In second year of grad school, the Minnesota winter felt even worse, and I despaired of ever having normal toes again. But, to keep warm, I did not go out and buy new snow boots, which was my usual defense against discomfort – buying new clothes. No, this time I did something different.
I fell in love. Deeply, totally, injuriously took the fall, with all the exhilaration and danger falling suggests. Why don’t we say I flew in love….we say falling, and I was about to discover why falling could hurt.
Yes, I fell in love.
I fell in love with Richard G.
Nauseatingly, dramatically fell into a quick-burning, finger scorching romance with the perfect hunk that was Richard. Our eyes met across a crowded cafeteria, and the theme from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet began to play in my head. I was sure I heard some Disney bluebirds chirping in the air as well.
Richard G. was tall, blond, had terrific shoulders, icy blue eyes), and The Smile. I was a sucker for great teeth, and Richard G.’s wide display immediately made my toes warm. I was constantly imagining how my life would be if it were a great play, and as invisible magnets drew Richard G. and me together across the crowded food lines, I had an image of Richard as Oberon to my Titania! It had “IMPORTANT” written all over it, right from the start. It felt destined.
“Hello,” he said, flashing The Smile. “My name is RIchard.”
I was speechless- not my usual mode of handling discomfort. Because I was uncomfortable. A man that good-looking should have been warning enough to my already lonely, needy soul, But The (damned) Smile! The smile that launched a thousand ships – or rather a Trojan horse – right through the gates of my heart. I was defenseless.
Y’know how you have a photograph in your mind of The Ideal? Of that perfect island with sparkling sands, or the nightscape of Paris that promises everything” The cunning cobbled lane that leads to the Enchanted?
Richard G. was my ski vacation poster boy!
And for a moment in time, we were carefree, with the added bonus of being the envy of all. With Richard’s arm draped casually yet possessively around my shoulder, we glowed as we walked around campus (it was all the ambient light from his teeth.)
So THIS is what it feels like to be warm even with my coat wide open to show him my new low-cut blouse and how good my boobs look in it! I thought. I’ll never be lonely again. I’ve got Richard G! We carved our damned initials in the snow, for crying out loud!
I imagined people staring, because his beauty made me believe that I was beautiful too.
How could they not stare at two such pretty people? I mused. Power couple! We look like we’re meant to be together.
Until of course, it became clear that we weren’t.Love warmed my nights, lit my days, showed me The Way!
But – surprise! – in my case? The Way led me to my most destructive tendencies, to a jealousy that turned my ski poster into a travel ad for Hell.
It turned our lyrical Romeo and Juliet into a German Expressionist Much Ado About Nothing. A French farce with women of every size and description behind every door! Richard had them hiding in every corner! I turned into a grabbing creature, grasping and hoping what I knew to be true wasn’t: that Richard was a genuine jerk. Desperate neediness and carnivorous suspicion finally led to our dramatic curtain call. The Smile began to infuriate me, when I understood it was meant for everyone, not just me. And one night, after I’d accused him of all the sins in the world, Richard G. punched a hole in our bedroom wall and left.
After barely two semesters of living together.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Richard G. had moved in with me so quickly because he couldn’t afford an apartment of his own.