Fresh from high school, pregnant, enrolled in cosmetology, and working at a daycare during the day, I was a married woman prepared for the life of adulthood. Or was I?
My husband had other plans, and suddenly my future was dashed to bits. Our divorce was final on Valentine’s Day, I lost the baby, withdrew from school, and got a job working at Burger King. The plug had been pulled on any plans for the future.
Thank goodness, at my new job, I found a remarkable friend named Troy who was devilishly handsome, overwhelmingly funny, the brightest white smile, and everything going for him but his age. He was three years younger than me. But that didn’t stop our friendship. We talked about everything. As time progressed, we went our separate ways. I left my fast food life behind, determined never to work behind a counter again. All the friends I made were left in the shadows as well.
A few chapters later I was an exotic dancer living the single life of freedom with no plans for the future. Determined to get as far away from my previous life as possible, for fear of being hurt, I committed to the opposite. I was the captain of my ship of life with both hands firmly on the wheel but no map for the future.
A visit to my sister’s house left me in her parking lot fumbling for my keys. I heard a couple of guys laughing as they made their way toward the apartments. I recognized one of the voices and was happily confirmed to see the 6’4” figure of my close friend from years previous. I thought of it as a sign. We started talking and made a date to meet again.
We met at my apartment, went out for a movie, and came back for dinner. The evening was so romantic. We kissed, but I let other’s opinion of the age difference deter me from allowing my emotions to take over. I remember his unexpected kiss catching me off-guard and sending my compass twirling. But I’d been so enamored by our incredible friendship, I pulled away. I asked him to leave and he did. I cried that night. I was angry and hurt that my emotions betrayed me. My confusion at having met a man so understanding, supporting, and sexy at the same time went against everything I’d been taught growing up. I was raised to believe I needed to love someone who controlled me. I let him slip away.
Troy called a few nights later and told me he had something he wanted to reveal. He’d become an exotic dancer too. He asked me to watch him and give tips on his performance. I agreed. He danced extremely well all the way down to his skivvies. His body was even more luscious than I could have imagined. But afterwards he grabbed my upper arms to pull me in for a kiss. I turned away and refused to entertain the thoughts of ruining an unbelievable friendship. I didn’t have any other male friends I felt as strongly about as the one with Troy. I didn’t want my friendship ruined. But when I tried calling him the following month, his number had changed. I figured he’d only wanted what everyone else seemed to want – sex.
For the next decade, his name entered my mind off and on fairly frequently. I remembered the smile and the mischievous gleam in his eye. I recalled one time I was sad and he’d taken me into his arms to hug me until I felt better. No expectations of anything more.
At age 50, I thought I was finally mature enough to reason emotions are far more significant than the three silly years of time separating us. I’d grown immensely, as I’m sure Troy had. He had much more in common with me than anyone else I’d ever known. I was going to throw everything I’d been taught out the window and go with my gut. I went to the Internet to find my long lost love and make my life complete once and for all.
Sure, I had two wonderful kids now. But I imagined he’d love them as much as if they were his own. I could see him with my daughter on his back, both of them laughing. I could picture him teaching my son football and giving him pointers on girls. We’d be amazing! And what better Christmas gift than realizing true love?
I put his name in the search bar and waited for my life to open its petals and reveal what I’ve always waited patiently for it to become. The perfect father. The perfect husband. The perfect boyfriend. And the perfect friend that he already showed he could be. But I’d waited five years too long. You see, we had something else in common. Not only were we the happiest people our friends could know, we each hid a deep, dark secret of depression.
Troy, the guy I’d fantasize about because I was so afraid of failure I refused to budge, was only found in one place no matter how hard I searched. The article said he’d succumbed to depression. It is as if he waited for me but I’d never called.
Although this could be an incorrect conclusion, it could just as easily be correct. But even from the grave, Troy taught me the most valuable lesson of all. Don’t wait. When love is present, regardless of what others say, reach out and grab it, never letting go – ever. Otherwise, like mine, there may be an empty crevasse of one important piece missing from your heart.
Troy, I love you. Thank you for a valuable lesson learned.