I met him in seventh grade. We had English class together.
In seventh grade, one would be hard-pressed to guess whether I was male or female. I was androgynous before it was cool. So to say I began a torrid romance with Giovanni Leftwich in seventh grade would be very far from the truth.
By the way, this guy's name is not remotely Giovanni Leftwich. I asked him what fake blog name he wanted and the choices he came up with were so ludicrous that I cannot even believe I spent years loving this man with every fiber of my being. So I went on a random name generator and it came up with Giovanni Leftwich and I laughed for 750 years.
So Giovanni and I (still dying over the name) were in junior high together, and by 9th grade we had become friends. I have mentioned before that most of my friends were boys, and what tended to happen is I'd have one best girl friend and then 89 friends who were boys. That is how it went with Giovanni and me; he was part of one of the 89 male friends, and in fact he had a huge crush on my best female friend.
As 9th-grade relationships usually work, his thing with my friend did not last, and eventually he got a crush on me, but I had a boyfriend by 10th grade. This did not deter him, and many afternoons he'd come over after school and try to charm me. Giovanni was ridiculously smart, and really funny, and kind of a giant goof.
I remember exactly the moment I realized I liked him back. I was at the grocery store with my mother, looking at the meat section. This is not a phallic thing and it is kind of ironic that that is where I was, because Giovanni is a vegetarian.
Anyway, do you remember back when they divided the meat into sections, and inexplicably they decorated the dividers with that plastic green frilly stuff that may have been meant to look like parsley? Do you? Do you remember that? Because that is what I was staring at when the realization came over me that I totally liked Giovanni and that my current boyfriend was so.gone.
I went to a pay phone right there at the grocery store, and I really don't remember how it happened after that, but soon we were dating.
And I fell in love for the first time. Oh! I had no idea you could feel so happy. So walking-on-air happy. I was so berserk about him.
And, much like 9th-grade relationships, our 10th-grade one didn't exactly stand the test of time. We broke up, and soon I was dating Cardinal, who was my high school boyfriend for most of high school.
But I still held a torch for Giovanni. Not literally. Because why would he need me to hold a torch? I understand that I am old now, but we weren't cave people.
So throughout high school, I would break up with Cardinal and date Giovanni. But we had this thing where we had all this…fire. We would be crazy about each other but then we couldn't stop fighting. We'd get into awful fights. We were that couple who fought at parties. At dances. By the candy machine at school. And I would reunite with Cardinal, who was easy and happy and fun.
I didn't talk to Giovanni Leftwich (heee) for many years after high school. But in 1987 when we were 22, he had graduated college and I was home, having dropped out of college for the 29492040th time. I called him, and within an hour we were kissing in a bowling alley parking lot. Because it was my home town. And you did things like meet in bowling alley parking lots.
Anyway, that was it. From that evening in October 1987, I was completely hooked. I cannot even tell you how crazily in love I was with Giovanni Leftwich, who really needs to have his name legally changed because it is the best name ever. Also? Can we jam out to my acid-wash jeans for a moment? And my perm? Have you ever met anyone who needs a perm less than me?
I found him physically beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. But it was his mind I was in love with most. He had gotten an art degree, and his mind worked constantly. He was always creating something or thinking of a new idea or reinventing something to make it work a different way. I could have sat inside his brain for the rest of time and been perfectly happy.
But that fire thing was happening again. We could not go a week without some kind of intense, screaming, throwing objects, dramatic fight. There was nothing not intense about that relationship. Usually our fights were about one of us being worried the other was leaving. And I didn't want to go anywhere. I knew I'd never feel the way I felt about him with anyone else.
And I was right. Because not only was I desperately in love with him? There was also this sense of longing. He would say wonderful things to me, and do these grand romantic gestures, and pay so much attention to me. Yet I felt like I couldn't quite capture him. I felt like there was a part of him that didn't quite approve of me. If I were a little smarter, or a little prettier, or trendier or more interesting, I could finally get him to love me like I loved him.
I have no idea if he really felt that way or if he gave me that impression intentionally. But obsession mixed with longing is a hideous combination.
(When I met Marvin, I was berserk about him, but I felt safe. And being with him made me calmer, not nuttier. I was able to remember people's birthdays, to focus on something besides myself. There was no longing because I knew he was crazy about every part of me. Therefore I was less obsessed.)
I hope to never have a Giovanni obsession again. Kind of. Because even though it was miserable, it was also wonderful.
I was the one who finally ended things. I remember the exact date: January 16, 1989. We'd had another ridiculous throwing-things fight, and I knew this was no good for either of us. Giving up Giovanni Leftwich and his fine name was one of the hardest things I ever did. But I knew a relationship where you only feel the ends of the spectrum–totally as good as humanly possible or totally bad–was not healthy.
After I ended things, he'd call in the middle of the night, or knock on my door, and I'd lie there in my bed willing myself to not answer. "Don't get up, don't get up, DON'T GET UP!" I'd tell myself. And I didn't.
So there it is. I didn't talk to him until 2009, when he Facebook friended me. When I saw his request I kind of jumped out of my skin. But I couldn't resist saying yes.
And then? We became friends again. Just like in 9th grade. He is married, and has kids, and is happy. And for the last few years, he has been saying I should drop by when I go to Michigan. He doesn't live in our home town anymore, but he is close enough that I could visit. So this past weekend? I finally visited him.
"Is your wife okay with this?" I wanted to know. I didn't want her to think I was some Jezebel coming to try to steal her man.
And you know what? I wasn't. I saw him, and for maybe the first four seconds I lit up like when you touch the metal sides in the game Operation. there he is there he is there he is! I was a little like that. And did you notice when I think things to myself I think them in threes? Why am I so berserk?
But after the Operation part? It was like seeing an old friend. Which he is. We talked about gardens and cats and people we knew, and it was completely pleasant and free of, you know, fire.
"I thought this might be awful, but it really wasn't," he said. And I agree. It was just so good to see him, this person who had meant so much to me.
We chatted for a few hours and then he walked me to my car. We hugged goodbye, and when I got in my car? My radio was playing the top 10 songs of 1988.
And I smiled and remembered 1988 the whole way home.