He was thirty-one. I remember the number. It seemed significant to me at the time, me dating an older man. I remember thinking on my thirty-ninth birthday that he would turn fifty soon–our birthdays were days apart. I still thought about him then. I thought about my youth, his hand grasping mine and pushing it against his cock. “Here, feel this. It is for you.”
Our relationship was deeply intellectual, and it was this intellectual level that was comfortable to me, good Midwestern girl that I was. My brain could challenge the status quo. But my body? I found myself trembling at the thought of that, holding back, but wanting more. The intensity of the attraction nearly hurt; and in the end, he did hurt me. But I never forgot him.
I was so afraid of all that I felt when I was young, so afraid of my desires to give into the erotic. He challenged me, pushed me to let go of fear, to let go of all restrictions on possibility.
Kinky. He told me he was a pervert. He told my mom that I was.
He was a genius, a madman. I loved him, felt new with him. He wanted me to try anal sex, and after several nights, I let him push his fingers into my ass in a motel room we had rented for the afternoon. I gasped, then relaxed, letting the world open before me, the wide beautiful world opening as taboo faded into desire.
Nothing was stable in our relationship; I vowed never to see him again one day and threw his dissertation and poetry into the garbage. Months later, he found me again, and I loved him still, loved him passionately. I let myself love completely, and be loved.
And then, he let me go. He said I should leave, accept the invitation to study in France, live, write. I would have rather stayed with him in that quiet Texas town. But other complications became apparent as time went on. Mistakes had been made. His life had to go on without me, and he must have known that only cruelty would make me leave.. or that is the version that I like to believe. It was over.
I saw him only once again after that, the day of my master’s exam. He was walking through the university with a four-year-old girl. His daughter, wide-eyed, with ice cream dripping down her dress. She showed me her underwear, and he laughed. Like father, like daughter. Not so much of a mistake, a beautiful girl–now, years later, surely a beautiful woman. He looked at me, stopped. I stopped, and we walked on. I heard of him again at times, but never from him. Finally, he faded into memories woven through this life.
For years I looked everywhere for him, sometimes found glimpses of what was missing. One day, so much later–it takes so long to get over these things–I realized that in truth, what I was looking for was myself, and the passion in me.
He lit that proverbial flame.. I listened to the Style Council over and over in France, thinking that I might find him in Paris. Would I have ever known that flame without him? I don’t know. But what would life be if not for this? If not for the ability to know desire, the burning desire and wonder that fuels my world?