When I was 27, I fell for a woman who was 41.
I fell hard. And fast. It was exhilarating.
I fall easily. It’s a known quantity.
But this moment in time caught me finally climbing out of a yearlong depression. The darkest I’d ever experienced. Things were starting to look brighter, though, by which I mean that I was actually showing up at work again and drinking less aggressively at everything around me.
But, before her, I couldn’t feel anything.
I suppose I felt emptiness. And loss. My girlfriend of two-years had summarily dumped me the year before, which kick-started my tragic, very public downward spiral. But, let’s be honest: the depression had been lurking just underneath the surface for years. I had a lot of shame and self-hatred that was bound to trot itself out at some point. Those kind of things tend to want to be dealt with. But it was easier to focus on the girl I’d lost than to fix the things that were wrong with me. So, I pined for her. I drank, blacked-out, and threw myself at people all over town. Until I got hurt by a man I should never have trusted–and after that, when I realized how much worse it could’ve been, I started applying slightly less alcohol to my wounds. Turns out, I wasn’t as uninterested in living as I’d previously thought.
Then I met her.
And just being near her was like lightning in my veins. My entire body literally throbbed with desire for her anytime she brushed against my skin. Which she had to do surreptitiously. Because she was my boss.
And had a girlfriend. Maybe? She said they were ending things (which turned out to be more or less true, depending on who was telling the story).
Oh my God. The illicit nature of all these things. No wonder I was strung out on desire for this woman.
I was also wildly into feeling things again. Huge waves of longing. Pure electricity when she’d say my name. Laughter and flirting and oh-my-god-it-was-all-so-good.
It was clandestine. Except everyone knew. And no one approved. Which only put us on a collision course, bound directly for each other.
Nothing about this relationship was far outside the norm for me. Undoubtedly, I was the troubled one in our group of friends (and honestly, most of them had distanced themselves from my darkness and my brooding by that point. It was self-preservation. Who could blame them?). But our 20s were largely characterized by throwing ourselves with abandon into each new relationship and chasing it where it led. I just didn’t have much of a sense of self to fall back on–so I chased harder than most. We were young, though. And a million tiny sins can skate by in the name of passion at 20-something.
Not true at 41.
She took so much shit from every single one of her friends over our relationship. And maybe she should have. To them, I was a tart, a homewrecker, a whore. She had a perfectly good girlfriend. And I was not it.
But also, these feelings that drove us almost to distraction–they were so big, so wildly outsized, that none of her friends knew what to do with them, with the way that kind of chemistry played out so visibly.
There’s a certain level of settledness that shows good decorum in one’s 40s. She did not have that when she was near me. Not even close. We were always drunk. She was always millimeters away from my skin. We were drowning in each other.
But now, at 47, I realize how untethered she must have seemed to her friends.
And it makes me sad.
Because God, the whole thing was so ill-advised. But I felt so alive. So vibrantly, brilliantly alive.
And she did, too. She told me all the time. Marveled at it.
I was too young to really understand what she meant. To get that life, in the middle of the whole thing, can begin to take on an unexpected level of mundanity. That dissatisfaction can sneak up, creep in. That a life that goes completely unexamined can land a person in bed with a quai-wrecked 27 year old chasing what it felt like to be falling again.