BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
As I soak up the tears blurring my vision, I look closer at the face before me on the phone. It’s really him, as if my mind is trying to find a way to discredit the actual fact that he’s found me. I can’t stop the tears now. “What the hell is going on?”, I ask myself. I am completely baffled by my response to the situation that has just landed in my lap. The man before me in black and white on the phone screen is a much older version of him, tempered by time, with salt and pepper hair, but it is definitely him.
I can’t catch my breath. How? Why? It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen his face. In fact, it’s been just as long since I really thought about him at all. We were babies back then; neither of us knew anything about the world. But yet here he is, contacting me via social media today.
I can’t lie. When I would go home to Vegas through the years, I would drive by his house in the old neighborhood. I’d smile and think, “There’s his house.” But it wasn’t his house anymore. It hadn’t been his house since my sophomore year of high school – when he left. The rush of anger hits me like a tidal wave. I was so not expecting that. I am still angry at him for leaving. It is so vivid, the memory. Him standing there, looking at me, and then the kiss. That one dumb kiss. I can remember the world standing still. He had finally kissed me. And then he left. He moved. As fast it happened it was over and I would be left standing there alone.
He was a painfully shy and awkward teen. I remember how he would stand behind his best friend and steal glances at me. When I would catch him looking at me, he would look down, never able to maintain eye contact, never able to look me in the eye when he spoke to me. I remember wanting him to every time he was near me. And then the moment came that he did.
That day, he looked long and hard into my eyes. Its as if he was trying to memorize everything he could. I got lost in his eyes. I remember. We were so young. What do two teenage kids know about feeling crazy for each other like that? Besides, he was leaving me. He had no choice, he was a child. But I remember. I remember being so mad at him for waiting all that time to do the one thing he had always wanted to do. I remember being left with nothing but questions. Why did he have to wait so long?
I remember numerous days, after he moved, that I would stand on his empty porch hoping he would open that door. I remember looking into the front window into a home vacant and void of any trace of him. I really felt like that then. It was very real to me. I never heard from him again.
You see this young man was too afraid to tell me then that he was crazy about me. Instead, he supported his best friend who had eyes for me, in pursuing me. I didn’t want his best friend from the start. I wanted him to pursue me. I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t. I just assumed I wasn’t his type. So, to be near him, I entertained his best friend’s attention. If I saw his best friend, I could see him. It wasn’t a bad trade off for me. I may have not been interested in his best friend, but his best friend had a stellar sense of humor and was way too fun to hang out with. So, I enjoyed it.
Then would come the day that his best friend would confess his feelings for me. I tried to keep him at bay hoping the one I wanted would step forward. He knew his best friend was developing feelings for me, and worse, I knew his friend already had. So, he let his best friend move forward.
Then the news came. He was moving to another state. This was the days before cell phones, the internet, and social media. We couldn’t call long distance without our parents knowing and having to take a second mortgage for our calls. Stamped letters were our way of reaching out across the miles. But the letter never came. The years moved on. So did I.
His best friend became my best friend and in time became my first love, my high school sweetheart. High school was tough for most of us, and it was no different for me and his best friend. We became parents my senior year of high school after being each other’s first. We thought we were in love, and a baby was born from it. I have not one single regret there.
Well, perhaps one thing I wonder “what if” about. Then I shake my head, look at my beautiful son and know God had his hand in it the whole time. Me and his best friend parted ways badly. His best friend never stepped up to be a father, sadly. As a father, he was the worst. I tried to excuse him for being young, but as the years passed I couldn’t any longer. He was what he was - a poor choice. But, I got an amazing son from it and two beautiful grandchildren I wouldn’t trade for the world. And time went on.
Fast forward over 30 years. I have been married and divorced. I have moved away from Vegas and went through hell and back. Today, I am sober and happy and getting ready to push my last baby bird out of the nest this fall. I am preparing for many adventures and have finally come to terms with being single during this leg of the journey and I’m ok with it. Actually, I am more than ok with it. I’m down-right ecstatic about the possibilities that are opening up. I am free to be me finally after being a mom since before I was even done being a kid myself. I am free.
I thought it would look different, this time in my life. It does – much different. Thanks to a power greater than me, I’m able to have this amazing thing I call my life. I’m jealous of my own self. It’s a good thing.
