I have told him that the past is past. I say that I don’t remember summer nights or the smell of sand. I’ve sworn that all memories of my last life have faded like cheap perfume. I play dumb as if I have forgotten the touch of shaky hands. I’m lying. I’ve been close to forgetting him, but I can’t. There are certain boys you never forget. Doesn’t every girl have one?
Sometimes when I fight with my husband and I take time to clear my head, the boy I once loved haunts me. In moments when I least expect it, a flood of history surrounds me and I’m watching the sunset off the pier. Maybe you aren’t supposed to forget blankets draped with moonlight and days you laugh so hard you cry. Time has a funny way of stealing maps but leaving crumbs.
Days and weeks may pass, months even, and I won’t have thought of him at all. But in the second I let my guard down, I see a boy by a truck motioning for me to come closer, and suddenly I’m 22 years old. There are no burdens. No keeping score, no fights we have to work through. It’s tattoos and long drives riding on sheer adrenaline.
I’m a woman now. Those dusty flip flops have been long gone, but there is a tiny piece of me that treasures the time I spent with him. And I guess that’s why I have let go of mostly everything, except the memories.
There was a boy that looked at me in ways that I don’t think husbands can, and it’s not any fault of their own. When husbands see us, they see everything…They see kids and a mortgage, they see student loans and hospital bills. They see ‘I told you so’s,’ and ‘I’m not sorry.’ Wives know where the bodies are buried and husbands see that when they look at us. All boys can see are tan lines.
Did you know that when I kiss my husband, there are nearly 8 years of history pressed between our lips? We have laundry to fold, and groceries to put away. We have errands to run and meetings to make. There isn’t much time for moonlight and blankets. Adrenaline is for teenagers. We haven’t bought cologne since we were kids. We smell like coffee.
I am proud of the life we have built together and so sometimes I feel guilty when this one boy, on a starry night, creeps back into my mind. I find myself flooded in memories. Is that betrayal?
I knew a boy once that I can’t forget and he looked at me like I was a mystery. Every time he came I worried that he’d leave. There is something intoxicating about having someone, but not fully having them. He was whiskey and it burned. I over thought our conversations and rehearsed my words. He was new to me and I loved studying him. There were so many nights that I didn’t sleep till dawn because he was a book I wanted to read every page of. He was quicksand in a shot glass. I lost all control. Maybe girls just don’t forget boys like that.
At this point in my life my husband can’t make me feel the way a boy did then, and so I guess that’s why I’ve never fully let it go. Sometimes I worry, because husbands know wives so well, that one day I’ll see tan lines and the sand will sting my face, and he will know. If past lives are betrayal I’ve got a closet full of sin.
I don’t feel torn. You should know that. If I had to choose I would pick my husband every time. Husbands are steady, they are committed, they are everything a woman would need in order to feel safe and secure. That is why we marry them. Boys are none of those things. They can’t be. Time is a teacher and there’s not enough of it in quicksand.
It’s just that, if I’m being honest, there is still a young girl in me who fantasizes about tattoos and freedom. I would love one shot of adrenaline.
I wonder if our husbands ever think of her. The girl who made them feel like they could do anything before we smothered them in logic and practicality. Before we told them they were fathers. Before we reminded them to buy milk. I wonder if they secretly think of the girl who rode shotgun on dirt roads that lead to no where. I bet they do. There are some girls you don’t forget and I don’t blame them.
That said, I’m proud of the man I chose. I still catch a glimpse of his wedding band in the sunlight and blush. On nights like tonight, with tiny bodies and small hands crammed between us in a king size bed, I feel happy, and at peace, and fulfilled. I wouldn’t trade this.
So please don’t tell my husband, but now and then when I fall asleep, I’ll sneak off and see the boy he used to be. The boy who looked at me like I was a mystery. I didn’t know then who that boy would become. I couldn’t have guessed that shaky hands grow steady. That he would trade moonlight draped blankets for tiny cover hogs. He left parties for midnight whimpers. He gave up adrenaline for routine and uncertainty for commitment. Summer days leave traces of a shaded line the girl in me likes to see; a small circle on his left hand, third finger. Tan lines can be tattoos. He is the rock of my life now. There is zero mystery. Every time we kiss there is nearly 8 years of life together pressed between our lips.
But tonight, while the whole house sleeps, I’ll climb back into that truck. I’ll reread pages I now know by heart. I’ll envision what it felt like to hope he’d still be here when the sun comes up. I’ll watch us laugh until we cry and I’ll sink into his quicksand. I love who we are, but I like to remember who we were. So tonight, I’ll let my memory serve me one shot of his whiskey.
Please, don’t tell my husband this, but I’ve forgotten every boy but one.
Because there are some boys, girls just don’t forget.
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