No, we were NOT High School sweethearts. YES, we spent kindergarten to 12th grade together - but in this rural, northeastern Pennsylvania town, we rolled with a completely different circle of friends.
HIS were well behaved, over achieving, ass-kissing jocks. MINE were dark, sassy, smart(asses).
There was no way I was going to let HIM win - he didn't care enough to wipe the chocolate milk from his chin - or that his knee was scraped, his hair had no part, and his socks didn't match.
A deliberately ignored, urgently raised, second graders hand and the steady stream of gold that roll down the checkerboard, linoleum floor.
Playing kickball with fierce intensity.
Popping asphalt tar bubbles along sizzling summer, streets.
A moment of silence, following the tragic death of Teddy Gardner, who was crushed by a trucks lift-gate when he reached for dropped Halloween candy.
Checking sofa cushions for spilled pocket change and in victory, rushing to the corner store to buy bubble gum cigars and cherry liquorish.
Knowing its best to eat your potato pancakes AFTER riding the wicked high, roller coaster ride, at Harveys Lake.
Singing "Jeramie was a bullfrog" and "American Pie" at the top of our lungs while bouncing on tattered, green vinyl, school bus seats.
Sneaking sips of Stegmaier beer from adults playing horse shoes at Rickets Glenn.
Getting the first day of "doe" hunting season off - and worrying about them.
Watching a man walk on the moon, from a brand new colored TV.
Attending our first concert in our high school foot ball field. Listen to "The Buoys" play their signature song "Timothy" and contemplating its gruesome meaning.
After graduation in 1977, we were both eager to get as far away from home as possible. He went off to college and I went off to find myself.
I deliberately avoided the 5th, 10th, or 15th reunions. I wasn't willing to resurface until I accomplished something.
By the time we reached our 20th, I had successfully taken over the family business, skydived, and was training to run my first marathon.
Nothing that would qualify me as an over achiever, but enough that I could hold my head, not high, but steady.
He was the first thing I saw when I walked in the door. Corralled in a mound of jocks, with a much younger, well endowed, beauty queen locked on his left arm.
I did my best to look the other way but there was something about him. Cool and unruffled, he kept both hands buried deep inside his pockets. His broad, sturdy shoulders offset a taut, tapered waist. His forehead and forearms were golfed red. His eyes were ... ALIVE!
With a stiff back and an elongated stride, I aimed for the center of their sphere.
I was mildly distracted by an paunchy classmate who felt it necessary to remind me who he was.
"Remember me, I'm your class president?"
"Sorry, I don't " I answered, "I must not have voted for you."
Everyone laughed...at me, but Mr. Cooked got me. He knew I was poking fun at a man who, 20 years later, still defined himself as "my class president."
We jumped into bed almost immediately. Afterwords, as I laid in his arms sobbing, he looked me in the eyes and said, "I know, I love you too."
Here I discovered it was MUCH easier to be with a man I could appease than to be with a man I loved.
To say it was a volatile relationship would be an understatement. I wrestled daily with intense rage brewed in insecurity. If I raised my voice he'd fall asleep - almost instantly. Seated on the couch, his head would bob back and his eyes would roll shut.
He accused me of being addicted to drama. I accused him of being emotionally inept.
His weekends in Connecticut, rolled into weekday interviews, and when he landed a job, he moved in.
But I had more than my share of doubts. He had never lived with a woman and I was convinced he had relocated to escape a sleepy economy.
Because he was a non communicator, I had no idea who he was. In search of clues, I snooped through his brief case, broke into his internet account, sifted through his closet, drawers, and file cabinets.
Late one night, while rummaging through a perfectly lined row of slacks, I discovered a hideous pair of plaid pants in a loud pattern of teal, magenta, royal and lime green. My best guess is that these were a vintage pair of his Sunday bests, but why would anyone hold onto something this visibly offensive?
I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I also didn't want to be seen in public with him wearing them, so I hide them in the back of his closet under a slightly weathered, golf shirt.
Out of sight was NOT out of mind.
I told my mother and sister about them. They were eager to poke fun at a man who owned such a gaudy garment.
I told friends, coworkers, even my therapist about what was hidden in my boyfriends closet.
Fashion faux pas were not his only flaw.
He referred to his briefcase as a "life box." When home, he insisted it remain propped open on the living room chair.
He had "car shoes" which he wore only while driving - they never set foot outside the car.
For dessert, he ate 3 vienna fingers cookies (no more, no less) dipped into instant coffee.
He refused to eat anything green and considered applesauce the perfect compliment to any meal.
Eventually, guilt got the best of me and after a round of late night drinks, I confessed.
"What do you mean you hid my pants?" he questioned.
He was clearly annoyed and I felt over exposed and embarrassed.
I did my best to explain, but nothing I said made sense - not even to me.
Shamefully, I climbed the stairs to our bedroom, opened the closet door, reached to the far back corner of the closet and discovered.... they were gone.
Unable to retrieve them, his annoyance grew to anger.
"I need my pants. I need all my pants!" he demanded.
I had no idea where they went. I retraced my steps, told him how and when I found him, how I toyed over what to do with them, and how reluctantly, I hid them.
That night, he slept on the couch and when I woke in the morning, he was gone.
After sifting through his dirty laundry, I was convinced he'd never return.
I called his office but he was "unavailable." In desperation, I called his mother and then his brother and finally, his best friend. To deaf ears, I confessed how I'd lost his pants and how upset he was with me.
When he returned late the next day he was still, visibly upset. I begged for forgiveness knowing it was fruitless - the man I loved could not be manipulate or control.
"I'll buy you new pants," I bargained, "besides, they were ugly."
"NO they weren't," he scolded
"YES they were!" I insisted.
And then...for the first time, he asked me what they looked like.
I described them by color, style and wear and tear - including the slight fray along the back, left leg cuff and the penny sized hole in the front right pocket.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said. "They're not my pants. They must be one of your other boyfriends pants."
"NOOOO....., they're YOURS!" I insisted. "You wore them to work...it was a Monday...you were worried you'd be late...you almost forgot your life box."
"Your life box"
"What the hell is a life box?!?"
"What do you mean what the hell is a life box? You're the one that calls it a LIFE BOX!"
"What the hell you're talking about!"
"You....call...your ... briefcase ...a LIFE BOX!!!"
"NO, I don't!"
"YES ...you... do!!! You were late for work, you were wearing your ugly, plaid pants and no shirt... you turned and asked me to hand you your LIFE BOX!"
Wait.....no shirt...why would he go to work without a shirt... that doesn't make sense...
"You don't have plaid pants?" I asked
"You don't call your briefcase a life box?"
It was finally clear. THIS was all a dream. A warped, befuddled, dream.
As in the Wizard of Oz, my brain was drawling from its episodic memory. Working out my worries - subconsciously dissecting my deepest doubts and fears.
I have always been a vivid dreamer, but this was the first time I misconstrued reality.
As the conversation continued, we both felt more at ease.
Its been a very long time since I've snooped. In time, I felt less vulnerable and more comfortable with the idea of loving someone and especially, someone loving me.
I realized that, although he's still not good at telling me how he feels, he is excellent at showing me. Never has a man been so giving, kind and generous - of his time, love, and self.
I woke screaming this morning. Plagued by nightmares of Bret Michaels WITHOUT his bandanna.
Ladies... it wasn't pretty!