Magic man: It shouldn’t be this hard to forget a relationship that mostly took place in my mind
I’ve done some crazy things in the name of love.
I’ve been involved in incidents that ended in broken bones, fires, appendages bursting through walls, poison ivy in very intimate places, and nights in jail. I’ve had accidental threesomes — you know, the kind where you think everyone is joking around, until they’re not. I’ve dated brothers at the same time, which is really fun until the brother who doesn’t know about it finds out.
But there is one thing that is so much crazier than all of those things combined, I’m even embarrassed to admit it: I think I might have manufactured an entire love affair in my head, and then believed it for almost a decade.
When I first met Him, I didn’t know much more than I loved his music. Meeting handsome men whose music you like is really just a hazard of dating. I’d been down that road before.
But when we shook hands, I froze, immobilized by some kind of electric current. Our eyes locked; mine, clouded by whiskey, and his, the color of the sea where it indiscernibly vanishes into the sky on a rainy day. I was instantly smitten, like a cartoon character whose eyeballs turn into tiny hearts, boinging out of her head. Ridiculous.
A minor fling ensued, and though we rarely saw each other, I couldn’t shake the thought of him. I should have filed him away in that part of your brain that houses memories of sweet high school boyfriends or childhood crushes — that’s where he belonged. But instead, he somehow mutated into something different. Something significant. I still don’t understand exactly how it happened, even though I was the architect of this delusion.
He became my perfect storm of a man, simultaneously the prince on the white horse and the lecherous villain. He was distant, like the father I adored but never really understood. He was enigmatic, an artist who existed outside the boundaries of normal people, like a god, and I never understood God, either. He was unattainable, because he was already married. And surely I was nothing more to Him than a blip on the radar, a stop on the map. I felt ridiculous for feeling anything at all.
So I went on with my life. I found the polar opposite of Him: a seemingly nice, normal, unmarried, churchgoing man who liked to drink beer and watch football — you know, the type of guy nice girls marry. (I still had a chance to be a nice girl, right?) When that man proposed, I said yes.
But I never stopped thinking about Him.
So, when he reappeared before the ink on my divorce papers was dry — guess I wasn’t a nice girl after all — I was mystified. Was it possible he felt something? Maybe this was different … maybe it was real. I now had the chance to find out.
It had been years since we’d seen each other, but the gravitational pull was the same. I might not have known what else was real, but the chemistry certainly was. I couldn’t get enough of Him.
I was now older, and theoretically wiser, but what did I know about love? I didn’t even love the man I’d married — I only knew what love looked like in my head. Ever the architect of my own psyche, I started to construct what I thought a life with Him would be like. It looked magnificent, maybe tempestuous, but exciting. I wanted more, because — as the song says — I never felt magic crazy as this.
Yet I tried to be realistic. The more we saw each other, the more determined I was not to put my life on hold in any way. He was still married and — like all those fairytale princes — lived far, far away, and I knew those things were not likely to change. But our relationship — our affair — existed outside the boundaries, and the line between fantasy and reality blurred until it indiscernibly vanished.
And then I started to put my real life on pause. If I had an opportunity to see him, I’d cancel plans with friends or blow off work. I drove hours to be by his side at his birthday dinner with his friends. I rearranged my schedule so we could stay together for a week at a music festival. If he wanted me to be there, I’d be there. I may have constructed this fantasy, but he fed it. It was intoxicating.
But as can happen with any intoxication, the toxicity eventually got to be too much. I tried to date other men, but they were boring in comparison. I’d grow listless if I didn’t hear from him. I started to suspect I was little more than an accessory, a birthday hat, and that his interest in me was only when it benefited him. While I knew and admired his work, I would have been shocked if he’d ever read anything I’d written.
He already had a real life. Did I factor into it at all?
I already knew the answer. I was not a factor in his equation. I was less than what he already had.
Most affairs are pretend relationships anyway, and the artificiality will eventually reveal itself. As we learned in La Dolce Vita, there’s a big difference between what life is and it what it could be. That, and partying until the end of the world is just sad. This party was over.
Catching someone you love in a lie is bad, and catching yourself in a lie is even worse. I had lied to myself for too long, and to come clean, I had to say goodbye to Him. And I did. I forced myself to look into his eyes and say it, and I meant it. I really did.
At least, I think I did. Unlike an actual breakup, in which I’d just get a new haircut or lose 10 pounds, this may take a lobotomy — which one of my good friends offered to attempt — or some kind of sorcery or green witchcraft to truly erase Him from my mind.
But the reality is (and I think I can once again recognize reality) if he showed up today, that lecherous prince, I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t jump on that horse and ride off with him. Into the fairytale sunset, maybe, or toward that line where the sea disappears into the sky.