When I was in high school, I fell desperately in love for the first time.
The person I loved was not remotely named Giovanni Leftwich, but years ago I put him in a random name generator to blog about him, and have called him that here ever since because it’s an excellent, excellent name.
GL and I dated in 10th grade for a few tumultuous weeks, broke up, and got back together in 11th grade for a few tumultuous months.
Senior year we didn’t speak even though we had all the same friends and saw each other nearly every day.
College, we didn’t speak.
Then as soon as he graduated college, we spoke. The day we started speaking again, we got back together for a few tumultuous years.
Here we are in 1988, in the post-college tumultuous portion of our relationship. That relationship was so jarring I had to get bangs.
Oh my god, I loved him. I finally had to walk away, which was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done other than algebra. There were just too many fights and everything was too unstable and I was miserable all the time because he made me so happy and so unhappy all at once. I kept wanting to stay for the happy parts because they were so, so happy.
And, oh man, does it ever take two to tango. It was both of our fault, that relationship. But in the end, his behavior was just slightly worse than mine and I couldn’t stay for it.
After we broke up for good, we didn’t talk for decades.
Well. I did call him in 1998 to tell him I was getting married, and he was already married. We had both managed to find other people we could actually get along with.
As you know, my marriage lasted for 14 years and it was stable and calm but ultimately didn’t work out.
And then a year after my marriage ended, I met someone else.
And oh my God, I loved him. And there were fights and there was a passion and I was miserable and happy all at the same time. I kept staying for the good parts. We officially dated for 3 1/2 years, and officially took 3 1/2 years to break up. It was literally the seventh anniversary of our first date when I told him I couldn’t do this anymore.
And it took two to tango, but in the end, his behavior was slightly worse and I had to leave.
Having the strength to walk away is based in part on the knowledge that I’ve done it once before with Giovanni. I think about how my 23-year-old self, with no inner strength whatsoever, managed to walk away. I have a lot more fortitude now and I know I can do it because I did it then.
In this last relationship that just ended, all I really ever wanted for him to do was just show actual remorse for his actions. I wanted him to bring it up unsolicited, not talk about my part or finish any sentence with, “but you…” or anything like that. I just wanted him to acknowledge what he did in a simple declarative sentence and say he was sorry and finish it with that. But that never happened.
This past week, on my drive to visit my hometown, I voice-texted Giovanni Leftwich to tell him I was driving past his exit. (He now lives about an hour and a half away from where we grew up.)
“I’ll be there on Friday,” he said. “Maybe we can get together.”
And we did! It took some finagling to finally see each other, but I was going to a party and asked the hostess if it would be OK if he stopped by.
There was a bonfire in the backyard, and even though most people were gathering in the garage—which, is that a Michigan thing? People seem to have parties in the garage here but the other places I’ve lived, no one actually has a garage, or a basement, so I don’t see parties there. But I digress.
Giovanni and I have seen each other a few times in the last 10 years. I’ve met his beautiful wife, and his equally beautiful children. It’s just been nice to catch up and be friends again, which we were all through junior high until we screwed things up by starting to date in 10th grade.
My point is, we were sitting back there alone at the bonfire at the party, because everyone else was rocking out with their garage out in the front.
Unsolicited, he brought up the events of our past. And with a simple declarative sentence, he stated exactly what he did wrong and offered a sincere apology. He admitted that words might not be able to make up for what he did, but he apologized anyway.
I was stunned.
I was glad.
I felt a great weight being lifted from me.
It’s like I got what I wanted, just not from the person I was expecting it from.
I love it when you ask for something, and you finally get it, but it is not at all in the form you thought it would come. It’s like a funny little gift that life gives you. It’s like something else knows better than you what you need.
And that is the best souvenir I brought from home.