“I make it easier for people to leave by making them hate me a little.”
― Cecelia Ahern, The Book of Tomorrow
I was 19, a time still fresh in my memory but honestly so long ago I should have left it behind in life’s wake of marriages, deaths, children, and grandchildren. And who knows? This story might be colored by my needs today. I’m incapable of parsing events then and now into evidentiary facts, so convinced I am of the emotional lesson.
I was in love. Ridiculously, blindly in love with a handsome fella, so handsome I found it hard to believe I’d landed him with so little effort, standing in line during freshman orientation, drinking coffee, lightly talking about where we were from. That day stretched into lunch together, a walk in a nearby park, and one date after another, delicious kisses, and well, let’s just say it was difficult to concentrate on writing essays about Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” and Faulkner’s “Bear.” Somehow I managed to memorize how DNA and RNA differed and could categorize periods of art history in spite of my preoccupation for my handsome boyfriend who pulsed within me like electrical current.
The handsome one modeled for Los Angeles magazines between semesters. His blue eyes weren’t just for show; they were invitational as in “Tell me.” His neatly cut bronze hair polished his clean cut appearance, his athletic body appearing casually confident. We met after classes, talked every day, played together, laughed and cried together. We admired gardens and enjoyed art. We danced on Saturday nights and attended church on Sundays. I liked how his gentleness contrasted with his athletic energy.
And then after two years of long walks through neighborhood gardens, golf and tennis games, weekend ski adventures, long bike rides through the countryside, beach adventures, and studying together, something changed. A tilt.
The clues were subtle. He called less. He was concentrating on his studies. He said less. The distance morphed to irritations, misunderstandings, and confusion.
He wasn’t seeing someone else. He just wasn’t present. He became my opaque dinner companion and my silent dance partner.
I liked him less but loved him more. It felt odd.
I waited as if suspended.
Whatever was happening, I could not dislike him, much less hate him.
And then the spring semester ended. He came to kiss me goodby. I was returning home for my summer in San Francisco, he for his summer in San Bernadino. The kiss was unlike any in my experience, a kiss, I now know, filled with feelings of failure and grief, but warm with affection and care. He had decided love wasn’t enough.
His Dearest Diane letter arrived two weeks later. He had dropped out of school. He had failed to meet his parent’s requirements for his remaining at Willamette University. He believed he wasn’t good enough for me and there would be no changing his mind. He had to carve out a new pathway. He apologized for the confusions and misunderstandings. He realized he had tried to make it easier by distancing himself. I had surprised him with my patience and acceptance while he had anticipated my learning to hate him. He would never forget me and love me for ever. But it was over.
I don’t know about him. But I have never forgotten him, and in a way I have always loved him, as he was then, not the man he became, but the man he was at the time.