Owning Up to My Past

[The story connected with this came up a couple of times in conversation recently. Going to link to it, I realized I’d never ported it over to this site. It was originally written December 15, 2005 in another journal of mine.]

These stories I tell are my life. They are important scenes and sequences that have made me who I am now. They are memories, made more real through repetition and recital. They remind me who I am, who I was and who I am working toward being.

When there is a fundamental change to the stories, it requires a fundamental change in my self. We are intertwined, the stories and I. Living a healthy symbiotic relationship. Without one, the other will cease to be. Or at least cease to be in any recognizable form.

About a week ago, I told you all a story about Jessica. That story, I discovered shortly thereafter, was wrong. I have remembered it wrong for at least a decade now, probably longer.

Correcting this story, to make it match with reality, is not an easy task. It is rooted deep within my foundation. It has supported many other angles of my being. It is not something that can just be trimmed, dug up and replanted.

Over the past week, I have very been spending a lot of time thinking deeply on how this affects the me that I am today. Some things have become much more clear. Other things… well, other things I am still working on.

This is how it really happened:

It was the beginning of my sophomore year of High School. I was riding high on a good summer and had equally high hopes for the year to come. The center point of life for me in high school was lunch. It was when the most diverse group of people was gathered together in one place. It was also one of the only times we could all freely interact with one another.

Lisa was the new girl in school. She had lunch with me and a few friends. She was also a bit of a matchmaker. In the first week of school, she hooked one of my friends up with a guy and, as time went on, she would be the catalyst for at least a few other relationships. As time went by, we would also end up hanging with the same Smallwood crowd.

The first big event of the school year, especially for me, was the first school dance. It happened in the first week of school and gave everyone a chance to make an impression. Even though it was held in the cafeteria, it was held at night. Regular school rules–those of rigid social structure, reinforced by the segregation of class schedule and extracurricular activities–took a back seat to that other adolescent urge. The need to show off.

That first dance, in September of 1990, was extra special because it was also the first video dance of the year. (Back in ’90, that was a big deal.)

As always, I went alone. Not that I stayed alone for long. Even back then I felt it was my mission to make people happy. So when I saw some people I knew, I’d wander on over and, if they were feeling a bit down (like my friend–and crush–Kristen was), I’d do my darndest to cheer them up. Nine times out of ten, I was successful. And it usually involved sharing some of my angsty poetry.

Events that night, while not unusual for a school dance, got me thinking about things like relationships. OK, got me thinking deeper about relationships.

I wrote:

…both K* and H* have gone out with men who do not treat them as they should and who have basically neglected them. What they need are men who are mature enough to know and show respect and who do not treat women as possessions.

Any guy who cheats on, mistreats, or disrespects his girlfriend, and ends up losing her, is at fault for his loss. While, on the other hand, his exgirlfriend is better off. However, attempts should be made at some form of communication, it usually help.

A week after the dance, during lunch, Lisa told me that a friend of hers was interested in meeting me. Being a lonely 15 year old guy, I was more than interested in meeting her. I gave Lisa my phone number to pass on.

When I got home that day, Jessica called me for the first time.

We talked, briefly, and I found it quite enjoyable. “I would really like to meet her,” I wrote, “but I can’t get out much. Maybe I’ll have a solution soon.”

I talked to her one more time, with her calling me, before that week was out. The following Monday, Lisa gave me Jessica’s phone number on that pink piece of paper.

From then on we spoke regularly on the phone.

On Friday, September 20, 1990, Jessica and I met for the first time. It was a movie and dessert. The movie was Ghost. The dessert was across the street at the local diner. We talked for hours.

“Jessica’s wonderful. She’s interesting, she’s funny. She is really nice.” Is how I described it back then. It was my first date. Ever.

We talked again that Sunday when she called me. We’d call back and forth every day or so, sometimes one of us would be busy and would have to call the other back later.

On September 25, I wrote:

…I never have anything to talk to Jessica about and she usually ends up doing almost all the talking. Just like today,we were ont he phone for a while and I had no interesting news!

Let’s hope something interesting happens tomorrow.”

On September 27:

I talked to Jessica today, after I came back from the Scout meeting… I don’t know what it is, but something just doesn’t feel right about this relationship. I mean, it seems like something’s missing, but I can’t put my finger on it. But I plan on holding on to this for as long as possible, it’s the best I have.

