I met her when I was 19, a junior in college, while she was 18 and a freshman at a nearby school. One of my fraternity brothers set us up on a blind date. Blind dates are often a total bust, but this one was pure magic and I will never forget it. She was not a raving beauty, but she had the cutest, most angelic face and I immediately responded to her animated conversation, her innocent, uninhibited gaiety, her musical voice and her beautiful, expressive eyes that flirted with me and drew me closer to her. We left the others and took a table in a dark corner, where we talked and had a few drinks and I had a chance to admire the curve of her pretty breasts under her sweater. She invited me to a make-out place, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do with someone she had only met an hour earlier. She put her arms tenderly around my neck and we danced slowly, as if in a dream. We kissed deeply, passionately, interminably. The sensuality of her kisses made me dizzy with desire. By the time I returned to my dorm, I could think of nothing else but her.
I must say, at this point, that I was, for a nineteen-year-old, incredibly naive and inexperienced. I had never been in love before, having never found anyone in high school who suited me. So the feelings she aroused were entirely new to me. I was delighted that such a fascinating girl would be interested in me, but feared that she was just toying around and might have other boyfriends. But to my amazement, I found that there was no one else and that she seemed as eager to know me and I was to know her.
With this girl, there were no real obstacles to overcome. Our relationship developed by leaps and bounds, as if we had been ready-made for each other. On our third date, she said that she was in love, a feeling I shared but had not dared to say out loud. I was so overjoyed, I felt like I was soaring through the air. Soon we were spending every weekend together, making love endlessly, going to parties and movies, sharing our troubles, helping each other with schoolwork, getting to know each other's friends and family. Everything we did was special because we did it together. We wrote letters to each other every week and hers were so beautiful, so full of passion and expressed with such artistry that I loved her more each time I read them. As time went on, we agreed that we were truly destined to be together always and this became a article of faith for me, the one bedrock principle that I could build my life around. It was all very innocent and seemed to be totally sincere on both sides. We talked about the future, about getting married, about the devoted love and limitless happiness we would could have if, and only if, we were both faithful to our dream.
By the end of May, it seemed a foregone conclusion that we would agree to "go steady". I offered her a ring and she accepted it with a radiant smile that made her entire face glow with happiness. She sat on my lap and said, "I feel that I am the luckiest girl in the world!"
She returned home for summer vacation, for what promised to be at most a brief interlude.
Her first letters were exactly what I expected from her, except for one discordant note. She mentioned that her parents did not approve of her getting deeply involved while she was so young and certainly not to someone who could not then support her. She treated this lightly and I didn't seriously believe that she would allow her father's anxiety over money interfere with her love for me. I was still in school and we had no plans to marry anytime soon, so I thought his concerns were simply absurd. I assumed she did also and nothing would come of it.
About a week later, she told me she had got a job as a swimming coach at a summer camp. She was, she revealed, working at the camp with another swimming coach, a guy named "Gary". She told me he was a jerk. But a few days later, when I called her in the evening, her mother, who was plainly opposed to our relationship, told me that she was "out with a friend." I felt a twinge of anxiety.
A few days after that, I got a mysterious letter from her, a letter written in a kind of coded language. She claimed that a "barrier" was coming between us and that I should get myself another girl since she was "unworthy" of me. She denied that she was fooling around with Gary and ended by saying that she loved me. I was thoroughly confused. Next, she came to my house for a weekend. She was polite and well-mannered, but strangely quiet and somewhat distant. Still, we made love and had some good times. She did not allude to her letter. When she went home, I felt a vague foreboding, like a mild nausea in the pit of my stomach. I hoped against hope that it was just one of her dark moods and nothing more.
