• Wed, Jun 8 2011

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past: Chasing Thirty Edition

Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of items in her 29th year. You can read more about her adventures at her blog, Thirty-Things.

Approaching thirty I’m grateful for the wisdom I’ve gained in a variety of areas, not least of all in love. I didn’t make horrendous decisions when I was young but it definitely took me a while to get my flair for the dramatic under control and no story illustrates this better than that of my very first love at the age of 18.

I met Jake* while I was in London on a post graduation trip. He was a twenty-three year old David Beckham doppelganger and I was an eighteen year old who’d never had a real boyfriend. We made out on the dance floor at a nightclub; I remember thinking two things as I watched him leave that night: that he was completely gorgeous and that I would never see him again. But I did and we began an incredibly intense relationship: by the time I left Europe, we’d met each others families (my parents were with me on part of the trip) and exchanged ‘I love you’s’.

The relationship lasted the summer, though we only spent about two weeks of it in the same place. The logistics were complicated as I was living with my parents and preparing to go to college in the fall and he was in a small village outside London; somehow back then, all this didn’t seem insurmountable. I went to school that fall besotted and scheming about how I might spend a year abroad in England. Then, a month or so into my freshman year Jake abruptly disappeared. He stopped calling, stopped answering my calls. I would have been heartbroken no matter how things had ended but the lack of any explanation or closure drove me crazy. I called his house a hundred times, wrote him urgent, effusive letters asking him to explain himself and in the flood of creativity that can only come from fresh heartbreak, wrote an entire first draft of a novel in my freshman fiction course. I never heard from him.

I ended up in London again the next summer (half of my family is British) and though I’d made some progress getting over Jake, being in London again brought it all back. I had long since stopped my manic phone and letter writing campaign but was still haunted by his mysterious disappearance. I ached from the knowledge that we were in the same city, mere miles instead of an ocean away from each other. I had to try to see him.

When I finally worked up the courage to call him, I discovered that his number had been disconnected. Over the next few days I tried everything I could think of to find his new number, my cousin who works for the BBC even searched their database for information, to no avail. All that could be found was his address.

I woke the last morning of my trip feeling wretched, I had come all this way and he would never even know I’d been here. So I did the kind of thing you can only do at nineteen. I got on a train and then into a cab and didn’t allow myself to panic until I was standing on his doorstep and it was too late to turn back. He didn’t answer the door, his mother did. She remembered me, she gave me his mobile number and I went to a local pub to wait for him to finish his soccer match.

When at last he came through the door, looking handsome as ever, I thought my heart would cave in.
After some small talk I dove in and asked him my questions, admonishing him for the way he’d left things. There were no great revelations but there was an apology and the satisfaction of having the conversation face-to-face. Afterwards he drove me to the train station.

I told him that I still loved him because nothing replaces saying those words to someone’s face. He kissed me on the cheek and I started to walk away. But then, suddenly overcome by the emotion of the moment I yelled out ‘Jake, wait!’ and ran back down the stairs to where he was; I threw my arms around him and kissed him one last time. It was a sweet and cinematic end, and it was enough.

Not long ago, Jake found me on Facebook. We exchanged a couple of cheerful emails and exclaimed over how we both looked just the same. I don’t know what prompted him to find me; I suppose just a nostalgic whim easily indulged by a few minutes of weeding through Facebook profiles. The fact that I had to actually go to his doorstep to find him when we lost touch ten years ago is one of the many anachronisms of our relationship, along with meeting each other at the gate and writing actual, handwritten letters to each other to save on phone bills. It’s amazing the way technology has connected us all but I wonder if there’s room in this brave new world for a crazy/romantic move like mine anymore; the kind of thing you only do once but never, ever regret.

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