My Summer of Being 28 Again
These feelings were as anathema to me as the desire to cook. My former self had no idea how to turn my stove on, and the new me was fantasizing about cooking a chicken for him.
I gave him my heart; he gave me agita. Could he have been conceived on my 11th birthday? According to Chinese astrology, we were both born under sign of the snake. A healer once said “that man” I was crying over was a relative in a past life, someone with whom I’d shared a heritage, perhaps a brother. Considering that in this life he’s an only child and I have a sister, maybe that’s why we couldn’t get it together. I used to be rational. Except possibly in matters of my slumbering and perchance even dead heart. That summer was intended to be a journey of professional exploration and personal growth, but instead morphed into something profound, exhilarating and shattering.
I was a hopeful romantic living a city-girl existence, but yearned to quit my VP job in corporate America to indulge my inner artist. I had just turned 40, my parents whose relationship I’d idolized my entire life had separated after 42 years, cancer stole my 33 year-old dear friend, and my goals of working in entertainment had segued oh-so-subtly but definitely someplace I didn’t want to be. I refused to age another day without attempting to pursue my dreams.
During one exquisite summer, I was 28 again.
After quitting my 24/7 job, I was overjoyed at the prospect of taking classes. Euphoria overtook me at the thought of doing homework, wearing jeans every day, sleeping late, and deleting the Sunday night blahs.
Drama foreshadowed our entire relationship, since we met in a theatre workshop. Out for drinks after class, “Rex,” the brilliantly funny cast-mate with huge blue eyes and killer dimples, heard my story and with his hand on my knee joked, “Just spend the summer with a 28 year-old!”
True love is like seeing ghosts. Many claim to have experienced it, but very few do, I read in the NY Times VOWS column moons ago. What I’d wanted, and feared, but in an unexpected package. I was always drawn to outgoing, entertaining, smart guys … but never guessed he’d be 12 years younger, not fully formed yet. We told each other who we were in the beginning: he didn’t want a relationship and I was not casual. Yet, we proceeded …
We’d been dating a few weeks and he was kissing me goodbye in my living room. At 5’8” he was not tall, but my mere 5’2’’ meant I had to stand on tiptoes. “Shit, I lost a contact lens.” Trying to keep my balance and not fall back onto the 1940’s chaise, I cooed, “Maybe it’s in my eye!” He hugged me, “Yes, maybe, we do seem to be in sync.”
Later, I was making my bed and found his scrunched up contact lens beneath a pillow. Sigh! I was enjoying the fantasy of being a 1950’s housewife who stayed home all day while her husband went off to work. Okay, we weren’t married, and it was over half a century later, and my new boyfriend had an entry-level finance job and I was doing homework, not housework, all day long. These feelings were as anathema to me as the desire to cook. My former self had no idea how to turn my stove on, and the new me was fantasizing about cooking a chicken for him. Who am I? I wondered. Who was he?
This creature, part of a technically advanced generation, propelled me into modern times. At first we didn’t realize that he was 28 and I had just turned 40. The first time he texted me, it took five minutes to open it. Who knew texting could be orgasmic? Thanks to his non-demanding job and my not-in-an-office job, we’d have all-day-long text conversations.
This was my first time texting in the park, oh my…
Wow, your first time. I guess I should feel honored …
I never text and tell
Never confirm nor deny, never text and tell, you are quite the vixen. Stocks are
down … should have stayed in bed.
One night after last call, we had food munchies and were holding hands and nibbling the same French fry when he interrupted the salty kiss to whisper delicious words. McDonald’s in Union Square was my new favorite place. I’d eaten in the best restaurants around the world, and not one of them generated the transcendent ambiance that this neon haven would now always symbolize.
Flashbacks from professional life: Le Cirque with clients. Meeting Madonna. Dancing with reporters during conventions at chic Mexican resorts. Shaking hands with Prince Andrew at a cocktail party. Coordinating press conferences at Gracie Mansion. I’d experienced stellar moments via my work life, but nothing compared to this, whatever “this” was. “It” was fun.
The next morning, I opened my eyes to find Rex lying on his side facing me. His eyelids twitching, he looked ill. The sun shining on his pale face aged him. Sometimes I thought he looked older that I did. “I know you’ve mentioned that since we’re together we shouldn’t sleep with other people.”
The numerous vodkas plus late night McChicken sandwich started to make my stomach gurgle. My head hurt. I needed coffee.
He said it meant nothing; just some girl at some bar during his business trip.
I tried to get dressed, but the jeans were tight so I grabbed them and went into his living room to pry myself into the new size 2s. Wearing jeans and black bra only, I was sitting on the floor buckling strappy sandals when he appeared at the doorway holding my tee shirt. I grabbed the top, screamed at him, and slammed his front door.
I was getting out of the shower when my phone rang.
“Hey.” The only reason I didn’t hang up was because I loved the cadence of his voice. We rarely spoke on the phone because texting was his main mode of communication, so even my wild anger couldn’t negate this slight pleasure.
Unfortunately, I made a whimpering sound, “I guess we did tell each other who we were. You were quite clear that you weren’t looking for anything, and I told you that I feel things deeply, maybe deeper than most.”
“I’m not ready to dip my toes back into that vast pool of intimacy.”
My honey had a way with words, but I was pissed. "That line sounds fake. I’m sure you’ve used it before.”
“I just couldn’t stay away from you. The competing value is that I really like you and am attracted to you. You’re an amazing person, more lively and vibrant than most I meet. I never would have had the constitution to do what you did, I admire your strength to change your life. But saying all that, this “thing” happened so quickly and so unexpectedly.”
The only time Rex communicated his feelings was either via the safety of text messaging, or drunken pillow talk. This was new. It also wasn’t good enough.
“What do you want me to say? I fell for you. There, I said it. At 8:45 a.m. In the light of day. Sober. And I want more.”
“I’m not ready for marriage or kids, we’re in totally different places.”
“Who said that’s what I want? I just want a boyfriend. A loyal boyfriend. And I’m person-specific, I just wanted you.”
“We never said anything about that. We’re just dating.”
I knew one of us would have to quit the workshop.
We couldn’t stay apart. Despite the constant dramas, we completed the workshop that culminated in live performances. After yet another heated exchange, his exhaustion and intoxication took over while I replayed every poignant sentence he said to me over and over in my mind. He loves me, I got too close, and I had detected the real problem.
“Are you going to stop drinking?” I whispered.
“No, I’m not ready to deal with it yet.” Tears flowed, from his eyes this time.
The morning after the final show, his devilish sweet face was peacefully asleep, oblivious to the havoc his conscious self caused. I inexplicably felt only tenderness and for the first time, didn’t wake him before I left.
I never thought I’d heal. Fast forward. After shyly repelling unwanted attention and surviving zillions of dates in between numerous conflict-ridden but lovely interludes with Rex, someone finally got in. Unexpected, it was a friend whom I’d adored and admired. Truly unavailable. I didn’t mean to fall for him. The instant we kissed, I emotionally attached and couldn’t breathe and haven’t felt quite solid since. Our electricity was tantric. No happily-ever-after, but the magic of that connection made me believe that love will find me again.
I know there will be a right one. He will get my overly romantic soul, will not be scared off that I'm quirky and confident in an insecure kind of way … he will be the one who can catch me.