I met the first boy who would break my heart at a party.
My legs were crossed and I had a pillow on my lap, my back leaning into the corner of the sofa. Working three jobs over my summer break between my freshman and sophomore years of college I liked this spot in the corner, far enough removed from the party that I wasn’t expected to chime in but close enough to hear the conversations and the laughter. I wanted to hide my exhaustion and my fat thighs. A hot summer day in Athens, the windows of my friend’s house were open and the light breeze was pulling her curtains and then pushing them back ever so softly.
My father would be dead one year from now. Ignorance, I realized later, truly was bliss but I couldn’t appreciate this yet. I did know he had seemed tired lately, more tired than usual and that he’d been complaining of headaches. I wasn’t thinking about this though, I was thinking about the boy who had just walked in and taken a seat on the couch across from my corner. “This is Mike,” said the hostess.
We exchanged our hellos and then started talking about majors, our apartments for next year, our hopes, our dreams. We were clicking. A few weeks later I took him home to meet my family. We even told each other we were “in love.” I thought we would be together well into the fall quarter, if not for the entire year. But after he’d been giving me a perturbing cold shoulder for days I walked into his apartment unannounced and demanded an answer. “Why?” I asked, “Why have you been so mean lately? What is going on? Do you not want to be with me anymore?”
“No,” he said, “No, I don’t.”
We had only been going out for a month and a half but I felt like my heart had just been ripped out, stomped on and then shoved back into my chest cavity. After the words left his mouth I turned around and walked out of his apartment quietly, refusing to give him any more pieces of my heart. I spent the next two days in my dorm room, crying my eyes out and wondering why. Without e-mail and cell phones it was easier to not obsessively stalk someone, instead I was just left alone with my thoughts and my tears. And in one of these moments I heard a knock on my door.
“Who is it?” I snapped.
“It’s your Dad.”
I opened the door and there he was, tall and dutiful. His hands were holding a small bouquet of flowers he had picked from the garden at the house. I would save these flowers for years until one year they came crashing down onto the floor, breaking into dozens of pieces. Until then I had tried to smell them, wishing to feel – if even for a second – like he was still there in that room with me.
“Your Mom called me,” he said, “She told me to come by. So you got dumped, huh?”
“Yes,” my voice broke and I started sobbing and sat on the top of my desk, burying my face in my hands, trying to hide these embarrassing tears.
He pulled up my desk chair, took a seat and crossed one leg over the other. He didn’t like seeing me this way so he let out a sigh and then said, “Listen, Alaina. There’s something you should know about yourself and about men. Not very many of them will be able to handle you. You’re just like my mother.”
His mother, my grandmother, had died when he was 18, also from cancer. A single mother, she had raised my father and his three brothers with the help of their grandmother, who was a single widowed mother.
“You’re like she was,” he went on, “You’re passionate, intelligent and beautiful. But because of that most of these guys, especially these college guys just won’t understand you.”
“You think so? Really?”
“Absolutely.” He gave me a hug and then left but his words stayed with me forever.
Now I’m sharing them with you because he wasn’t just talking about me. Since then I have met other women like me… Mia is just one them. So strong, passionate and beautiful. You are a lot to handle but if he can’t appreciate who you are than, trust me, you’re better off without him. Don’t stop until you find a man who isn’t intimidated by your passion, but fosters it and a man who isn’t threatened by your intelligence but attracted to it.
In the meantime, the only thing we can do is pick up the slack and become one with ourselves because that guy – if he does come along – will like you just the way you are supposed to be… happy, content and comfortable in your own skin.
P.S. I think my father would have adored John Bear.