Not because you find out horrible things about them, like they were really serial killers or child molesters, but because you discover that they have aged and gone bald in the 25 years since you last saw them and how can that happen? And if they have aged that much, what the heck has happened to you?
Where did that stupid gray hair come from? And how come your husband looks even more handsome as he gets gray/silver but you just look older? How come it takes forever to recover from a sports injury? Why doesn't all the extra fluid drain from under my eyes and the rest of my face until just before it's time for me to go to bed again?
These questions make my head hurt.
Back to finding old boyfriends. Old boyfriends and the guy you thought was a major hottie and your friends thought was a hottie and who took you completely by surprise when he kissed you because HE WAS A HOTTIE.
I stayed in Houston for a few years after I finished college. Houston, back then, was not a bad place to be as long as you didn't have to drive far and as long as you had air conditioning during the day.
It was also a good place for an employed but indebted young person to be as real estate was dirt cheap. I paid $280 a month for my cute one-bedroom apartment on Bissonnet with the 50s-era teal bathtub, sink and toilet. I was two miles from work and didn't have to get on the freeway.
Back then, I didn't like the freeway because of the congestion and it was a pain in the neck. Now, I don't like it because of the congestion and THE SPEED! OMG THE SPEED!
I have become a little old lady hunched over in the driver's seat, my hands white knuckled as I clutch the steering wheel, hoping that nobody honks at me. I hate getting onto the freeways here because they are 1. crappy and 2. poorly-designed with 3. left-side entrances. Hello blind spot on my right.
I will take twice as long to go home from dropping Primo off at the airport if it means that I don't have to go on the freeway. I am 47 years old and I have almost become that person going 40 in the middle lane with my left turn signal blinking even though I have no intention of changing lanes. Oh the anxiety that turn signal causes in the people behind the signaler.
So I had this cute apartment in Houston and was paying cheap enough rent that I could pay my student loans as well. $183 a month for loan payments, $280 for rent, $50 for car insurance, a hundred or so to my mom for my car payment, throw in some phone and electricity money, and even on $20,000, which did not go nearly as far as I thought it would once the government took its share - boy was that a shock when I got my first paycheck - I almost went to HR to tell them someone had made a big mistake, I had some money left over for food.
Peanut butter sandwiches, but that is food.
A few doors down from me lived Vincent.
Vincent was a hottie.
All my friends thought so. They knew him from having seen him on campus, where he as an assistant track coach. I probably didn't see him because I wasn't wearing my glasses. Also because I got nowhere near the track. Sports and I are not exactly friends.
He was a grad student/track coach. Brains + body.
A grad student in English. We spoke the same language.
I met him - How did I meet him? Probably because he was outside washing his 20 year old green Volvo, which is the car of choice for liberal arts grad students. Washing that car and working on it, which is a really sexy activity - a man who can fix things! The ability to repair household appliances and other items that have motors is even sexier than the ability to recite "Dover Beach" by heart.
Did I mention he was shirtless? And that the view was mighty fine?
That golden, muscled chest. Muscled from using his body, not from spending six hours a day in the gym lifting weights. Practical muscles, not show off muscles.
One of my friends was over at my apartment, recognized Vince and introduced us.
Vince decided he liked me. We would chat when we encountered each other in the parking lot. Occasionally, he would knock on my door and we would hang out and talk about writing and literature. He's the one who told me to read Harlan Ellison after I told him I was sick and darn tired of Literature and never wanted to read anything hard again. A summer of science fiction would do me good.
He's also the one who told me who Donald Barthelme was. Barthelme was in charge of the University of Houston's creative writing program and Vince thought he hung the moon.
I have never read a word that Barthelme wrote, but it has been useful to have that name in my quiver for when I am around Serious Literati. I nod knowingly as they chatter about Meaning and Deconstructionism and Post Modernism, thinking, I know how to spell that name! and then I take the first break in the conversation to excuse myself and find the food.
I have to leave because in addition to thinking, I know how to spell that name, I am also thinking, Wow you are a pretentious twit. I'll bet you don't know anything useful, like how to fix a car or how to calculate how long it will take the rabbit to die if the poison is leaking into the room at the rate of x units/minute.
I like talking to other English majors sometime, but it is engineers and men who can fix things who rock my world.
Vince was the perfect combination of literary, intelligent, handy, and gorgeous.
Which meant he would have no interest whatsoever in me.
Why would a literary, intelligent, handy and gorgeous man be interested in someone as ordinary as I? I was going to say, Someone as ordinary and chubby as I was, but I was not chubby at the time, seeing as I had some money for food but not a lot. I had also discovered that if one runs the four miles around campus almost every day after work, one can eat almost anything one wants.
