His name was Tommy. He had fair skin and beautiful clear blue eyes. I believed even in high school that I could see right through them down into his soul. He was a loner and very difficult to read. He didn’t communicate much, if at all. He was guarded, maybe afraid that handing out his affections was frivolous or reckless behavior. I felt like he must be somehow damaged. His heart felt heavy to me. His eyes, too, had betrayed him. There was a darkness there, like a shadow almost, covered by the intense shade of blue.
I have no idea how I came to love this boy. I don’t even remember how we met. It was like I’d always known him. Yet we lived apart, I in the country and he in the city. We went to different schools. We had no friends in common. Yet we would sit for hours in my car in empty parking lots where I would try almost anything to draw him out of his tightly closed bud. He laughed at me. I wanted to know him and take care of him. He wrote me letters, the snail mail kind.
In his block letter handwriting he told me about what he was doing that day and where he would go after school and when his baseball games were scheduled, then he might make reference to my previous letter. He’d make fun of a word I said or pick out nicknames for me or just something; but he never went beyond anything deeper than his closing, which was simply, “Love, Tom”.
We had no electronics then to keep tabs on people. Good news for him probably as I was all in. I used my powers of persuasion to get him to give me his silver chain necklace to wear while I went away to Girls State for a week my junior year in high school “so I won’t forget you”, I liked to tease….like that would ever happen!
I remember one Easter Sunday after we had our family dinner I told my mother and stepfather that I needed to go to work (a DQ type place) so I could drive into town and find him. Because of the utmost trust they shouldn’t have had in me I was free to go. He lived on the “wrong” side of the tracks in our big city of 13,000, while I lived in a more rural township twelve miles away where they kept the cows and horses. I found him sitting by the river bank. This was one of my favorite places to be. We sat together quietly and without pretense. It was comfortable just to be at that point. I really just wanted…needed to take the essence of him inside myself. Not in a sexual way, but in an intimate, purely innocent way. I needed to care for this boy. He pulled me in somehow; and I was compelled to breathe into him. There were often no words spoken between us. One moment I thought that strange while another I found it beautifully honest and raw.
He must have gotten all of his courage together as he surprised me with a very gentle kiss after I’d gotten out of work one day weeks later. It was profound. I felt validated and amazed and wonderful and…faint. I remember smelling like French fries and walking on air. I still feel chills when I think about the kiss itself and what it must have taken for him to reach out that far beyond his fears…the safety of his comfort zone. He took that risk for me. At that moment I didn’t think anyone could have cared for me as he did. And yet I still wondered if he felt the depth for me that I felt toward him. We didn’t discuss it. We were together and we were apart. I was afraid if I touched it, made it concrete somehow, that like a snowflake it would melt away.
Months later I’d heard that his father had died a few years back when he was in middle school. It was some kind of freak accident, I was told. He wouldn’t talk about it even when I acted stupid and wondered about his parents aloud. A sturdy baseball star, I wondered, too, if he might be quite fragile, as I was. Maybe that’s how come I felt such a connection to this boy across town. There were too many people in my life who had disappointed me already. There was absolutely nothing false about Tommy. I don’t think he could’ve made something up if he’d wanted to. No false bravado. No overt gestures of male virility. No major risk-taking or stupid habits to be alerted to. My beautiful boy was just what I saw. A human being afraid to reach out to another human being. And I understood that. And I loved that about him. And I hated that about him as well.
After a year or two of just loving him. I got demanding. Somewhere inside my narcissistic self I wanted him to be someone he wasn’t. Or maybe couldn’t be. I wanted moremoremoremore. He didn’t have more. But Tommy, I need MORE ! I screamed from the inside. He wasn’t reading my heart. I couldn’t fix his. I couldn’t even deal with my own. Tommy! Listen to me, I have nothing left to give! I am empty. I have poured into you all the light I had to give! Please share some with ME. I know there is light in you! You kissed me! I know you have feelings! Show. Me. You.
It is true. Sometime after that first and only kiss my beautiful man-boy shut down. I had come so close to being let in that he ran away from me even as he remained beside me physically. I wept for him. I wept with him. I wept for me. I had to let go. This I knew like I knew I adored him. My boy was broken and I’m haunted by the fact that I couldn’t put him back together. I desperately wanted to.
Fast forward to my junior year in college. I was living in a group house with my girlfriends, AKA, my boyfriend’s place. It was conveniently located directly adjacent to the actual group house that I paid for each month. This boyfriend and I had been together since my freshman year at this university. We’d talked of marriage. We liked to get high together. I decided to go ahead and partake without him being home though. There was a knock at the door. I answer thinking it would be this boyfriend. A waft of smoke follows me out of the little house as I am in total shock and am attempting to both collect myself and get away from myself…the tell-tale evidence that I am not fully me. I am disgusted and embarrassed.
It’s Tommy. Now a senior at his own college where he plays baseball. He is visiting me. WTF? This may have well been the only overt gesture toward me he’d ever taken on his own. A HUGE risk. I take him over to my house where I stumble over words and basically act like a girl busted, yet playing the denial game with herself. Then my boyfriend, who’s been looking for me, charges in the room like he’s ready for a male pissing contest. Clearly he didn’t know my Tommy, who was probably wondering where I was as well.
I’d lost myself. Tommy came to find me. But I wasn’t home anymore.
Have you loved purely and deeply, then lost that which seemed so honest in your life? It’s worth remembering. It was a time before life got so messy. I need to thank Tommy one day for giving me his best. That was all he had at that time and it was good enough for me. Until it wasn’t. I still love him for it.