Divorcing someone is a weird thing for lots of reasons. It also does odd things to your thought process.
I've been thinking a lot about the men I dated and loved before I knew Sam. I had my share of assholes, but there were a few pearls in the bunch. One guy I've been thinking about a whole lot is Adam.
He came from a Massachusetts Orthodox Jewish family, but he was a self-described agnostic. I met him the summer I worked for his uncle's little girl as a nanny. He came to Martha's Vineyard to visit his aunt and uncle and we were mutually smitten.
Adam's family was astoundingly good to me. Here I was, a very young woman (about age 24) - I was The Help - but they treated me as an intellectual equal. Every night after I'd put their wonderful little girl to bed they'd invite me to their dinner table to eat lovely summer meals - grilled baby octopus, fresh lobster, Vineyard tomatoes, whole wheat pasta with pesto. I'd never had food like that; it was as though someone had casually strewn diamonds in my path. I lingered over delicious, exotic food as they taught me about wine and the political climate in Israel. They asked my opinion on world events, on child psychology, on just about anything. They treated me like family.
By the time Adam arrived for a weekend visit, I'd established a comfortable position in the household. My employers were happy to see that Adam had an interest in me, so when he asked me out to dinner they were delighted. "Go have fun. Adam, take her around the island, show her a good time."
He did. Such a good time, in fact, that I wound up giving him some lovely head on a lifeguard chair at Lucy Vincent Beach late that night. Now I'm not usually a "head on the first date" kind of girl, but for Adam I made an enthusiastic exception. I think I was trying to show off a little, let him know I could be a dirty girl. He liked it just fine, thankyouverymuch.
He was shorter than I was by a couple of inches - a lot of men are, as I'm 6'0 - and had an incredible complexion. He had dark, luxuriant hair and skin a shade lighter than olive. Unlike most men I'd dated, he had a mustache, which made for some very tactile makeout sessions. It was soft and tickly, and I liked it a lot.
This guy? Was brilliant. No, really. Brilliant in the true sense of brilliant. He was - get this - working on his PhD in aerospace engineering at MIT. He was a certified pilot, instrument trained, who adored flying. I'm not at all sure what he saw in me, but we hit it off extremely well - maybe the blowjob had something to do with that.
He was a geek before geeks were truly the Next Big Thing. But he wasn't an Asperger's kind of geek. He was intimidatingly well-read, a phenomenal conversationalist, an even better listener, and simply electrifying in bed. He had this way of being completely present. You know how most people close their eyes when they fuck? Not Adam. He liked it with the lights on and eyes wide open. I'd look up (or back, depending on positioning) and he'd be staring at me intently. It was a slow burn turn-on to know that he really saw me, that he was interested in my face as well as my ass. He had, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most beautiful cock of any man I'd ever been with. To this day, his is the cock by which I measure all others - not just for size, even though that was part of the appeal. It was just...pretty. I told him that; he joked that his moyle was known for a deft hand. Few cocks are good-looking; his was. End of story.
He called me by name a lot, which is always a plus, and had a substantial sex vocabulary. The guy knew how to talk dirty, which is quite a delicate art to master. A lot of men sound silly or pervy when they try to talk dirty, but he had a gift for stringing the most filthy yet tender phrases together. For someone as in love with words as I am, it was mind-blowingly erotic. He knew exactly which words to use to make me blush and want more at the same time. Verbal porn. So hot.
I thought I'd never see him after that weekend. He was my Designated Summer Fling. But a week or so after my perfect summer job had ended and I'd sadly boarded the plane from Boston to go back to Charleston, Adam called me. He wanted to come visit.
Charleston in the autumn is possibly the most enchanting place in the world. The heat gives way to a gentle warmth and the sky is a blue you'll remember on your deathbed. Adam had never been to Charleston, so I had the particular and singular pleasure of showing my home city to a stranger. He was, as I predicted, captivated by the place. We spent the days ambling around town, dropping into cafes and museums. Our evenings were languid, memorable meals that segued into languid, memorable lovemaking sessions. Our mornings were made of great coffee, greater sex, and walks on the beach.