As long as what one wants is only what one can afford. And as long as one spends most of her day at her desk at work, far, far from her refrigerator.
I have learned since getting married and adopting my gold-digging lifestyle of not working that if one spends much of her day at her computer on the kitchen table in a house where her husband likes to keep frozen custard and cheese and potato chips, even if one goes to the gym four days a week and even if one is signed up for a half marathon for which she is halfheartedly training, one cannot eat all she wants without experiencing repercussions.
These are the benefits of aging: gray hair, puffy eyes and easier weight accumulation.
But apparently, Vince was interested.
I didn't have a clue. (Yes, I know this is a theme with me.)
He would come over and hang out. He wanted to spend time with me.
And then he asked me to the movies.
Only I thought he was asking just did I want to go to a movie with him because you know, he didn't want to go alone?
Sure why not.
I had no idea this was a date.
When I was a freshman, a guy down the hall - let's call him Bill - asked if I wanted to see the Tom Petty concert with him. I thought he just had an extra ticket that he didn't want to go to waste. Which was why I was so confused when he seemed to be trying to put his arm around me while Tom was singing that the waiting was the hardest part.
The rest of the evening went about as well. After the concert, we were trying to find Bill's car in the multi-floor parking lot. Despite what anyone might tell you, I have an excellent sense of direction and when left to my own devices and not nitpicked, I can find things.
But I kept going to the same spot and kept finding the car not there. "This is where it should be!" I told Bill in frustration.
He was already cranky because this had been a date and I just didn't know it, a fact he would later complain about to our mutual friends, although if I had been on a date with someone who didn't know it was a date, I think I might have kept that information to myself. His crankiness was not improved by our inability to find the car and my insistence that it was here. HERE!
And then we went down one floor.
And found the car exactly where I said it was. Just displaced by 15 vertical feet.
Poor Bill. If I had known it was a date, I would never have agreed to go to the concert. It hadn't occurred to me that he might be interested because I had no interest in him. Blesshissweatyhandedheart. You don't look for interest in others if you are not interested yourself.
I was interested in Vince, but in the theoretical, wouldn't it be cool if (then) Tom Cruise or (now) Denzel Washington or Daniel Craig dropped by and asked me out to dinner. In the "that's the level of reality I assign to this possibility" way and remember, I got an 'A' in probability and statistics. Although not until grad school. In college, I got a 'C,' which was entirely my stupid fault because what made something an easy A was that if you went to class and did the work, it was fairly easy to do well, not my method of, "I need only to go to class a few times a semester because this stuff is so obvious."
The good thing about having lived an oblivious, clueless life full of mistakes is that it gives one lots of material.
Where was I?
Oh yes. Vince asked if I wanted to go to the movies. I said sure. Why not?
We went. We sat next to each other. I had no, He likes me! vibes. None.
Not that I was looking for them because - Vince. Me. I was no fool.
We went back to his apartment. Sat on the couch. Talked about something deep and intellectual I am sure.
And then he kissed me.
What was this?
Where did that come from?
I was so shocked that I mumbled something about needing to iron a blouse for work the next day and went home.
Shortly thereafter, Vince went to England for the summer. He gave me his vacuum cleaner. He wasn't going to need it where he was going. He wrote me a chatty, funny letter about his experiences waiting tables under the table and visiting the Tower of London and Stratford on Avon. I read the letter and thought, Well that was nice, and then I thought no more.
While he was gone, I moved to Austin. I took his vacuum cleaner with me. A sign of true love that I had overlooked? I give you my minor appliances. My cleaning tools.
That fall, I returned to Houston for homecoming. My friends had advised me that perhaps Vince's kiss had been an expression of romantic interest. I had had time to recover from the shock and to think, Well this wouldn't be so bad.
Except for the part that I was now living in Austin. He was back in Houston.
They're not that far apart. Fourteen Dairy Queens on I10 between Houston and San Antonio and I know this because my friend Heather and I stopped at every single one of them on a trip to my mom and dad's one weekend. The Bon Ton Bakery with the kolaches is halfway between Houston and Austin, shortly after you pass through La Grange, home of the bordello. There is food on the way and it's only a three hour drive. This could work.
I was in Houston. I'll stop in and see Vince, I thought. Rekindle that flame.
I stopped in. He almost had to ask me who I was. Whoa. I guess I had aged in the six months since we'd seen each other. We chatted uncomfortably for a few minutes. I noticed his carpet was dirty. His doorbell rang. He gestured to the door. I have to go, he said politely.
The time had passed. The opportunity was lost. I had blown it.