I met David when I was 19 and a Sophomore at Whitman College in Eastern Washington State. Back then, Walla Walla wasn’t the hip gathering place for vintners that it is today. An exciting weekend involved walking downtown for a bad hamburger at the Red Apple with M (the one who reminded me of this story, for which I’ll pinch her later).
David was a transfer student, a musician, and an avid cyclist –the wheat fields around Walla Walla were stunning and unpopulated and ideal for riding. He was, to my 19 year old eye, gorgeous. Gorgeous. Semi-hippie, long-ish hair, and smart smart smart. He charmed me with poetry, feminist theory (ack!), and his deepening love for me. I held back, arguing that my position of important authority (I was a Sophomore living in a Freshman dorm serving as an academic advisor), precluded any romantic entanglement. That this piqued his interest and determination should have set off numerous alarm bells. But alas, part of that first freefall into love is the open-heartedness and trusting ignorance of innocence.
I remember going home with him for Thanksgiving to meet his parents. His was a lovely house full of books and classical music in an old section of town with grand trees and lush lawns and old but well-maintained sports cars. His family was welcoming and intelligent and they didn’t seem to mind at all when David and I went upstairs and disappeared for a few hours to "talk about our relationship." I remember the talking well…
That evening after dinner, I looked over at him and realized I was in love. It was dark outside and we walked along a quiet road, and I watched his face as he moved in and out of streetlamp light. In and out of shadows, he would turn to me then away as we discussed books we loved, life at college, and other unnumerable things. His loveliness was like a golden thread weaving us together and my heart, not easily lost, was released then to him. Fully and openly.
A few weeks later, after he realized that his two month pursuit of me had finally reaped the reward of my returned affection, he began acting strangely and withdrawing. And because you know how this ends, I’ll skip the harrowing slow decline.
David broke my heart.
I headed home that Summer after Sophomore year, wrecked, broken, and disconsolate. I missed many days of my overachieving internship, cut my hair short, sobbed and sobbed to my parents, called friends, slept and slept. By August, I managed to recover enough to start running again. I started making lists of things to do each day…. reasons to get out of bed. One day it was to see a new gallery down from my office. Another day it was to eat a candy bar. Little by little, I returned to myself and to the world I remembered before David.
As Junior year began and my new gig for Whitman’s women’s dormitory commenced, I saw him across campus. As the electric shock coursed through my body and I steeled myself for that first meeting, I realized if I could put one foot in front of the other and keep walking, I’d get on…and get over.
And I did.