Continued from “With Spring Comes First Love…”
During dinner, I waited for the call. Every time my mom picked up the phone, I freaked out. Having finished homework, I watched TV listening to none of it.
By 9 pm, it was clear. He wasn’t calling. That was my answer. It had been a good run–five or six months of falling for someone plus the half a second I took blowing it by admitting it to him. Damn me and my big mouth! I was too dorky, my glasses were too big, and I was very, very stupid despite doing well academically (everyone knew I was an airhead–it wasn’t remotely a secret). I’d misread the situation before, and now I’d done it again. I would never have a boyfriend. I would never be kissed. I’d die like Emily Dickinson (I’d done a report on the year before)–alone with a bunch of unpublished poems. Maybe if I died before my mom did, she would publish them for me? I’d have plenty of time to think about this along with my new, boring non-Landon life for the next two days. I’d told him on a Friday in preparation for this exact outcome. I’d actually meant to tell him Thursday, but I had chickened out.
My bedtime was later on the weekend, but I told my mom that I didn’t feel well and went to bed. Anxiety was exhausting.* It would be like the time my best friend wrote a love letter to the guy she liked. He read it out loud to everyone and then stomped on her heart all the while laughing along with the rest of the class. The universe was clear–declaring your love was the worst idea ever or at least for middle school dweeb girls.
I’m not sure how long I cried and catastrophized. At least an hour, maybe longer. Eventually from under the covers, I heard the phone ring. It was probably one of my mom’s close friends that I called “Aunt,” or maybe one of my best friends. I hadn’t even gone to anyone’s house so I’d be home when he called. Well, there’d be plenty of time for that now!
My mom knocked and opened my door. “Honey, are you still awake?”
I sighed. “Yeah.”
“Are you accepting phone calls?”
“Ugh, I don’t know. Who is it?”
What? I poked an eye out. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m sure. He calls every night. I know what he sounds like. You have to go to bed soon, so don’t make it too long.”
When she passed me the phone, I closed the door. “Sorry,” Landon explained, immediately. “I left for the horse show today, and I’m staying at my grandmother’s for the weekend. She made me go to bed early ‘cuz she’s old. I had to wait until after she fell asleep to call you.”
Of course. The horse show! Landon lived in the country and not only owned but showed horses. He’d told me this the other day, but I hadn’t heard him over the roar of my loud inner monologue.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but secretly calling me from his grandmother’s house was already the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me. Why would he call me back this soon to break my heart if he didn’t have to? No one would do that. Maybe a serial killer, but no normal person. Maybe he hadn’t heard me, which is what I posited as I peeled all the paint off my closet door while I tried to act nonchalant.
He had. He liked me too. Cool, I’d said, trying not to start a musical number in my bedroom. It was easier than I thought, because I was exhausted from overthinking. Also, I’d started peeling all this paint off my closet door and now I felt like I had to see that through.
For the next week, I tried to be as chill that we were dating. Truth be told, it wasn’t much different, and yet the world was transformed. I started putting all my energy into not blowing it. The following Sunday, I voiced my fears about the fact that this was temporary. There had obviously been some mix-up with the universe. Instead, he reassured me by telling me he loved me. In movies, once people say this, everything is fine. They’re safe. Cue the music, scroll the closing credits. Happily ever after. Boom.
After that, I let down my guard. I ignored all of my friends. He and I applied to the same high school and that felt like a big step. It was the leveling up. I snuck over to his friend’s house to see him and got in trouble. We went to a dance and only danced with each other. We had our first kiss in secret on school grounds. Suck it normal place first-time kissers!
We dated for four glorious weeks. I had momentarily lapses of comfort, but I spent most of my waking hours on edge. He dumped me on our one month anniversary. It took longer to get over him than I ever admitted. For the next four years, I dated a lot of people, and it probably took a good decade before I identified where it had all gone wrong.
Chuck Klosterman said the following about love:
“We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. But…there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these lovable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.”
Many things remind me of Landon, for better or worse. He burned me the Garth Brooks double live set while we were together. Every time I see it, I still see him handing the cases over and saying, “Sorry. It wouldn’t all fit on one disc.” It was his favorite. He played it all the time. Throughout the years, most of the songs I liked became assigned to others who fit the descriptions like tags at a coat check, being matched back to people at the end of an evening.
Except one. “The Dance.”
For those who aren’t familiar, “The Dance” is about a man who looks back at the woman he loved and lost with relief that he didn’t know when and how it would end. He decides that if he had known, he might not have thought it worth the sacrifice. Being left with that powerful, beautiful moment was superior to any pain he’s currently feeling no matter how short the moment was or how long he ached afterwards. It became my reminder that even though I was sad, our relationship had still been worth it.
That and I ended up with a Garth Brooks double live CD.
*Anxiety is still exhausting, maybe even more so.