Heading into Valentine's Day - seems like a good time to write about loves gone wrong. With the new Van Halen release out there and all of the hubbub surrounding it (in certain circles, anyway), this story bobbed up to the surface.
We were heading for the nineties, living in the eighties. (if you want to pick nits, it was already the early 90's. But the transition from decade to decade is sometimes fuzzy - and I hated to miss the opportunity to reference The Escape Club)
I was teaching job/life skills to high school students with disabilities by day and finishing up my Master's degree by night. I supplemented my meager income - why is it that the jobs where I felt I was doing the most good were always the jobs where I received the least compensation? - by working in a pizza shop. Keeping busy helped me to pay less attention to the fact that I was almost 30, living in a dump, and lonely as hell.
It was in that pizza shop that I met him. He was excessively cute. His best friend was the brother of one of my co-workers and he was part of a group that hung out in the shop a lot. He was 24 to my 29 - an age difference which his mother - among other people - found to be scandalous. When I met him, he was dating a girl who was 19. Ten years younger than me, but only 5 years younger than him. Funny - no-one found THAT age difference to be scandalous in the least. She was cute and young and perky - all of the things I was desperately trying to hang on to, but slowly losing. She was also as dumb as a box of hair - but because she was indeed cute and young and perky, people tended not to notice that right away.
One night after work, a bunch of us decided to head to a local watering hole for a beer or seven. Most of them were dressed casually cute. I was wearing a Van Halen T-shirt, converse high tops and a bandana. It was how I dressed for work. Making pizzas is messy and I wore clothes that were just this side of the rag bin so that I wouldn't ruin anything I really liked. I would've changed if we had been going into the city - but since we were staying close to home I really didn't care.
He cozied up to me.
Well THIS was an interesting turn of events.
"Where's your girlfriend tonight?" I yelled, over the jukebox and the quickly escalating voices of the local drinkers.
"I had to break things off. She's nice and all - but it's hard to date someone who isn't old enough to go to a bar."
Yikes. I hadn't even THOUGHT of it THAT way before.
"I bet." I said, as I bought the next round - a subtle reminder that *I* was, indeed, old enough to go to a bar.
He drove me home that night and we danced in my apartment. I won't tell you what song was playing because it was schmaltzy and gross and completely not something I would listen to - even then - and I don't want you thinking of the stupid song and missing the point of how sweetly romantic it was that he was slow dancing with me in my apartment.
In what little free time I had, given the school/two jobs thing, we became inseparable.
I was happy.
I was nearing graduation, I had a boyfriend who was cute and smart, I was living on the outskirts of the greatest city in the world - life was good. As it so often happens, once I started feeling better, I started dressing better. I still wore the same sort of things to work, but I would change if we were going out - even locally. It was all connected - feeling better, looking better - it's a reciprocal relationship.
When he started pulling away from me, I didn't understand it. What had gone wrong?
Of course I asked.
He said - over his shoulder as he walked away - "I miss the girl in the Van Halen T-shirt."
I didn't miss her. She was sad. I missed him, though. For a while.
But that's the beauty of hindsight.
If he hadn't walked out that door - missing a sadder version of me - I would have never ended up where I am now.
So I suppose I should thank him.
For briefly making me feel special, for dancing with me in my apartment, and - most importantly - for walking away so that I could move on to better things - the things that were meant for me.