 11 comments

in It IS all about me

Once upon a time, I had a crush on an altar boy. I used to go to Saturday evening mass just because he was there, and then we’d head out in a noisy, happy gang to do whatever it is teenagers do on a Saturday night. In fact, he was the boyfriend of a good friend of mine. They were “the” couple in our high school, the inseperable ones, the ones who were together so often that you really started to think of them as a single entity.

I’d known him since grade school, but it wasn’t until half way through high school that our social circles started to intersect regularly. We became friends, and soon the three of us — he, his girlfriend, and I — were spending a lot of time together. One March Break his girlfriend went off to Florida and he and I spent the whole week together, not quite bold enough to do more than hold hands discreetly when we knew no-one was looking, but there was no mistaking the mutual attraction between us. I was 16 and desperate for affection, but not desperate enough to be disloyal to my friend.

She came back from Florida and I’m pretty sure she was oblivious to what had almost happened in her absence. We went back to being the Three Amigos again, but it was never as comfortably fun as it had been in the months before. I didn’t exactly pine for him, nor resent his girlfriend, but felt a kind of melancholy sadness over what I knew would never be.

A few weeks later, I started seeing a boy who lived out of town. I drifted away from my friends, as often happens in high school (and for that matter, even now) when a new boyfriend comes into the picture. Our social circles still intersected, and I saw them occasionally. In fact, it was less awkward being a threesome with an invisible and out-of-town fourth than it had been before. Just a few days after graduation, though, I moved across the province to live with my new boyfriend. In the adventure of new love, I left most of my best friends behind me like discarded possessions.

Through the years, I thought often of my altar boy and regretted losing touch. While I’d managed to keep in touch with the dearest of my high school friends, my altar boy seemed to drop off the map after graduation. I knew he and his girlfriend had broken up, but nobody seemed to know what had become of him. Through the years, I’d idly check online directories and alumni lists, but his name was nowhere to be found. He’d disappeared – but I never stopped wondering about him.

He was, in many ways, the one that got away. I wouldn’t change the path that my life has taken for any sum of money, but he’s the one that I would wonder about, late at night, especially when things were in turmoil. What if? What if? What if I hadn’t had that ridiculously overdeveloped sense of loyalty, that long ago March Break in 1986? What if I hadn’t been so desperate for attention and affection when the new boy swooped into the picture?

The fact that he disappeared so utterly and completely after high school only elevated him to nearly mythic status in my imagination. I imagined him doing some sort of foreign aid work in third-world countries, or planting trees in the Amazon rain forest, or riding his bicycle across the country to raise awareness and funds for some obscure disease. Of all my friends, he seemed the most likely to do something like that.

And then one day, I found him. On Facebook. I was perusing the ‘friends’ list of another friend from the same high school social circle, looking for familiar names. (Do you do this? I scan the list, see names I recognize, and then do nothing about it. Why do I bother if I’m too shy to reach out? Facebook brings out the strangest bits of me.) When I read his name, I’m quite sure my jaw dropped open in surprise. I know for a fact my breath caught in my throat. Could it be the same person? Of course it was, but I had so elevated my altar boy to the stuff of legend that to find him in such a pedestrian place — stumbled on to in a Facebook account of all things — seemed so unlikely that at first I simply stared at his name in wonder.

At first, I was so surprised to find him that I did nothing. I clicked back into Facebook a few times, just looking at his name. His icon was nondescript, a blurry photo that could have been just about anybody or – for that matter – anything. I agonized over how to make contact. Whether to make contact. Countless scenarios spun out in my imagination, not least of which would be him replying to my query saying he didn’t remember me from high school. (After all these years, it’s rather alarming how close to the surface resides that crushingly insecure fourteen-year-old girl I was.)

Finally, I spent an hour crafting a two line message, imbuing it with as much friendly nonchalance as I could muster. I think I hovered with my mouse pointed to the send button for an eternity before releasing 20 years of “what if” with a single click of the mouse.

For a week, nothing happened. Well, lots happened, but nothing that could have possibly met the expectations pent up in my Facebook account. Just when I was beginning to think I’d been mistaken — mortally, painfully mistaken — I got his response.

We exchanged a few messages in that stilted way that comes with intimacy followed by a 20-year gap. I learned that he had a daughter, herself a teenager now, but no wife. He is a salesman, living in a middling-to-large city that I’d visited a few times. I told him that I’d married, and divorced, and remarried, and that I was happy. He never said whether he was happy, too. Our conversation petered out after just a few messages, with neither warmth or regret. It’s been more than a year since we made contact, and each time I see his name in my list of friends, I feel that pang of lost wonder.

His ordinaryness continues to amaze me.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yvonne June 23, 2009 at 7:46 am

Funny – trying to figure out whether reality and closure is best or if it would have always given you something to daydream about on those rainy melancholy days. No answers here; just ponderous thoughts.

2 sky girl June 23, 2009 at 9:13 am

So the question is: do you wish you hadn’t made contact?

3 Mac and Cheese June 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I had a similar facebook event. I crafted a ‘nonchalant’ note to an ex with whom I’ve never had closure. I got an even more nonchalant, polite reply, clearly inviting no further banter. I feel like a dumbass now.

4 suze June 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm

oh my, I’m doing the same thing at the moment with THE crush (who was my best friend) from highschool. He disappeared in Grade 12, without a word, and for years I wondered about him, and then mostly forgot about him, and then stumbled across him in the friends list of a friend a few months ago. I’ve hovered over that “add as friend” button a few times, but haven’t yet pushed it, wondering if it would be better to just let sleeping dogs lie…

5 DaniGirl June 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I’ve been wondering, even as I wrote this, whether I regretted re-establishing contact, however brief and unsatisfying it was. In a way, yes, because I’m sad that he’ll never live up to the expectations I had built up. But then, could anyone? On the other hand, it’s a bit like how Stephen King describes the monster in the closet as far more terrifying than the monster you can see… it’s a relief to have my choices and my life path validated, albeit in a very obscure way.

Suze — my gut reaction? Don’t push that button!

6 Amber June 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I think Facebook brings out the weirdest bits of everyone. It really doesn’t help that these are people you knew at a time when everything was weird, I think. I have a very love hate relationship with it myself.

7 Rebecca June 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm

This is really well written and very relatable. I think we all have the ‘what ifs’ but like you said, what we imagine/build up in our heads never meets the reality. Sometimes we are better left wondering…

8 Pam June 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Great post, Dani. I have a few of these guys myself, and one in particular. Maybe I should try to find him again!

9 smothermother June 24, 2009 at 6:59 am

It would seem that FB is making a lot of us go through teenage termoil, whether we wanted to or not. My “guy” is from my 20s, he was The One. I am happily married with a beautiful son, but having this guy on my FB list and seeing him and his family breaks my heart a little every time I see it. I feel like “un-friending” him, but just can’t bring myself to do it.

Great post Dani. At least I know I’m not the only one out there in this weird situation.

10 julie June 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

I agree that this is a great post. Why? Because I read it yesterday and I’m still thinking about it. Facebook really brings back alot of highschool angst, doesn’t it?

11 Valerie June 24, 2009 at 9:01 am

I have a friend from university that I think about like that – I wonder, I look in different directories, but I also imagine that if I did meet him again that it would be very stilted.

I also wonder, since you posted this to facebook, if your alter boy would recognize himself? And how he would feel if he did.

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