Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lost Love Letters

Today's featured Love Letter from the best selling 

Indie Chick's Anthology... Lost Love Letters 

is from yours truly. I share my personal letter with you, today.

To my first love,

A memory-photo flashes before me of the first time I saw you. You were a seventeen- year-old guy with Clark Kent glasses; your warm smile sent snuggly things dancing in my body. From the moment you touched my hand we were locked in delicious, unforgettable, shout-it-from-the-rooftops first love. With complete faith that our future would be spent together, we held our passion in check until the time we would marry.

Not a day passed when you didn’t tell me how proud you were of me. You even adored the things I abhorred about myself. My skinny stick-like legs with knees that looked at each other were beautiful. The space in my front teeth was adorable. You made me feel loved for the first and only time in my life. Catholic-me loved Jewish-you. Naively happy, I failed to understand our precarious position.

Do you remember our Sundays spent in long drives in your Mercury convertible? You were so proud of that big old car. We traveled 9W along the Hudson River till we had memorized every bend in the road. We watched summer turn to autumn; it moved so quickly as if an artist had splattered reds and golds in a wild creative frenzy.

 One time you found a pheasant feather and tickled my nose with it. I grabbed it and slipped it into the pocket of my car coat. Once at home I pressed it between the pages of my beloved copy of A Certain Smile where it remains. It’s been thirty-plus years and I can still conjure the scent of your Canoe aftershave as we laughed and kissed in the November rain.

Snow came just after Thanksgiving. We carried a picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches and hiked the woods following the prints of little animals. We were two innocent teens in a winter fairyland. Do I linger too often on these memories? I think not. If there is a time when you are showered in unconditional love, when your soul dances in the clouds, then you keep that time in a small corner of your heart for the lean, mean days that will surely come.

Spring arrived dragging Easter with it. Your laughter wilted. It was a drizzly Sunday when you came to me wearing your moss green sweater but without your smile. Do you remember your words? I’ll never forget them.

I can’t see you anymore. I’m breaking my mother’s heart… because you’re not Jewish.

Confused by rejection I didn’t see coming, I sobbed. I’ll convert. I’ll be the best Jewish wife and mother. How complicated could it be? I buried my tears in your chest.

I can’t do this to my mother.

I can still feel your cold chapped lips on mine. I knew then it was our last kiss.

I’ll never forget you. Your words were meant to ease my pain.

Now I pick on the memory-scab and it bleeds. Why didn’t you fight for me?

The world went on… oblivious to my broken heart. For me the wrong people slipped in and out of my life like cats through a picket fence. Cheaters, they took pieces of my trust with them. But I clung to the belief that you would never have deceived me. You might not have fought for me, but you would have always been truthful.

After my second divorce, my second betrayal, I saw a counselor. I asked why I gave my love to men who cheated, and why my shattered soul would seek out the memory of you after each painful encounter.

The counselor explained the natural order of things. First experiences are seared into our psyches with a vividness that doesn’t fade like other memories. We are a blank canvas at that point in our lives. We may not remember our third kiss or the kiss we received on our fortieth birthday, but we most certainly remember our first kiss. That clarity of memory is called the primacy effect. You were stamped in my heart as my gold standard, forever.

At times when the lights were low I would see you. Just before I dozed or as I perched on the edge of waking in the morning you were there… but not. I could stand it no longer. I hired a private investigator to find you. My instructions to Sam were simple. He was to find you. If you were married, he was not to make contact with you. I did not want to complicate your life or hurt anyone.

Weeks later, I was in a business meeting when the call came. Cupping the phone to muffle the background noise I listened to Sam’s excited voice. “I found him! He lives very near you. Let me know what happens. Oh by the way, he is married.”

              A punch in the stomach would have worked as well and hurt less. I heard a voice say, I can’t do this, and realized it was mine.

 “Call him,” Sam said. “It’s really important to him. When I told him I was working for you, he almost came through the phone lines.”

My heart did handstands while my body shook. “I need time to think. I have to fix my makeup.”

“Makeup?”  Sam sounded bewildered. “It’s only a phone call. He asked for you to please call him right now. Here’s his number.”

The phone slipped slowly from my hand like something held in a dream. If I followed through, I was about to hear your voice from the far side of a quarter of a century. I was the same, but what about you? Once I dialed, I’d have all the answers. My fingers slipped on the keypad. It rang once.

And then your voice, alien and yet familiar: I can’t believe it’s you. I’ve spent my whole life looking for you.

 I was frozen with crystals of emotion. All the things I had waited years to tell you fell from my mind like dead butterflies.

You whispered: I’m amazed. You did something I’d dreamed of doing so many times but lacked the courage. I’ve never stopped loving you. I loved you from the first minute I laid eyes on you. You’re my soul mate.

Could it be this easy? Why were you sharing so much so soon? I panicked but responded in kind: No matter what was happening in my life, you were there in my heart. I’ve always loved you. Every city I traveled I would crack open the phone book and search for your name hoping to find you.

