Monday, February 13, 2012

5 Loves: The Infatuation


I was born a lover. Something about me falls easily for other  people. I love to love. As a tribute to the holiday of romance I am writing about the five great loves of my life--for better or for worse--after all what's romance without the heart break?

Luke liked Anna, not me.
If Anna had liked Luke back none of this would have happened.
But she didn't.
Instead, I liked Luke while Luke liked Anna.
But before Luke knew I liked him, I was his indispensable go-between, calling me nightly to see if Anna had dropped his name in a positive conversation.
But she never did, and after awhile those calls became flirty, not so much about Anna but about me. Then, he offered to come over and help me study for my Biology 101 class because at some point, before he was in the MBA program, he was pre med. And at this point, I was sure he liked me. Not Anna.

"So, I guess you know I have feelings for you, right?" I asked him on the phone one night.
Luke's usual teasing tone had started us out, but my dropping the word "feelings" had suddenly stopped us in silence.
"Hello?" I asked to an almost lifeless connection.
"I am flattered but . . ." he stuttered.

I was nineteen, Luke was twenty-four. We met at church one day while he was trying to pick-up Anna, who was one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world and roommate. I knew very well what he saw in Anna, she was tall, blond, sweet and earnest. Good to the marrow in her bone, Anna. She looked like a perfect match for Luke's gigantic body--toned by years of football both in high school and college. Next to me he looked like a my paid body guard, next to Anna he looked just right.

When I was certain Anna wasn't feeling a connection after dating Luke a couple times, I decided I could make up in personality what I lacked in physicality. I was short, but I could sparkle. I couldn't be an angel like Anna, so (my nineteen year old self believed) I would play a little bit of a devil.

Now, I was raised better than this. My mother and father wanted me to be a smart girl, but they definitely fostered my determined heart, and sometimes I was more determined than I was smart. This attribution bloomed when I met Luke. I fell so hard for him I was blind to the rest of my life. I thought he was the epic Mormon man, well-connected, strictly religious and destined to make a lot of money one day. So infatuated I was with Luke, I would talk myself into going out with other boys to calm myself down. But it was lonely to be with anyone other than him, so much so I'd vomit when I'd get home.

It wasn't right.

Then one day I showed up to church with a new dress. It was a body-shaping, secretary-from-the-50s, below-the-knee, Jackie O-inspired number. I felt powerful in it--just enough modest and just enough sensuality. That was the day Luke sat by me and flirtingly honored my chest with a nickname,
"Courtney's Christian Cleavage."

That night we drove to the mountains where he leaned over in his seat in the car and told me he wanted to kiss me. He admitted to me he had never kissed a girl before. This well-liked, popular, jock of twenty-four had never kissed a woman? (Quickly I had a flash of memory-- my brother's warning to disbelieve any guy who claimed he was virgin-lipped!) But I desperately wanted to believe Luke this time, because being his first kiss would mean I was special.

So I kissed him. A lot actually.

And when he dropped me off at my apartment he thanked me for a lovely evening.

"How about we keep this a secret?" he said, referring to my being roommates with Anna and the other girls he knew from church.

"Great." I said winking good night.

For weeks Luke would call my apartment and leave disguised names in messages.

"Hello, this is Lenny looking for Courtney."

My friends never guessed my late night "study groups" were really trips to Luke's house. They assumed the various phone calls from mysterious men ("Oliver") were nothing more than classmates with school-related quandaries. I lied to them day after day because Luke didn't want them to know how close we had become. I was acting the devil part very well indeed.

Too well in fact. One night after being with Luke in his big white house on the hill I decided I was tired of the deception. I believed my relationship with Luke was at a solid point where we could start telling our friends and family--if we were progressing towards something serious, they'd be sure to find out anyway (wedding announcements?)

"I am going to tell Anna, and the rest of the girls tonight," I said to Luke as I crept out of his house to the secret location of my car (he didn't want to risk anyone driving by, seeing my car and getting suspicious).

When I arrived home around midnight I told my friends about my secret (and chaste) love affair. I felt they all understood my reasoning and though they were surprised, they wished me well. All except Anna. When I woke up the next morning she had moved out. I had deeply hurt her.

I told myself she'd understand one day the feeling that you would do anything for a man you were in love with. Some day down the road, Luke and I would double date with Anna and her love and we'd have a gorgeous laugh. Besides, she wasn't interested Luke, so why would this matter?

And yet, I felt horrible. Sick to my stomach and not an ounce of relief.

Then I waited all day for Luke to call and check in on me, (and not have to say, "Yes, this is Jasper calling for Courtney.")
I waited for him to ask,
"So, how did it go?"
"Are you ok?'
"Can I come pick you up?"
I waited to hear him say,
"You did the right thing."

I waited and waited and waited.

He never called.

Ever again.

I looked for him at church, but he didn't come. I drove around his house, but he was never home. I called him, but he never answered. He wiped me out his life like an erasure on a board, my existence was nothing but whispy bits of powdery chalky residue in his timeline. He didn't break my heart, he annihilated it and left no remains.

For the months that followed I slumped around in a shallow atmosphere. I moved back home and found slight relief in sleeping and Prozac. I wrote painful poetry. I avoided crowds. Ate nothing. I thought about Luke so much I believed there would never be a time I wouldn't think about him. I was so embarrassed about my behavior--the naivete, the lying, the depression that followed I couldn't stand the thought of my own sociability. And even though my dear, patient, kind Anna forgave me, I couldn't forgive myself.

I was Marianne Dashwood, crying out for her abandoning Willoughby.

Then, one day, some months later I was at church sitting in Sunday School when Luke came walking into the room. I nearly flat-lined. Anna and Wendy saw him first and slid away from the seats next to me hoping Luke would fill one of them. And he did.

It felt like full body paralysis to be that close to him again. My lungs filled with air and wouldn't exhale. I wondered if my voice would even function. But it didn't have to. Luke handed me a note, written in all caps (like a pre med student practicing prescription writing) on a yellow sticky note,

"Meet me after church? Your house?"

I nodded.

When he showed up that afternoon he was still wearing his church clothes. I invited him into the living room. We sat on the couch. I had allowed myself to believe this was the moment my anguish had fought for, this was Luke saying, I've missed you.

But instead he said, "I've found someone."

"I am happy for you," I replied unable to calculate how deadly this final blow would be to my well-being.

"I wanted to tell you thank you for something," he continued, smiling and taking up a genuine tone of voice. It was bizarre to have him sitting next to me on the couch, so close and yet, not be able to curl up next to him. He belonged to someone else now, I couldn't get the thought to engage in my head.

"I was abused as a child by a neighbor my parents befriended. My whole life I was scared of anything intimate. I never dared kiss a girl until I met you. You broke that barrier for me. And now I know I can do this. I can be comfortable with a girlfriend."

I sat in shock.

"You were good for me," he concluded.

He hugged me and walked out the door. After he left me I sobbed a huge, sloppy cry that took over my body and shook my hopes and dreams out of me. It would be years before I really realized what happened to me that summer when Luke liked Anna, and I liked Luke and Luke, for a moment, liked me.

I was young.

Stay tuned for later today when I post Love #4: The Rebel.