At the stroke of midnight this New Year’s, I found myself swimming in the eyes of a stranger at a sober convention, giving myself permission to be happy for once and have fun doing it – and I did. It would be the gunshot that signaled throughout the rest of this year, marking my return to love. Now, don’t get excited. I’m not talking about that boy I kissed this New Year’s Eve – not at all. What I mean is that I’m falling in love with me for the first time. Crazy, I know. But its actually pretty dang cool. I’m digging it.
Then, like a thunderbolt, I am taken back in a single moment. I’m taken back to another New Year’s many decades ago, when I realize that the man I have been talking to via messenger today is none other than “him.” How fast you can warp back in time when someone shows up from your past. I had to step away from work and gather myself. He was finally here after all these years. He had tracked me down. He had found me.
Talk about a sucker punch to the gut. It doesn’t matter how the conversation went, what mattered is what was said and what was felt in those moments we talked. I knew that I wanted to feel like that again. I knew I wanted to know what that was that I was feeling. I knew that I deserved to feel like that, and that it was good. I could still feel the rush. I was still capable of feelings like that. He asked me, “Who caught you?”
I had the hard cold truth hit me in my heart. “No one”, I said. “I am uncatchable.”
I had said it and now there was no denying it. I have had many men who have passed through my life and even a few women, from when I was very young up until today, who have loved and cared for me. They have found a way through the years, through social media to seek me out and tell me that they had not forgotten me and that they thought of me fondly when thoughts of me surfaced. It feels nice to hear that, that maybe I didn’t hurt them all. It feels nice to know that I was someone worth remembering, because each of them have been that to me as well.
Still, the truth was out. It took someone who had only been a moment in my young life, to impact me now as he had then. When he asked me that question, I responded without hesitation, no filters. He followed up by reaffirming some belief he had held onto, “See, you were always out of my league.” Maybe he was right. Maybe I didn’t want him to be. But if I must get honest, which is what I’m doing all of this for and exactly how I get to stay sober today, then I have to admit it. I wasn’t just out of his league; I was out of my own league.
What does that mean? Well, it’s elementary my dear Watson. I somehow just couldn’t see it until now. I was never truly available for anyone, most importantly myself. No one could ever reach me in the way they wanted to and secretly I wanted them to. They couldn’t because I couldn’t even reach me. I have been so locked up that I didn’t even know I was. I must have locked up my heart years ago and threw away the key, never looking back. I never questioned it. Not until now I hadn’t.
As I try to make sense of what I am feeling, I know that this won’t have an easy answer. I have only just begun to feel starting with that kiss on New Year’s this year up until now. I am finally beginning to love and care for myself and make myself important enough to be happy. I am giving myself permission subconsciously to love and be loved. I am allowing myself to receive from me, what only I am capable of, unconditional love.
Up until now, I didn’t truly understand that. I mean I say did, but that’s not the truth. I have had yet another spiritual experience. This journey into self discovery I have settled onto has began to open doors I forgot existed. I am totally terrified, but totally thrilled at the same time. I am beginning to fall in love – with me. I don’t care who judges me, I know in the end I get the love of my life, the one I’ve been waiting for all my life. I have been patiently waiting figuratively on that door step for that feeling to return. I never left that door step psychologically. What a completely powerful revelation.
My soul has wanted that rush, that feeling all my days. It has been chasing different highs trying to find a sufficient substitute most of my adult life - none have been able to fulfill me. Yet, here, so many years later and hundreds of miles apart – he shows up on that figurative door step and without even knowing it, kisses my soul awake again.
He is not my final kiss. He is not my final love story. He is not the love story I will write. In fact, he is someone else’s love story to finish. I am the one who will write the ending to this love story, my love story, with God as my co-author.
One day, I will be able to be attainable to someone. One day, I will be ready to be available fully for him. It will have been worth the wait in every way. If it is never another person who shares that feeling with me again, I will have it for myself and I will be complete.
I will get on that plane here shortly, fly to another country by myself. I will meet with a man who touched my soul in a different way years ago, who made me want to fall in love again for other reasons. No, it is not with that man, or any other man that I want to fall in love. They are all pieces of my heart for very important reasons. I am going to meet that man, because I call him friend, because my soul feels a kindred spirit when I am with him. I am going to find another piece of my heart – the piece that is starved to travel.
Look out world, I’ve got a passport and nothing but time ahead of me. Bags are packed and I smell the salt of the ocean on the air. I will eat, pray, and love all the days of my life. Thank you to that scared young boy who left me waiting on that doorstep. You returned. I didn’t ever think you would, but you did. Now, I can finally say thank you for finding me again. That kiss never ended for me, and I just realized I hope it never does. Watch out world, Tami’s in love.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.