That Sunday was a group outing to the movies. Me and three women. Three women who were friends. It didn’t go spectacularly. My summation of the day: “Try not to go to the movies with your date’s friends unless they have dates of their own!”

The second dance of the year happened in late October. Jessica and I went together. She had to leave early, and I distinctly remember getting a peck on the cheek as she headed for the door to her parent’s car. That left me smiling for the remaining half hour of the dance.

Her and I spoke semi-frequently. There were some missed calls, come mis-communicated ideas. A party I had been invited by her got canceled. I was busy with the school play and Key Club stuff and school stuff in general. But I had a girlfriend. That was something I had wanted for years.

And then, in November, I called and she wasn’t home. I meant to call back the next day, but forgot. I missed almost a week of school being sick, calling Jessica didn’t cross my fevered mind at all.

Thanksgiving came and went. The Hell Week for the play started and it was all that was on my mind. The play was performed and December crept in.

December 9, 1990:

You know that feeling when your heart kind of stops, jumps up, does a flip and then sinks down to your feet? Well, I do, that’s what happened when I turned around and saw Jessica there! The worst part was I couldn’t take time to talk to her, even if I could have gotten my brain and mouth to cooperate.

I think I better call tomorrow.

And… that was it.

I never called.

I never wrote.

I never really even mentioned her again. To anyone. Until, years later, I started telling that story about the blind date her and I had at the dance.

It ended in silence and I knew it was wrong to let it go that way.

But I did let it go that way. And then I forgot. Regardless of how wrong Jessica and I may have been for each other (and I saw that even back then), I should have at least had the decency to solidly end it. To call her and say, “I’m sorry I haven’t called you in so long. A lot has been going on. I like you, but I don’t think this is going to work.” To say anything would have been better.

I had said it myself, “Any guy who neglects his girlfriend deserves to lose them.” And I did. I didn’t deserve her then.

For the past few days, I’ve wrestled with the idea that maybe, deep down, I’ve never thought I’ve deserved anyone since. I’ve dug inside my self, deep into my foundation, and found that it’s not a feeling of worthlessness I’ve been carting around. It’s guilt.

Guilt that I was that guy that I’ve always hated. That one that just lets the girl dangle in limbo while he goes off and does… whatever. That deep, hidden, secret guilt has worked its way into so many little fears and anxieties in my relationship life. It’s kept me from picking up the phone to call just to say hi. It’s kept me from letting people go. It’s kept me from taking the chance to go after a “maybe” relationship.

But now I’ve found it. I’ve grabbed it. I’ve looked it in its beady little eyes and taken possession of it. Yes, I was that guy once. But I haven’t been since. And I never will be again. That mistake was my own and I most certainly knew it was a mistake when I made it. Unfortunately, I can’t apologize directly to Jessica. If I ever see her, I will.

That pain–what I must have caused her and what I’ve inflicted upon my self in the past fifteen years–is mine now. It can’t hurt me any more.

  • spleeness

    This is a really great post. Don’t worry, you’re not that guy. If it’s been plaguing you, maybe you can find her one day online and apologize?

    • Oh, I’m far from that guy now. I’m also far from beating myself up over it anymore. I think I saw her come up in a search I did once on Facebook. Realized I have absolutely nothing to say… “sorry” after all these years and no effort on either of our parts just didn’t seem pertinent. (Especially since, if I remember correctly, it looked like she was doing pretty good.)

      In retrospect, the events as they transpired were only a big deal (for me) because I made them a big deal. And in high school, I’m sure some vitriol would’ve come my way from the mutual friend who set us up if what I’d done had been exceptionally hurtful.

  • Janis

    “Any guy who neglects his girlfriend deserves to lose them”

    You should remember this when you make arrangements to see people you haven’t seen in a while and then ignore them in favor of texting and tweet to people who “may want to show up” but who obviously aren’t, or to follow Alyssa Milano’s Tweets when nobody cares and people are there IN PERSON to interact with. And I’m not necessarily talking about me – you did this to several other people you had said, “let’s get together and catch up” to as well. It’s not just girlfriends… it’s friend-friends too.

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