He was a great photographer. I have some pictures that he took of me, some closeups of my face on the beach at Sullivan's Island. I'm wearing no makeup and have that flush and Mona Lisa smile that you only get from really good sex with really good people. I can see how beautiful he thought I was from the way I look in those shots.
The next logical step was for me to get my ass to Boston, which I did as soon as I could. He took me for tapas, which I'd never had, and to Elephant Walk, the only French Cambodian restaurant that matters. He flew me to Martha's Vineyard for an overnight stay, and he let me hold the controls for a while. I'd never had a feeling quite like that - excited, thrilled, scared. It was almost better than sex. Almost.
I was completely taken with Adam's house. I am a firm believer that a person's personal environment is key to understanding who that person is, and Adam's house was intriguing and satisfying. On the large wall by the basement stairs he had an enormous picture of the Chinese demonstrator from Tiananmen Square, the man who stood alone before the tanks, who defied the government, who dared disturb the universe. It said a lot about Adam, as did the original Annie Hall poster in his kitchen. We laughed about the lobster scene from that film and talked seriously about how it can be difficult to start new relationship with all the memories of other loves to contend with.
He had a past relationship that had ended amicably, which is always a good sign. He had a formidable sense of humor and was irreverant without being flip. We made love to Peter Gabriel's Passion - the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ - and when we were basking in the sweatsheened afterglow he made a crack about a Jew fucking to that music. I can't remember what he said exactly, but I know I almost wet the bed.
I met his parents, who were astonishingly cordial to me. I may have been the biggest shiksa their son ever brought home - tall, blonde, and with a profoundly Germanic surname, no less! - but they were gracious and kind and funny and smart. I could see where Adam came by all that goodness. He loved his mom and dad, he didn't have any of those stereotypical Jewish son things going on with his mom, and he adored his sister.
So what went wrong? Nothing and everything, I think. We actually got to the point of batting the idea of marriage around. The religion thing was a minor inconvenience to us, but it would have been a much bigger deal to our respective families. Distance was obviously the big issue, but there were other things too. He hated that I smoke, which is a huge thing in the long run. I didn't want kids, he wanted at least two. He came from a wealthy family, and even though I didn't like to think so, that colored our relationship. I didn't know what to do with summer homes and trips to Europe. Part of me always felt like The Help, no matter how I tried to squelch it.
We drifted apart in the least painful way. Both of us started seeing other people (with full disclosure to one another), and after about two years we became Occasional Phone Call Friends. To this day he sends me twice-yearly emails - one an invitation to his once-a-year giant blowout of a party he hosts in Upper Massachusetts, one a general update on what's going on in his life. He's happily married now with a baby girl. He works for NASA - I wish I could say more about that, but I'd feel wrong about endangering his privacy. Let's just say it's pretty much a dream job.
I don't necessarily think of him as The One That Got Away. He's more like The Guy I Wish I'd Met Later In Life. I think I had the mistaken impression at that point in my life that there was an endless supply of smart, funny men who were sophisticated, fun, and good in bed. I think I let him go too easily. I also know that I met Sam during the period that I was going out with Adam, and Sam somehow got stuck in my heart the way a fish bone gets caught in your throat. I fell in love with Sam at precisely the time that the obstacles between me and Adam began to seem insurmountable.
So yeah, I'm thinking about Adam. And part of me is wondering if I'll ever have that kind of luck again. Does lighting like that strike twice, or is that just in fairy tales?
But there's this tiny, satisfied place inside of me that is ridiculously pleased to be thinking Beyond Sam, Beyond Divorce. I may not get another Adam, but there will be - there will be - other men.
I can wait. And next time I'll be truly, ecstatically thankful.