Sunday, January 4, 2009
How I Met My True Love
I found a little New Year's inspiration here: a challenge to write the story of how I met my best love.
My junior year of college, I came out of a failed love affair with a brilliant artist, a pothead, whose long hair I would put in french braids for him whenever he liked, he was funny and beautiful, but cruel and with a penchant for boys as yet unfulfilled. Our relationship ended painfully, and I was miserable, and miserably sought comfort in highly unsuitable beds. When I could see again, and had become disgusted with my own behavior, I began to notice a man, a friend of one of the girls I shared an apartment with, Lucy. He was older by five years, because, I heard, he had been in the army and then returned to college. I would watch him from across the smoking lounge in the social center, and I saw that although he often held forth with a noisy bunch of comrades, he had a quiet center and was mature. Don't ask me how I could see this across a room, through a haze of smoke and noise, but, somehow, I could.
I began to find ways to hang out with him, and just to be near him. I remember one night, I joined Lucy and this man at the little campus nightclub. I was working on a paper on Byron's poetry, and was tired of working alone. The three of us shared a tiny table and ordered coffee and chocolate cake, and I got out my pen and notebook and Complete Works of Lord Byron. I asked Lucy's friend what he thought of a particular poem, how he would interpret it--it was "So We'll Go No More A-Roving"--and of course, being that this was college and by this time he had probably noticed me too, he offered a very smart commentary. Ah, the heady days of intellectual foreplay...
He began taking me on occasional drives at night, to get off campus and to complain about our failed love affairs--but soon the conversation turned to other, more interesting topics, like what we wanted to be when we grew up. At that time, it was a toss-up for me between rabbinical school and the FBI, and I think that impressed him, as our college was chock full of mindless liberal drones, smart but all planning seemingly the same career in public service law. Fine career, of course, but not the only one in the world. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but still.
I began to think about him all the time, in between our car rides. But what I didn't realize then was that Lucy's friend was actually Sarge, my Sarge, the one with whom I would be forever after that, who gave me Hedgie, who is the love of my life, my only true man for the past 18 years. Or maybe I did know, after all, in some cosmic way.
One night, as I sat at one of my many boring college jobs, watching the desk at the social center, my phone rang. It was my other roommate, Emma, breathless on the line. "Leah!" she hissed into the phone. "I'm sitting with Sarge on his front porch, and Sarah is here with us--I think she's plotting her move on him--you've gotta get your ass here immediately--I can only hold her off so long!"
Sarah was a pale pretty blond girl, totally neurotic, like me, but fuck her! At this point, I wanted him for myself!
I grabbed a random freshman by the arm and sat them at the desk and told them to answer the phone, and I literally ran for Sarge's house. Ran! All the way across the darkened campus, the entire length of it, and out onto the streets of the town. Damn it, she would not get him before I had a chance! A block from his house, I had to pause to catch my breath and my dignity, to straighten my skirt, and then I sauntered casually out of the shadows toward the porch. My friend Emma gave me a wink, and a "hey Leah, what's up?" then immediately got up to leave--"see you guys later"--me with Sarge and Sarah. Sarge seemed glad to see me, but Sarah was definitely on the move...so...I just waited her out. For like an hour. I remained unmoveable, like a coed menhir. Finally, when the conversation turned unexpectedly to me and Sarge's heretofore undiscovered mutual love of Tintin comics, Sarah gave up and said goodnight. I think I can still hear, after all these years, the silent whoop that resounded in my head. Funny thing is, Sarge told me years later that he'd never had any intention of hooking up with her. But well, hey, the drama of the victory was heady at that moment on the porch when I watched Sarah's retreating back, her swinging blond hair, turning the corner back into shadow past the street lamp...and I was left alone with Sarge.
We retired to his little room in the rambling off-campus house, eventually, where we listened to music--he played me "Candy's Room" by Bruce Springsteen--and finally, on the narrow twin bed, we kissed softly, and even later, fell asleep warm and close...
And that's the story of me and Sarge, at least the beginning of it.