It's not everyday that you have the chance to meet up with an old high school flame(!) so I was understandably nervous. (And remember- I have shunned men since my child was born, so this was truly a BIG DEAL.) John had sent me an e-mail out of the blue, then we talked on the phone, then made plans to get together. He's still living in NYC, and his accent sounded just as I remembered it, although I had forgotten how fast he talked. Sometimes my brain had trouble keeping up, although I don't remember having had that problem back when we were "an item". He is now a successful attorney; all I could envision was the handsome, endearing teenager I had known so well for one memorable summer.
I was extremely surprised to hear from him because of the ways things ended. Everything was great when we were together at summer camp in upstate NY- couldn't have been better. We never even argued, which is unusual for me. In fact, that brief relationship may well have been the best one I ever had.....
But when he came to visit me at college, I had stupidly moved on. I was well ensconced in my new one-sided love affair with a guy who turned out to be gay. I blew John off, totally incapable of giving up even one precious moment with my new love interest. I did feel kind of lousy about it, but I was young, inconsiderate and unwise.
I tried to make amends with John later, but he wouldn't respond. I'm sure he was crushed by my unexpected turnabout during his college visit.
Imagine my surprise when he contacted me recently. Forgiveness takes time, depending upon the people involved and the nature of the offense.
Once he e-mailed me, I began obsessively indulging in the sweet memories of that summer. He had picked me out on the first night of camp, when we all sat around a huge circle and introduced ourselves. Good thing he didn't waste any time (he came over to me immediately and made his intentions known) because we got right to it, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire duration of camp, from the first day to the last. Everything is more fun when you have a boyfriend, as I vividly recall.
I remember one day toward the end of camp, when we were just hanging out in a grassy field. He was a dreamy kind of guy, with a James Dean look about him. He said,"Let's get a motorcycle and ride off into the sunset, just you and me against the world!" (Do teenage boys often say things like that?) Maybe he knew it was the last time we'd be together, and maybe we should have ridden off into that sunset.
But not to worry- last night we actually DID meet again! Thanks to John's effort to reconnect, we were able to arrange a reunion while he was here on a business trip. (I told him I wasn't likely to make a child-free trip to NYC for a few years!) When I saw him for the first time, my heart stopped- he looked remarkably the same- very good looking, very sexy, with slightly wavy dark brown hair and that knowing smile that says, "I know what what's going on with you, and I like it." I was speechless.
But not John- in fact it was his smooth personality that had always made him utterly disarming. He was quick witted, fast talking, intense, charming, totally at ease in the world, just as I remembered.
Both of us descended from Irish immigrants who settled in NYC and Long Island, so it was appropriate that we decided to check out a St. Patrick's Day festival. Like a breathless teenager on a date, I tried to focus on the sights, but had to keep glancing at him to see if this was really happening. It was as if the years between now and our summer together had vanished. Last night was simply the next night after our last. We had aged but a day. We did attempt to catch up on what we'd each been doing during the interim years, but the past had a powerful hold on us, and that was just fine. It was an incredible dream come true.
As we walked together, smiling, sometimes holding hands, I wondered why I had let this one slip away. No other boy or man suited me so perfectly. When we stopped walking, he put his arms around me and kissed me just as he had done in the stairwell of our camp dormitory so long ago. The re-living of the precious memory brought tears to my eyes.
When my alarm went off, I was stunned, absolutely crushed with disappointment. The tears eventually dried as I absorbed the harsh fact that John had not really been with me. He really was my boyfriend long ago, and he really did contact me recently, but the rest.....
But I keep thinking: Who's to say it didn't happen? Why couldn't it have been a striking example of time travel? It was so realistic, and we seemed to be 17, despite the awkward talk about our current lives. How is this different from reality? I have a clear memory of it. I have emotions associated with it. The only thing I don't have is the ability to stoke this rekindled romance. And I might not have had that anyway.