You sighed: I looked for your face in every crowd, wherever I was. I’d think I saw you and then be wrong. I’ve only had two loves in my life, you and my wife.

The words, my wife, are painful to hear, and so I stepped over them as my world spun under me. Were we coming together? Or was this a dream?

I let you steer the course as we poured facts, dates, and times into each other as if a portal had opened and a stopwatch was clicking off our last minutes on earth. I felt myself come unbound as the ropes that held me together for over two decades fell away. I imagined I felt your tender, sympathetic touch on my face as I told you of the life I led since our last embrace.

Your voice turned sad: For seven years I made countless trips to your parents’ home begging to know where you were. Your mother would slam the door in my face.

 I wiped a tear as I whispered in the phone: She never told me you were looking for me.

There was a long silence before you spoke again: I finally gave up. I met Amy, fell in love and we married. She’s Jewish. 

At that moment I had a terrible urge to run back to my jaded world. It hurt to know that Amy was able to give you what I couldn’t. But I was being selfish. I knew she must love you dearly. It would be impossible not to. My senses began to warm. I remembered the comfort of your wooly sweater and your big strong arms. I remembered your laugh. It was a great laugh.

I’m so glad we did this: I sensed our phone time was ending.

Your voice carried a smile: You did this.

Why were you so hard to find? I asked.

You laughed: I was right here.

We’d grown up in the same northern city. Separately, we had traveled the world only to settle a few miles apart in Florida. Serendipity?

 Again you whispered: A couple of years ago I made one of those stupid blunders men do. My wife and I were talking with friends about first loves. I said I had never gotten over you. That was a mistake, and it upset my wife a lot.

I melted into the receiver: I’ve lived my life so that there were no what if’s except for you. You’re the one thing left undone in my otherwise full life. I tested the waters. I can’t wait to see you again. I was thinking of coffee at Starbucks. Daylight. Open. Honest. No sneaking, just two old friends who held each other’s hearts.

Your sigh carried a stinging finality: I couldn’t hurt my mother, and now I can’t hurt Amy. You were my first love but you can’t be my last. As much as I want to see you, I can’t.

That was when I guessed your urgency for my call was generated by Amy’s absence. She might be shopping or having her nails done while I was soul-mating with her husband. My heart shattered like crystal on concrete. I listened to you breathe as I longed for more words. I couldn’t let go.
Your goodbye was heavy with regret. You hung up and my world wobbled.

Again, I was on the outside looking in. I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt body parts I never knew existed. Everything ached. I needed to touch your face just one more time and then I’d go in peace.

The first pinkish rays of sunlight worked their way into my room as I finally dozed. In my dream, a faceless Amy came to me. She wore a headscarf and a hospital gown. She placed her hand on my arm and asked me to take care of you. She was terminal. I felt her pain and reached to comfort her. She spoke in the wordless way of dream visitors. “Take good care of Mark,” she said. “He always loved you. I’ve sensed your presence in our marriage.” Still dreaming, I wiped a tear that trickled down my cheek.

“But who gets to keep him in heaven?” I asked.

Amy gave me a puzzled look as she started to fade. I began to wake.

“Wait!” I said. “You or me? Who gets him forever after?”

I stared out the window at the full glory of morning and wondered if my dream meant anything. My pillow was wet with tears. A dozen questions flickered like candles in a draft. How is love valued in heaven? Is it by the length of time or the strength of love? What about soul mates?

There is that moment of truth wherein you choose action or inaction and that choice tells you who you really are. I didn’t like me as I left a cheerful message for you on your office voice mail. I trumped up a story about having to be in your city next week on business. Although my intentions were innocent, it was wrong to call and I immediately regretted it. I just wanted to see your smile… one more time.

      Another night and sleep would not come. I heard my heart beating in the darkness. Please don’t call back. You have no idea how much this means. Don’t call. I needed you to be the decent man I fell in love with. If you were a man of honor you wouldn’t return my call. But what if you did? Then who would you be? More importantly, who would I be?

 Once upon a time in the very beginning there was a guy with a smile that could light up my world.

                                                     You never called.

Years have gone by since those scant few phone words. I open my eyes to the dawn and know something is very wrong on this earth. By evening I still can’t shake the terrible chill. I type your name in the search engine on my computer and then hesitantly type the word obituary.

You died early this morning. 
            No one would have known to tell me. There is no one with whom I can share my sorrow. Lines from Byron’s poem “When We Two Parted” haunt me.

                                    When we two parted
                                    In silence and tears,
                                    Half broken-hearted
                                    To sever for years,
                                    Pale grew they cheek and cold,
                                    Colder thy kiss:
                                    Truly that hour foretold
                                    Sorrow to this.
                                    They now not I knew thee,
                                    Who knew thee too well:
                                    Long, long shall I rue thee,
                                    Too deeply to tell.

      Tomorrow I will walk to the beach clutching this letter and my treasured feather from a long-dead pheasant. This paper and the feather will catch the breeze and dance over the darkened sea. I know this letter will reach you because first loves never leave your heart even if they never share your life.


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