05 February 2010

Hearing About What I Never Had

I'd never talked about her before. I hadn't even thought about her--until I talked to you last week.

Keith owns a shop that sells and repairs vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. Last week, I bought a filter for my vacuum cleaner from him. I've been doing that every few months for the past few years. Today I went because my vacuum cleaner sounds like a jetliner without its muffler. (Do jetliners have mufflers?) Keith probably has lots of customers like me, as his father did before him.

His father was taller and had broader shoulders--or maybe he just seemed to. He was friendly and polite in an almost paterfamilial sort of way. Keith, while shorter, has his father's good looks, which are an odd combination of ruggedness and innocence--rather like Charles Lindbergh. But he is friendly more in the way of a peer. Perhaps I perceive him that way because he's around my age.

Plus, somehow I cannot imagine his father talking about a girl he hadn't seen since he was a teenager. On the other hand, Keith described her at length, and emphasized that although he was in love with her, "it wasn't a sexual relationship."

I actually didn't mind that he spent more than an hour talking about her with me, for I was not in a hurry. I'm sure he didn't mind either: Business was slow and, I guess, talking to me made the time until closing pass more quickly.

Still, I wonder why he talked to me--someone whom he barely knows--about his first love. He hadn't talked about her to anyone else before me, he said, and he was acknowledging, also for the first time, that he misses her.

I can understand missing someone you once loved. But I couldn't quite relate to the schoolboy romance aspect of the story. I had crushes on a few kids, but I never even spoke of them to either of the friends I had when I was in high school. Had I the words for what I actually felt, that would have been terrifying: In talking about what I felt, I would have been revealing more about myself than I would have wanted anyone to know.

So I don't have a teenage love to talk about in my middle age. Somehow that has never bothered me: As it is, I sometimes feel that I remember too many things about which I can do nothing now. Plus, once I graduated high school (and, for that matter, college and graduate school), I really didn't want to have any connection with it. That is not to say that I wanted to move on; rather, I simply wanted to get away from the people who knew me before they could get to know me intimately (and not only in a sexual way) and to escape from whatever portraits they'd framed of me.

As a high-school senior, I helped to plan my class's prom but didn't attend it. I didn't have much more of a social life in college; in fact, in spite (or maybe because) of the thousands of peers who lived, studied and worked with me, I never felt so isolated in my life. As you can imagine, much of that had to do with my difficulty in coming to terms with who I am.

As for the loves I've had...Sometimes I miss the good times Tammy and I had in the first couple of years of our relationship. But I don't have any wish to be with her again: I know that we could not replicate those times, much less to create what might have become from them. And I certainly have no wish to be the person I was in those days, save perhaps for my physical conditioning.

The others--the males as well as the females--I don't miss at all. In that sense, it's odd that Keith would make me the first person in about 35 years to hear about his first love. Or is it?