I remember meeting him just before school started. Late in the afternoon, as I sat behind a switchboard, he strode up to my desk and extended his hand. I rose out of my chair to find myself at chest height. He wanted to introduce himself knowing I’d be his “help” for the year.
Meeting while I was in school – obviously not the best situation. He is eleven years my senior. He worked for the school. We were close. Closer than we should have been given the circumstances. I helped him survive his first year in the education world. He was supportive of everything I was going through at home.
He became the standard I measured all other men by, in some ways he probably still is. He was kind and funny and charming; encouraging and affectionate and loving. There was a sweet tenderness in the way he spoke to me. There was a melody to his walk. As long as I live, I’d recognize both the sound of his voice and the cadence of his steps.
We had a couple of moments over the years where “what if” was played. Just this year he went back to the school where we met. He had left shortly after I did.
The second last time I saw him was in the hospital after he had emergency surgery. While still drugged he told me that he’s always loved me and cared about me, and that he wished and wanted to be able to make things better for me. I dismissed it as the anesthetic talking. However, after that exchange his wife became very cold to me. (We had been friendly before)
I can only guess that he said something to her about me while hopped up on the meds. Because she’d be curt on the phone and leave quickly if we ran into one another. I saw them briefly at my sister’s high school graduation party. They were invited to my wedding but didn’t come. He was still kind of dealing with medical issues then and that was their excuse. I have only talked to him once since, briefly.
Sometimes I pretend, what would life have been like had we ended up together. I wonder about a different future. If life brought us both to be single at the same time. He’s probably the one person who could show up at my door and get me to leave with him, no questions asked. I’m aware how dramatic that sounds but no one before ever made me feel like that, and very few since. He understood my thoughts before I could think them. He taught me so much, about life and myself. He loved me before I ever learned to love myself – and it was only because of him that I could do that.
His birthday is today – October 8th.
I’ve thought of calling, just to see how he really is. (Yes, I know it sounds stupid) I think of him often. He was a huge part of my life for almost a decade and then he wasn’t. Since there’s only a small chance I’ll actually call, I’ll just wish him a happy birthday from here, and pray his life is full of all the best things he could hope for.