Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Gift

When it was all over, this blast from the past, K. was put out. She wanted a do-over, or an un-do-over in this particular circumstance. It would have been better if he had never come back into her life, ruffled her feathers, caused a stir.

The trigger in this case was a movie, "Lord of the Rings." He said he was watching the movie with his girlfriend and thought of K. and her clique, a bunch of hobbit crazy 18-year-olds. But it was K. he couldn't stop thinking about. So he called her parents' number. And as fate would have it, 30 years later, she was there that day, helping her elderly parents.

He never expected to actually talk to her. He just called to see whether someone answered. To ask how she was, to see whether she was still married, truth be told.

This call set off a series of e-mails, phone calls, small gifts of books and music CD's. He admitted he had never gotten over K. She was reluctant. She was long married, with children. He was a parent too, but long separated. Their parting had not been a happy one.

Their courtship way back then was brief, but intense. He was a dashing senior, about to graduate. She was a freshman. Flighty, beautiful, pursued by many. They were together as much as possible, and talked on the phone when they weren't. But he omitted one pertinent fact. He was engaged to be married to his hometown girl.

She found out one weekend when a friend still in high school called. The engagement had been announced in the newspaper.

K. was devastated. In the way of an 18-year-old girl who thinks she's in love for the first time.

She saw him one more time. He showed up outside her house that summer, late at night. He begged her to tell him not to marry. She refused. She wanted him to make that decision on his own. Pride. She wondered about that refusal for many years.

Until that day at her parents' house, when he called. Out of the blue. Warning sign. Not particularly contrite, even then. Ready to pick up and be friends. All those years later.

After some hesitation, K. got back on the roller coaster. Emotionally speaking. They did not see each other except for a very brief visit, once. Their affair was not physical. But it turned her life upset down.

He followed the same pattern he had as a younger man. He reeled her in with intense professions of feeling. Flooded her e-mail and voicemails with conversations and flattery. Proof, he said, of how much alike they were, of their suitability. He intimated they were fated for each other. He stopped seeing the girlfriend.

Heady stuff for a long settled middle-age woman with children who were grown and gone or just on the verge.

And then, when he had his quarry right where he had hoped, he bolted. Back to his solitude. She was hurt. Then finally relieved, set it aside. After a long silence, he surfaced but she ignored tentative attempts to communicate.

She knows now he is a hermit, really. It's not even his fault, I reminded her. A tiger doesn't change his stripes, even when he wants to. It is what it is.

I don't think K. would have actually left her life, when it got down to it. Her husband is distracted and not particularly attentive too often. But he's her family now. I think this interloper was a lesson, a last gasp, emotional fling that came along to teach her that. And for another reason she doesn't even understand. Yet.

This blast from the past wasn't really a waste of K.'s emotional capital. Because that former dashing romantic gave her a gift. He brought back a part of her that she left behind on the campus quad, that big beautiful expanse of green that went on and on, the one we thought we would walk across forever and ever.

Most of us lost a lot of ourselves from those days, during the long, hard trudges through work, parenthood, illness and losing people we loved. Through the ravages of time. K. was one of those people. Tired, going through the motions. But she's not now. Old Mr. romance is gone, he absconded again, but he left K. a present.

Her sparkle is back. Always beautiful, her blue eyes are not the only things about her that are alive with light. Yes, she is burnished by time and experience. Now she looks like she has a secret and she does. She knows from B.S. now. And she's turning heads again. It is a joy to be with her. Because she is absolutely aglow.


  1. Well done. A story definitely worth sharing!

  2. I wanted K. to "see" what everybody else does now. And it's easier for me to show on a page. Thank you for reading Miz blog!