Old men, and I am one, often sit and reminisce — lugubriously — over those days during the spring of our lives when love first made itself known. We sit, looking at our pot bellies, our white hair (if any) and sagging flesh and recall better days. Days when the world was an open-ended adventure and all things were possible.
These were also the days when the appearance of a captivating woman was both sudden and unexpected. The first time your head was turned away from childish pursuits when a woman took you to her bed, your head and your heart, as well as your loins, boiled over with . . . gad, I don’t know what. Emotion? Certainly, and wonderful emotions at that. Lust? Of course, but not the base, lecherous kind; I’m talking about the kind of lust one might feel on seeing an angel. And why not? You thought you’d just died and went to heaven. No more chess club for you, stud!
Of course, being a male of the species, the instinct to mate had raised its magnificent head and stayed above water thereafter. I could, and often did, fall in love every other day. A woman’s intellect, humor, generosity and perspicacity meant nothing — at least not those first few days until I began to really appreciate the lovely creature on my arm. Soon, she became more than a comely squeeze. “Cathecting” is the name of this process, and rare it is.
I went out with many women and had torrid, steamy assignations with several well-chosen morsels. Of course these were shallow relationships that began with fierce intensity but soon petered-out from ennui and waning interest. They ran from 1-night stands to three months deals, a few even longer.
But unhappily, my wits failed me and I married (*ptoo* I spit) a horrid fishwife. And that’s a goddamned shame too, since to marry the fishwife I threw over three splendid women, any of whom would have made me tearfully happy.
In throwing over these good women, I hurt them. Some pretty badly. And I regret that. But what’s the alternative to dating and loving several women — often in series, sometimes concurrently — understanding that all but one will fail? Marry the first woman you date. Well, that’s a bad idea.
Anyway, the one woman I most regret kicking to the curb was Carol. We found each other in an orientation session at he university one fall. Our eyes met, then met again and finally I got up and went over. Carol was a fetching thing. Jet black hair worn Jackie Kennedy style, the athletic build of one who lifts weights on a sometime basis and blue/green eyes. She was wearing a frilly summer blouse and loose-fitting shorts that, when she crossed her legs just right, left little to the imagination. Also, knee-high socks like a cheerleader.
I soon found out Carol had attended a Catholic girls school where the conflation of sex with sin was duly inculcated and Carol harped on this constantly. Normally, on hearing this kind of anti-sex nonsense, I took my bow and made my exit. But not with Carol. I liked her. A lot.
Carol and I went out through the winter and one night in early spring, she ditched her bra. Oh, such magnificence. Then on a warm and moonless night that summer, we were in my old convertible, which had more room inside than was proper. Wrapped in our usual embraces with Carol working her way beneath me, Carol grabbed me by the ears, turned my face to her’s, looked at me with a a disconcerting intensity I’d never seen and said (and I shit you not): “Make love to me, Merlin”.
Good Christ in his heaven! Never before, and never since, has a woman ever said those words to me.
Normally, I’d have jumped right on it (no pun intended) but being the naif that she was, I felt Carol was making more of our relationship than I was. I had no plans to marry but I’d no doubt Carol did. If you keep in mind my earlier sentiment that Carol would have made a fine catch, there really wasn’t a problem with the idea, given a bit of time. In any case, I felt that a woman like Carol, and especially Carol, would take it badly were she debauched only have her swain break off the relationship. So I turned her down. Both of us were disappointed.
A few weeks later, I was on the cusp. If I kept on with Carol, we’d end up married for sure. If I moved on I’d be free. One day our car pool guy parked in the back lot and as Carol, me and two others walked to the stairway, I told Carol we were done. Bang, just like that.
It took a few second for that to sink in, and when it did, Carol broke into a tearful rage of pain and disbelief. I felt horrible about what I’d just done but I felt it had been necessary. There was a lot of Strum und Drang before the dust settled and after it did, I saw Carol just once more. It was in a trendy tavern named CC Tap and she was with friends. Lord, had Carol changed. All in bad ways. This Carol made me think of a cup of cream that’d had a spoonful of vinegar dumped in it. The blow I’d inflicted had really hurt, and the hurt seemed to have changed her.
Carol saw me and gave me that awkward insouciance of people whose harts are smarting. In return, I gave Carol a quick nod and short wave, turned and was out the door.
Fifty-odd years later, I deplore my actions. That awful day in the parking lot, I could have said nothing and simply seen where the heart leads. And if it led nowhere, Carol and I would have simply drifted apart and one day agreed we no longer cared for each other in that special way: “Have a nice day and see you in the funny papers.” On the other hand, if the heart took things to ultimate conclusions, I’d have waited until her folks were on one of their frequent trips, knocked on the door, popped the question, stuck a ring on her finger, took her to her bedroom and banged her brains out.
But I didn’t do that, did I? No.
When I look back on it now, I see the way I ended the affaire de Carol was monstrously cruel and callous and I’m stunned that I could have done it. Now these fifty years later, I wonder about Carol. Did the hurt heal and she go on with her life? I truly hope so. If I’d done lasting damage to Carol, truly, I’d be the guy who poured the spoonful of vinegar into that cup of cream.
They say that time heals all wounds and wounds all heels.