Moved on with our lives. That’s what we did. The next time I ran into TJ, about 2 years later, he was still with his ex, and they had two kids. By that time, I wasn’t upset anymore. I wasn’t hoping for a relationship with him. I didn’t think about him. I was single and having a good time. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel some kind of way about seeing him with her. It wasn’t love; more like a possessive thing. Besides, I still saw the way he looked at me.
It went on this way for the next 15 years. We’d run into each other a few times a year. He’d be looking at me with that lovesick look on his face. We would make small talk and catch up on each other’s lives. He’d usually have a girlfriend. One time I ran into him, the twins were only a few months old. Then we would go our separate ways. There was one time that he was single, and we actually kept in touch; but all that happened was…umm..well…you know. And we went our separate ways again. I have no idea why.
Over the years, there have been men. Nobody worth mentioning. None of my relationships have been long. None of them made me want to marry them. TJ and I both say that the relationship we had was the best one of our lives. I say nobody ever truly loved me or treated me the way he did; he says the same about me. But I didn’t spend those years pining away for him. I just recognized our relationship for what it was, and I appreciated him for it. Never did I think we would get back together.
One time I ran into him on the bus. I think it was 2008. We were on the bus. I called his name; his face lit up. We talked for a few minutes. I was about to get off, and he informed me that he was getting married soon. Say what now? I didn’t show it, but I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach. He wasn’t supposed to marry anybody!! Besides, he was still looking at me…like that. How was he gonna marry somebody else?
But I got over it. Went on with my life. Saw him again in early 2009. His fiance was standing right there. He was still looking at me like that. He met Sweet Pea, and we did our usual small talk/catching up. And went our separate ways.
I started school in August of 2009. On my school nights, I’d usually stay at work until it was time to go. After a couple months, I just wanted to be out of there, so I decided I would go to school early and have some quiet time before class started. One wednesday in late October, I left work on time and walked up to the bus stop. I had about 20 minutes to wait for the bus, so I sat on a bench and pulled out a book to read. Every once in a while, I’d look up to make sure I didn’t miss the bus. One time I looked up, and I saw TJ! He walked right past me and up to an available bench. I didn’t try to catch his attention. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk anyway. I sat right on that bench and kept waiting for the bus. Finally, it came. As I walked up to the small group of people waiting to get on, I realized TJ was standing directly in front of me. I figured that if we were getting on the same bus, I had to say something. It would have been rude of me not to.
I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around. His face lit up with a huge smile. We said our hellos, got on the bus, and sat together. He showed me pictures of his children and told me about each of them. We shared parenting stories. Of course, he made me laugh. He never mentioned a wife. I was trying to check his left hand, but he had his hands in his pockets. I got off the bus and went to class. I thought that it was nice to get to talk to him, but I didn’t think I’d see him again. We run into each other, we catch up, we go our separate ways, right?
WRONG. Every Wednesday, I’d see him at the bus stop. The next time I saw him, I asked him about his marriage. He told me it didn’t happen. They broke up. He shared his romantic history with me. It wasn’t good. I jokingly said, “See, you shouldn’t have broken up with me. Twice!” What he said next surprised me. He said, “You’re right. I was a knucklehead. I should have never broken up with you.” I was shocked! In the 22 years since we had been apart, he had never verbalized it. I saw it in his face, but I had never heard it come out of his mouth. I didn’t know how to respond. I don’t even remember what I said. But it was time to get off of the bus anyway. I went on to class, but this time, I kept thinking about what he said. I wondered if he was trying to start up a relationship again, or was he just stating how he felt about our breakup? I told myself that he hadn’t tried to get back together in all these years; why would he try now? Besides, I didn’t even know if I wanted him that way. It was great talking to him, but it was too weird to think about anything more. I put those thoughts out of my mind.
But every Wednesday, I looked forward to seeing him. We talked about the good times we had, and he said that he would love to hang out again. I told him that my life now didn’t allow a lot of hanging out time. I wasn’t trying to shoot him down; I was just being honest. We got on the bus, talked more, I went to class. One Thursday morning, I logged on to Facebook, and saw that I had a new message. It was from TJ, and the title was “Friends to the end”. We went back and forth with small talk for a while, then he asked if he could call me. I gave him my number and he said he’d call later on.
Later on turned out to be 2 days later. But call he did. Every night. Our conversation flowed easily. For the first couple nights, he kept it light. We reminisced about our high school romance. This man remembers things that I completely forgot. He remembers outfits I wore, small things we did, places we went. After a couple nights of talking for more than two hours at a time, he just came right out and said how he felt: I have loved you since the day I saw you. I looked for you in every woman I’ve dated. They have had some of your qualities, but they never measured up. I should have married you a long time ago. I wanted to say it those times we ran into each other. I don’t know why I never did.
All this time, I truly believed that was how he felt, but I had convinced myself that it was my ego talking. But to hear the words come out of his mouth? This was romance novel type stuff…..I was speechless for a moment. I told him I knew how he felt. I told him we’d be friends forever, but that we were different people now, and that we would have to get to know each other all over again. Told him that we might not be as compatible as we once were. You know…because it was TRUE, and it was the mature thing to say. He agreed, then he asked when he could see me. We set a date.
What I didn’t tell him was how inexplicably giddy I felt!
Next: Part 4