When Shawn and I met in Japan, he had a girlfriend back home in Canada. He liked her a lot, that was clear, and so we were just friends for the first year we knew each other.
But eventually time and space meant that they broke up. “Why?” I asked him the night he told me.
“I never called her,” he said. “When I finally called her yesterday, she cried and said I obviously didn’t care about her if I didn’t ever want to call her.”
He paused, thinking about it. I can still remember his face – he was contemplating his own actions.
“She’s probably right,” he said. “I mean, if I still loved her, I would be calling her all the time. She just called me on my bullshit.”
I remember thinking how reflective this was – and also how totally pissed I would be if I was his girlfriend. (As a side note, the day before he died, Shawn got an email from this woman, maybe for the first time since this call in Japan. She told him he had been a good friend and that she was thinking of him. Or something like that. I don’t truly remember what it said but I remember he showed the email to me as we sat in the living room. It made him smile.)
After Shawn and his girlfriend broke up, we spent more and more time together. We had a blast, and I would laugh harder with him that anyone else I’d ever met. When he left for the summer, he wrote me all the time from various spots in Asia. I remember getting one postcard – maybe from Thailand? – and I wondered, “Does Shawn like me?”
We both returned from our travels that fall, started a new school year, and found ourselves hanging out most days in the evenings. The sexual tension was palpable, and eventually, we found ourselves on a beach for an entire night. We watched the sun rise and rode our bikes home. A few days later, we went to a party, and ended up back at my apartment.
He never left.
For real. He stayed for the entire weekend. We barely slept, so giddy over the fact that we had decided to move our friendship into something more. “That was the best weekend of my life,” he said to me as he left on Monday morning for work.
We were never apart. He would show up at my apartment immediately after work and I’d always drop everything and run to the door. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, once we settled down and had jobs and kids, we still greeted each other at the door, but for that entire first year we were together, I literally ran to the door when he showed up. I ran. He would scoop me up in his arms and we’d sometimes make out in the doorway. If I came home later than him and the roles were reversed, I could always hear him scrambling to come and greet me.
If I close my eyes I can see that hallway now. I can smell the tatami mats. I can feel what his face felt like on mine. I can remember what it felt like to be loved like that.
I’ve been thinking about this specific memory lately as I’ve tried to start dating again. I know, it may seem strange that dating is what has made me think about these moments again with Shawn. But it has. Since this fall, I’ve had a few times where I’ve wanted more than a first date with someone. I’ve felt that first pull of attraction and I’ve wanted more.
Sometimes, there have been second dates. Sometimes I have felt a man’s eyes linger on me, and I have felt desired again. Sometimes being around someone else has provided a bit of salve on the open wound of loneliness.
But no one is running to the door to greet me when I arrive.
“Don’t get too involved,” I say to myself. “Don’t show too many emotions. Don’t admit that things could ever evolve into something real. Don’t get hurt.”
But, God, all I want is someone to run to the door when I’m there.
Maybe it’s because I had the kind of love that bordered on the obsessive in those early days. Maybe it’s because I knew that Shawn had nothing else he loved in this world like he loved me, at least until the kids arrived. Maybe it’s because even after years and years of marriage, we still greeted each other at the door.
Whatever the reason, I now expect that kind of attention. Not on a first date, but eventually. I expect that if someone is dating me, even for a somewhat brief period of time, that person will want to run to the door when I arrive.
And no one wants to. That much is very clear. I can catch a man’s eye and I can make him laugh. I can be witty and fun. I can drink margaritas until the sun comes up and I can laugh at all of his jokes.
But no one is running to greet me. I want that kind of love in my life – God, I want it so badly – but I can’t just snap my fingers and make it happen. Maybe this means I need to recalculate how I approach dating, or maybe this means I need to figure out how to live in a world where the men I meet aren’t going to think about me in that way.
And yet, I want it. I want that obsessive love again and it’s killing me that I can’t have it.
I don’t just want someone who brings me chocolates. I don’t just want someone who smiles when I walk into the room. I don’t just want someone who laughs at my jokes.
I want someone who runs to the door when I arrive.