That day in the record library, I realized I'd fallen into a tragic pattern.
"I have something to tell you," I told my fellow DJ, a slender blonde guy who wore a gray trench coat, was intelligent and wry, and reminded me of David Bowie crossed with Christian Slater. This time, I opted to reveal my truth through a poem.
With a trembling hand, I handed him the cloth-bound book where I wrote my poems in colored ink. (These days, I am more open to revision, rarely seeing the point of affixing a piece in such permanency.) The poem, though I'd like to think was written with more skill than a typical 18-year-old, oozed with teenage angst, propped up with obscure, pretentious imagery. A demon lover swirled amidst dark swirls of desire. I shudder to think of it now.
Silently, he read it, and then looked me in the eye and gently uttered, "I'm flattered, but..."
My world collapsed, again. I reclaimed the book, muttered something I can no longer remember but probably was along the lines of agreeing to remain friends. Bursting out of the ornate marble hallways into a chill, charcoal day, I sobbed the ever-cycling tears of the damned.
While I can recall with vivid detail the soundless cavern of the record-lined vault where I spent so many undergraduate days -- how I had hung on the shush of his breath as he read, wondering what he thought -- I don't recall exactly where I went afterwards. Probably to seek out a friend, like Holli, my bubbly Wiccan friend, who had marched into my life, sure of our destiny from the start. She could make anyone believe.
As my wracking tears subsided, I recounted my earlier failings. A note passed to my middle school crush, "Do you like me? Yes or no." He'd circled "or." The day I'd called a classmate I'd liked for years, to ask him to a dance, and he'd told me he didn't plan to go. The other high school heartbreaks, a litany of failures, culminating the previous year when, as a college freshman, I'd confessed my love to a fellow member of the Monty Python Society, cornering him in an empty classroom after a meeting. The results were predictable to anyone but me.
Always, I dreamed of impossible bliss with boys who did not share my vision. Inevitably, I would eventually feel compelled to confess my love, in a quiet nook that would forever be tarnished as a place I'd taken my heart to die.
Sadly, the process actually took far longer, and I complained to Holli that falling out of love was like waiting for a clockwork robot to run down. Long after you'd stopped turning the key that fed its engine, the gears would click, the arms and legs flail. After rejection, I'd be a winding-down robot for weeks.
I would, that is, until a casual look or a shared joke would spark my heart alive again, for another unknowing -- and likely unwilling -- target. Locked into my tragic pattern, I was doomed to repeat it once more.
Years later, my eyes traced the black-and-white fleur-de-lis wallpaper of my counselor's office as we unwound the tangled mess of my past loves. She asked me why I had fallen so often for those out of reach, and why, when I had been in relationships, I had allowed myself to be neglected, devalued, emotionally abused. Maybe, I suggested, I thought I didn't deserve better. That love was impossible for someone like me: nerdy, frequently overweight, with no skill to allure.
Perhaps I had learned it in childhood, from my closeted mother, effusive in her love for us children but rarely accepting a public kiss from our dad. He tried so hard to please her, acquiescing to her wishes, bringing cards and flowers. She would bite her lip and mumble thanks, recoil at a kiss on the cheek. When my friends' parents would kiss, I felt scandalized at their inappropriateness, my internal beliefs about love dreadfully askew.
Now, looking back from even further forward, I realize with a shiver that I had perpetually sabotaged myself. Four of my biggest crushes, I now believe, were on boys/men who were either gay or perhaps asexual. Another two beloveds were still hung up on ex-girlfriends, while the very first was a charming, funny jock to whom I'd never actually spoken very much, just longed for from afar. Of course, when you think about it, all of those loves were destined to remain unrequited.
A sad lovebot, I had tick-tocked along a self-fulfilling program, caught in an infinity loop programmed before my birth.