I Remember You — Christine
Love (or something like it) Looks Back
Love (or something like it) Looks Back
I’ve never been one of those guys who can date more than one woman at a time. I don’t have the intellectual or emotional bandwidth. Which is not to say I haven’t tried.
The one summer I tried, I was dating Christine and Zoe. At the time, neither was serious, and there was a tacit understanding that we were free to do what we wanted.
One would go one to be one of the loves of my life, and the other would turn out to be kind of a catastrophe.
Guess which this one is about.
The problem I encountered that summer as I dated them both was that I couldn’t remember who I did what with — not physically, that was easy; I was only sleeping with one of them, Christine. It was the basic stuff I had trouble keeping track of. Like who I had lunch with and where, what movie I saw with who, and who I said what to.
While Christine and I had a lot of fun, my heart was with Zoe. It had always been with her since we met. There was something with her. Who knows how I knew, but I did. And if you’re lucky in life, you get to have that experience. I’ve been lucky a couple of times now.
I’ve always maintained that there are women you fuck and women you sleep with/have sex with/make love to — insert your own adjective — but don’t necessarily fuck (well, not always.) The kind of woman you would take to meet your parents.
It would take a few years, but I would eventually learn that this was a two-way street.
While I dated Zoe and got to know her better, I would hang out with Christine. This is not to say I didn’t like Christine; I did, very much. But when I looked out three or four years in my life, I didn’t see her. Nonetheless, we genuinely enjoyed each other, and the sex was good.
During that summer, my feelings grew for Zoe, but she remained a bit guarded and aloof. As they do, summers end and when this one did it was time for her to go back to school. I went locally and Zoe’s was about a three-hour drive away — just far enough. Besides, while I liked her, and I was fairly certain she liked me, nothing had been said.
I had a rather chaste relationship with Zoe, and a less virtuous one with Christine.
Zoe and I promised to write and call every now and again. This was a long time ago, not quite rotary phone long ago, but a time when mail was still a pleasant form of communication, not just bills and shit mail.
As summer slid into fall, I continued to see Christine. Even though we hung out, I didn’t feel my feelings growing for her. I can’t speak for her, but I suspect the same was true on her side. We fucked and hung out and that seemed to be about all it was.
Then one day, she said: “I’m late.”
I looked at her blankly as I tried to process the statement. About a dozen things ran through my head. And then, like a slot machine landing a row of sevens, it dawned on me what she was late for. Unlike a slot machine, quarters did not come spilling out; the only thing that came out was my flat reply: “Oh.”
Christine and I sat on my couch in silence as we let her news sink in.
“Are you sure?”
“Is it …”
Christine interrupted me with an icy stare: “Don’t even ask.”
A few more minutes passed before I asked her: “What do you want to do?”
“Do you want to be a father?”
“Not now. Maybe someday.”
“Right. And I’m not ready to be a mother, and I don’t even know I want to be.”
What began with an icy stare soon sent a chill through the room. I suspect we both felt it when she asked: “Do you even love me?” I didn’t want to answer, and I don’t think she needed one: “Exactly. Why would I want to have a child with someone who doesn’t love me?”
Christine was 100% right. I didn’t love her.
Meanwhile, Zoe and I wrote letters and talked sporadically; I felt my feelings for her deepen.
Around that time I was diligent about maintaining a journal. For me, a journal is a sacred text and should only be read by the person writing in it or those invited to read it. Never in my wildest dreams would I think someone would read someone else’s journal.
My wildest dreams would soon become a reality.
The day came when Christine and I had to go to the clinic. And to call it horrible would be an understatement. Today you see this less, at least where I live. In fact, there is a Planned Parenthood in my neighborhood and the two groups — Pro-Choice and Pro-Life — literally have scheduled picketing times.
I know this because one day I was riding by and saw a Pro-Choice woman packing up as the Pro-Life people were setting up. I pulled over with my blood boiling and asked her: “Are they kicking you off the street?”
“No, no. It’s just their time now.”
“You alternate times?”
“Something like that.”
This was not the case back then. Both sides were aggressively picketing outside of the clinic. And I mean right outside the doors — we had to walk through them, with a security escort, to get into the clinic.
Christine must’ve felt my Irish temper shooting into the red as we approached the crowd outside of the clinic, and we reached for each other’s hand. Our escort met us and checked his roster before he led us through the three dozen or so people. Both groups waving their placards and shouting their belief’s at us.
I’m sure all of that shit impacted Christine, but she didn’t show it. On that day, I learned about the fortitude and strength that many women, and certainly this woman, have.
She checked in and we made our way to to sit down in the waiting room. I looked at her and asked: “Are you okay?”
Rather flatly, she turned to me: “No. I am the furthest thing from okay, Keith.”
I nodded, quickly realizing that was my cue to shut the fuck up.
By the time we left the clinic, either the picketers had run out of steam or had achieved some level of detente. None of them, from either side, accosted us as we walked back to my car.
We got inside and I pushed in The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker tape after I started my car. As I was backing out, Christine quipped: “Not quite the ideal musical selection.”
“Sorry. Do you want to hear something else?”
She turned to me and smiled: “You didn’t make a mixtape for this?”
We both laughed a little, because she knew I probably considered it (I had) and I asked: “Do you want anything?”
“Just some ice cream right now.”
We got back to my place and plopped down on the couch to watch television. Once Christine finished the ice cream, she said she would lay down. I took the opportunity to write in my journal.
I wrote about the day. And I wrote about Zoe. In fact, there were more than a few entries about Zoe.
The next morning, I came out of the shower to find my journal opened up on the table and Christine sobbing over it. I was livid. But that paled in comparison to her anger. She threw my journal at me and unleashed a torrent of hate on me. Looking back, I unequivocally deserved it.
And I wish I could say I kept my cool, but I didn’t. I got defensive and hurled only marginally less vitriol (but no objects) her way.
It was fucking awful and very far from one of my better moments.
Some might argue I left my journal out with the intention of her reading it. No, that was most certainly not the case, even subconsciously.
I’ve always acknowledged that I may be an asshole, but I’m not a monster — I didn’t think anyone would read my journal.
There were many things I respected about Christine but none more than her temerity and ability to forgive. After a few days, we got together and talked. And it wasn’t long before we had fallen back into a pattern of hanging out.
Until Zoe came home for the next summer — and then she and I would embark on a many years relationship.
Christine and I would still hang out because we always had fun, we just didn’t sleep together.
As happens, life takes over and pulls you in different directions; and Christine and I lost touch with one another. Then in mid-September of this year, Christine slid into my IG DM. We traded messages for a few days, catching up and learning we both liked motorcycles and tattoos.
Although reticent, I asked her if she wanted to have lunch and maybe go for a motorcycle ride. So, we set a date and met up and took a short ride before stopping to have lunch. Christine and I caught up on the years and how she was married now, taught middle school, and had a stepson she adored.
I asked her: “Do you have any kids of your own?”
She shrugged: “I dunno. I didn’t really want them bad enough.” She paused: “What about you? Any kids?”
“Nah. Never really wanted them.”
Much of the time during that lunch, we laughed about the stupid things we always laughed about. It was easy and we had just as much fun as we did all those years ago.
As I have gotten older, I’ve come to recognize a different kind of love. One not centered around, or in, lust or physical attraction. It’s a softer, more emotional and tender feeling. I guess it’s more like a deep caring, love-lite maybe?
I think that was what I felt for Christine all along, but I was too young, too stupid, and much too immature to recognize it then. While it may not have been love love with Christine, it was definitely more than just sex.
I know this because she met my parents.