Haunted

I’m haunted by the face of an old boyfriend. I learned recently that he died. My sister heard through our hometown grapevine. My boyfriend was one of four brothers. My sister knew one and one of our girlfriends married another. In fact, that’s how my boyfriend and I met – walking down the aisle, bridesmaid and groomsman.

It was the summer before we both went off to different colleges. Only 100 miles apart, but far enough so that we only saw each other occasionally and dated others. I remember him as being kind and gentle and being there for me when my father had a heart attack at Christmas and recovered. He was also good-looking.

From the PastToward the end of the school year, he got more serious. But by then I had met the man I would marry. And he – unknown to him for eight and a half months – had gotten a woman pregnant. So we married others. We both had two sons. And lost touch.

I think I remember hearing that he eventually divorced, as did I. To be truthful, I didn’t think of him often. I had good memories of him, but he didn’t feel like the one who got away. It seems unbelievable now, looking back, that our paths never crossed again. He worked for Northrup as an engineer and I worked nearby for Xerox as a technical writer. We knew many of the same people and were circulating in our small community’s singles world – at least until a few years ago when I moved 100 miles south again.

So why does he haunt me now? Because his face came into my life again. He lives beyond death, thanks to the séance stalking of the Internet. I found his obituary and a video posted by his family. He was not old. Apparently had diabetes. He leaves behind two sons, three brothers, and a sister. No mention of wife or girlfriend. I didn’t recognize him at first in his online picture. He had gone bald and his once strong eyebrows were pale and his face puffy. But the video (In Loving Memory Of … ocean scenes, music, What a Wonderful Life, My Way …) included photos of him from birth to almost death. There he was as a cute little boy, a hunky surfer throwing back beers with buddies, in his brother’s wedding party, with his new bride, and then with his sons. His sons looked a lot like mine – blond mops of hair. Sailboats in the background. Near where I used to sail with my father.

Then the slightly heavier middle-aged engineer with thick glasses, an older son with hair gone darker as one of my son’s did. His brothers growing beards and paunches. A daughter-in-law and grandson. An attractive woman in a baseball cap – his sister?

At the end of the video, I was in tears, but his face now seemed familiar. It also seemed sad. Was he sad, or ill, or both? Was he surprised at how his life turned out? I wanted to reach back somehow and offer comfort. Should I have tried to find him 20 years ago? Would we have liked each other? If we had married a long time ago when we met, when our lives were still ahead of us, would we have been happy? Would we have had similar sons?

So, he haunts me – the fact that I’ll never know the answers and that the door is closed forever. Maybe he was the one who got away.

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The Whole Package

I see three cute men around my age within five minutes at the old post office. Not just cute, but interesting-cute: shaggy hair, craggy faces, possible artists or musicians or professors of philosophy or enlightened entrepreneurs. They even smile at me as they juggle briefcases and packages and slide boxes along the marble countertop. I should hang out at this post office more often.

Usually I do not see that many older men, especially all at once, who appeal to me and who are not wearing wedding rings. It is a dwindling parade. Sometimes I sneak a peek online using a code name like Lola. I select Women Seeking Men A Certain Age+ with hope in my heart. The search results are mixed and often disappointing. Appealing men want younger or taller women, or both. Even unappealing men want younger women. Men with whom I might have interests and values in common do not appeal to me physically, not that I’m looking for perfection. Some, I’m sorry to say, look as if they have been drinking beers on the beach for 50 years and not moved a toe or their heads out of the sand.

Of course it’s a numbers game. The more we look or put ourselves out there, the more men we “interview” on dates, the more we increase our chances of meeting one who is right for us. My own forays into online dating have so far not yielded anyone I want to continue dating. I asked one successful realtor how he transitioned into his career from being a CPA. “Oh, I had time to do soul searching when I was in prison for embezzling” was his answer. Another warm and friendly man was a successful artist, but about 300 pounds. He had not posted full-body shots of himself, and as nice as he was, I couldn’t quite picture myself in the bedroom scenario. Well I could, but it was not a pleasant picture.

For many I know, including family members, online dating has worked well and yielded soul mates, so I don’t discourage anyone from trying it. The thing is, I’ve realized I don’t really want to look anymore. I’ve learned to live alone in a contented fashion, to relish the solitary life. I have friends, family, cats, and work I enjoy. I live in a friendly neighborhood in an apartment I love with an ocean view and lots of light. There is room for a man, but I don’t want one enough to be out at night or on my lunch hour interviewing anymore. I’d rather meet someone in the day-to-day living of my life, and if I don’t meet anyone, I am okay with that too.

Like many women my age, I take care of myself, both physically and financially. If I do meet a man, I’d like a companion, a real companion, not someone to take care of me and boss me around, and not someone who needs a lot of care. Not someone with a lot of extra packages, or baggage.Luggage

Whether faded canvas, or beat-up cardboard, or even beautiful designer leather, too much baggage is too much baggage. It bruises my shins and hurts my shoulders to hoist up. It’s disheartening and noisy when a full ensemble tumbles from a man’s closet.

I am leery of those men who carry little, however. A sleek body, a sleek wallet, a sleek cell phone. As if there’s no room for anything extra. Nothing can get in, nothing can stick, nothing gets carried for long. There’s no place to put my hands, to hold onto.

What I can handle is a man with a rumpled duffle bag or a backpack or an old briefcase. It says to me, I have some stuff here I might have to tell you about, but it’s mine to carry and I won’t hurt you with it. I can put it down anytime, maybe next to yours. Let’s have some fun. And I promise, I won’t hog the remote control. (Fat chance, say my coupled friends.)

It goes perfectly with rumpled (or maybe even no) hair, a bit of a pot belly, intelligent eyes, a kind smile, and a kindred spirit.

Maybe it’s time I walked back to our post office before it moves. The old building is being sold. I should get over there and smile at the men with packages before it gets turned into a bar or a Mexican restaurant.