The Day You Were Sad
You find out someone loved you once. You find out that a long time ago someone loved you so much he might have died for you.
You run into an old college friend on an airplane. You get to drinking and talking, and he says, That guy once drank an entire bottle of tequila because he was sure you’d never love him. He had to go to the hospital to get his stomach pumped.
You remember he was awfully cute and that you were good friends for awhile—when was it? Sophomore year? He left and you forgot him for a long time. Looking back, you recognize all the signs, but because you’d never imagined you loved him, you never noticed.
You feel foolish because you miss him.
You remember the day you were sad and he invited you on a drive up the mountain, and you invited your friends to come along. You remember how sometimes he kissed you at parties and you just thought he was drunk and kissing people. How he woke you up early on Sundays by throwing rocks at your dorm-room window, even when he knew you weren’t alone. The way he came by with tea that whole week you had the flu. The way he sat in your desk chair for hours, making you laugh until your stomach hurt. How he never wanted you to sleep.
He was always dating some girl or another, so how were you supposed to know? He broke up with a girl once because she accused him of cheating on her with you. And once, when he was drunk at a party, he kissed you right in front of her. You remember that, at the time, you thought it was funny.
You remember the night he told you that you were beautiful—you were beautiful and you were good—but find you have no idea what else he said that night. It takes weeks to piece it together, to finally remember that you were in the dorms, in someone else’s room. He tackled you on the bed, kissed you all over your face, proclaiming over and over, I love this girl!
You are good, he said. You were very stoned, and he held you and talked in your ear; the music was loud and people were singing along. You forgot he was talking and hummed a little with the song. And I like you, he said.
And you said, What? I wasn’t listening.
And he looked crushed and refused to say anything else.
You attempt to look him up on the Internet, but he has a common name and you’re not sure where he lives. You don’t want to do anything creepy, such as hire a private detective, because that might cause your husband to wonder if there is something wrong with your marriage. But you wonder: If you saw him now? The one who loved you then? You wonder what you would do.
A partial moral inventory leads you to believe you wouldn’t do anything. Seeing him now isn’t the point. The point is what might have happened if you’d known then what you know now. Nevertheless, you imagine running into him. You imagine what he looks like with gray hair. He isn’t actually old enough to be silver-haired, but in your mind this meeting is in the future. You wonder if he’s fat now. You think you’d probably still find him attractive if he is.
You wonder again, out loud, why he never asked you out.
You get mad at him.
You remember he did the kinds of drugs that made you uncomfortable and that he kept this from you, that you found it all out later after he dropped out or transferred or disappeared. Every single one of these thoughts occurs to you while you are driving alone. You sing songs to him from the car radio. You wish there were a word for what he means to you.
You decide he must be married by now. You wonder if he got over his drug problem. You wonder, if he loved you so much, whether he would’ve gotten clean for you, if you’d known to ask. But you already know the answer.
You hope he changed for his wife. You hope he has a wife and that he’s been sober for years. You hope he has kids and a big house and that he takes his family on drives up the mountain. You wonder what he said to you, that night in someone else’s room, when you forgot to listen.