Dec. 31 marked three years since we signed our papers. It came and went without my paying too much attention to it. I was caught up in more pressing matters, like how Simone and I would spend the day, and how I’d survive the inevitable drunken phone calls and text messages I’d receive after she went to bed that night. It was my year to keep her on New Year’s Eve, and though I was disappointed I couldn’t go out carousing, just thinking about midnight the year before was enough to give me some needed perspective.
I hadn’t been dating anyone; there weren’t really even prospects for running into a woman I knew that evening. So when 11:30 rolled around, and I was sitting at a trendy urban bar with Nate, his girl, Nate’s sister, and her boy Maxwell, the discussion turned to whom I would kiss at midnight. The ladies took it upon themselves to sweep the bar for prospects. By 11:55, they’d found exactly no one either a) single or b) up to their standards. So when the clock struck 12:00, I was in my own bubble while everyone around me whooped and locked lips. And at 12:01, I received pity kisses from Nate’s girl and Nate’s sister. We all drank a while longer, before Nate’s sis and her man, arguing the whole way, gave me a lift to the Light Rail station, where I hopped the last train back to the ‘burbs and called it a morning.
This year, an amazing sushi dinner out with Simone, followed by eggnog cheesecake and Martinelli’s in champagne flutes, didn’t seem so bad. And once the “where are you?” and “why do you live so far away?” messages came in, I was sufficiently distracted by my daughter, who’d been awakened by festive street noise. I put her in my bed, and we watched Dick Clark’s last remaining ball drop (poor sap). So I even had someone to kiss at midnight.
But three years. Three. Years. So much has happened. I have no desire to do a retrospective. At least not today. But one thing I’ve been thinking about is the romantic bullets I’ve dodged in that time.
Some of them grazed me, and I still have the scars. And some of them left powder burns that flare up every once in a while. I’m not talking about the ones I let get away; that’s a set of missed opportunities I’m allowed to regret. I’m talking about the ones I had no business falling for in the first place — the crazies, the flakes, and the woefully incompatibles. Why thoughts of some of them, even now, even when I know better, can tug at my heart is a mystery.
These are my top four lunatics.
Oh, C. Even now, when we run into each other (or, for some reason known only to you, you send me cell pix of your naked body), the pull can be overpowering. You’ve cut and colored your hair, which has changed the way we men would stop what we were doing when you walked into a room. But when we cross paths and hug, you still smell right — your scent is a mix of incense without the smoke, sweat, ripe fruit — and your peculiar smile elicits internal images of what might have been.
The loving, easygoing mother of two daughters, you gave me the vivid vision of a goofy, idyllic blended family. Simone and the girls hit it off from the beginning, and our outings and celebrations were chaotic, creative, overwhelming, and always charming. Just like Simone and me, you and the girls would start project after project, rarely bothering to finish what you’d begun. Your bohemian house was a wonderland of half-painted furniture and imaginative arrangements of art, toys, and discarded clothing. And there was no question that you and Simone enjoyed each other as much as you and I did. I’ve not introduced her to someone I’ve been dating since.
But when you started sneaking looks at my phone, or checking my e-mail once I’d fallen asleep, the dark side of your mercurial nature revealed itself. You had reason to be unsure of our relationship; but your methods threw me so far off the rails, I had no choice but to disengage.
Even then, we’d still find ways to be together periodically. And we’d still search for times when the girls could play together. But I finally realized I needed to let you go. And I did. Mostly.
Brilliant and brutal
I knew early on that you were bad for me, B. You were funny, breathtakingly intelligent, and soft-spoken until you were in your cups, at which point your razor-sharp wit would stick a knife in your internal editor, and you’d break out in invective that cut right through my soul. You were more than a mean drunk; you were a cruel shrew if you were liquored up and things didn’t go your way. But you were so damned smart, so full of insight, and you appreciated it when I could pull out facts about world history and politics to back up our discussions. Being with you was intoxicating (until you became intoxicated). I think you really, really liked me, and maybe that was part of the problem. You had serious issues sharing me with Simone — not being able to see me when I had her made you crazy. I had trouble believing such an amazing human being could actually be so shallow, so I stuck it out a while, thinking we had potential, and maybe our arguments were just shoals we had to weather together to find our way to smoother seas. But I was just being stupid.
Two weeks of pure insanity
My best friend warned me off of you, H, at the outset, but we couldn’t fight the chemistry. Drug-addled, hard-drinking, painfully sultry, and wickedly insightful, you and I were mismatched to a farcical degree. I terrified you. And last time we ran into each other, you said I still do — you couldn’t make eye contact with me. Didn’t want to talk to me. Our first evening alone together, you recognized something in us that would have turned your life upside-down (or maybe right-side up), and you dove into it so completely that we both felt the need to flee. You ended up back at the trough, and I walked away, feeling like I’d done a jig on the “Devil’s Dance Floor” and lived. But that doesn’t stop the occasional throb of the powder burn from that heart-shaped bullet.
If only you’d taken your meds
It was easy to be laconic with you, M. You were a diminutive, soft-spoken accountant with a penchant for gin and tonics. I didn’t know you were on meds when we first started dating. I just knew I liked you, and that being with you was refreshingly low-key. I didn’t realize quiet girls could be just as crazy as the loud ones who were brimming with personality (my favorite). But after the second or third time you stood me up because you’d slept through our date (the Broncos game I’d been so looking forward to attending), I knew we were headed in the wrong direction. And when you told me you needed someone to take care of you, at a time when I could barely keep up with my own unbalanced life, it was clear to both of us that we needed to go separate ways. I haven’t run into you since. And I wonder how you’re doing. You were a sweet, feckless girl who needed more than I could give you, and I sometimes ask myself if I could have done more to help.
In my experience, women who are bonkers are infinitely more interesting and fun to be around than those who aren’t. I can’t be with a companion who’s not as smart or strong-willed as I am. I don’t have the energy to draw out a conversation or talk about crap that doesn’t matter. An opinionated firecracker will always win out over an unenlightened Venus with me.
So bring on the nutcases. I can live with a few more scars.