But the next day when I called her house, the roof caved in. She answered the phone and in a voice as cold as ice, said, "I don't want to see you anymore." My heart sank through my shoes. I said, "I'm coming over!" and hopped in my car to drive the 200 miles to her house. When I got there, the reception she gave me would haunt my memory for a long time. She opened the door and when she saw me standing there, she glared at me with something like hatred in her eyes and snarled, "What are YOU doing here!" She pushed me violently away from her and ran outside the house. For an hour, she refused to speak at all. Finally, we went for a drive. She was cold and treated me like a total stranger. She refused to speak. Finally, in a state of shock, I asked her, "Don't you love me?" She looked at me sidelong as if I were some kind of worm. "No!" she said, her voice hard with contempt. As we got out of her car, she turned to me and whined, "You can't support me!"
As I drove home, I was numb with despair and anguish. Given everything we had shared together, what she had said and done was simply impossible to understand. We had not argued. She certainly had not discovered any dirty secrets, because I had none.
For the rest of the summer, I suffered the most extreme and excruciating misery. Everything that mattered to me was gone, not because of an accident, but because the very person I loved more than anything else in life had suddenly rejected me. I felt utterly defeated, totally hopeless. I tried to talk with her, but she refused to speak. I felt sure she was seeing someone else, so jealousy was added to all the other poisonous emotions boiling in my mind. I was tortured with suicidal thoughts and though some people tried, no one could ease the pain. My life, so recently happy and fulfilled, was now empty and worthless.
Summer finally ended and I returned to school, scene of vivid memories, memories of her laughter, her smile, her tender caresses, her expressions of love and trust and friendship. I was drowning in misery. Once or twice, I dreamed that she had come back to me - Her smile instantly made the ache go away, and she explained that the whole thing had been a terrible mistake. Again, I smelled her hair and felt her sweet body in my arms. Of course, it was only a dream. Back in the real world, when I bumped into her on campus, on dates with other guys, she snubbed me. Around the middle of September, perhaps realising that some kind of explanation was in order, she wrote me a letter. Our relationship, she informed me, was never anything more than sex. She had come to the realisation, she said, that I had "no goals" and that marriage was "out of the question". That being the case, she preferred to enjoy "the adventure of the moment" rather than have a commitment that she wasn't' ready for. She admitted that she had been rather brutal to me, but said it was "better that way".... Needless to say, her letter gave me no comfort at all. Most of it struck me as false and the rest simply defensive. The truth was elusive and her letter simply made it more so.
When I was calm enough to examine our relationship, it was clear that I had never really known her. Whether on purpose or not, she misled me into thinking she was deeply in love, when in fact she was not capable of a serious commitment. She made promises she was not ready to keep. Her foolishness had led to the crisis with her parents. Instead of warning me about them and working out a strategy to keep them at bay, she played right into their game, keeping me in the dark, telling them about all my alleged weaknesses. Her parents certainly pressured her to reject me, but by the time she actually did, she had made their objections her own. She seemed to agree, perhaps had always agreed, that a man who lacked ambitious career goals was not a man she could ever take seriously. Finally, the way she handled the breach was totally inexcusable. Instead of an honest explanation and an apology, which she certainly owed me, all I got were riddles and silences and insults. Her callousness could not be forgiven.
So that was my first experience with love - by the end of which, I felt that loving anyone as I had loved her was perhaps not a very good idea.
It may surprise you to know that all of this happened in 1965-6, nearly 37 years ago. Since then, after serving in Vietnam, I became a lawyer and am married to a wonderful woman who is my best friend. My children are my pride and joy. I am happy, but the ecstasy of my first love could never be recaptured. As for my girlfriend's father, who helped destroy our love because I didn't meet his financial standards - he died in debt, leaving his widow with a pile of unpaid bills. My former girlfriend is married, but her husband has not provided anything that I could not easily have given her and they live on a standard much lower than we do. So much for all the predictions and the calculations.
I don't think anyone should be overly cynical about love. Life without love is empty. At the same time, love is a leap of faith and virtually all young love, as beautiful as it is, does not last. There always seems to be something that ruins it, usually the lovers themselves, who prove unworthy of their own exalted hopes and dreams. Generally, one settles, as I have, for a calmer, steadier, less passionate kind of love, which tends to last a lot longer and causes far less anguish when it doesn't.