The Phantom in the Mist

When I was a teenager, I was in love with a guy. He was a musician. Okay…eye roll. Long hair. Drank a lot. A lot. A group of brothers in the neighborhood had built a cabin…two story…with heat….in the woods behind their house, and we would all go there to…do what teenagers do when parents aren’t around.

I thought he was so much fun. And clever. He was three years older than I was so he could go out to the bars. I was still too young. But I grew up believing that the man led the way and the woman followed, and that stuck with me when it came to any romantic encounter. So I felt lucky to be his cabin hook-up partner and actually looked forward with anticipation to whenever he might possibly be there and I would get to be with him again. Ah, sweet love.

The problem is….I was 15 and I had a curfew. But whenever he was around, I didn’t want to go home. My stupid parents. What did they know? I would push the limit. The other problem was…..if I pushed the limit too far and got home too late….I would get grounded. But it was for love. And love, as far as poetry and movies and love songs say….involve tossing all caution to the wind if you are truly committed. So being grounded did not stop my feelings. Like someone given a jail sentence, I awaited my release and the time when I could once again be with the man of my dreams.

And my love? What was he doing while I sat in solitary awaiting my next moment of ecstasy in his presence? He was hitting the bars and getting drunk, of course. And in my 15 year old, inexperienced mind, I blamed that on the fact that I was not yet old enough to go out with him.

It began to slowly dawn on me that during my time of forced good-behavior, while I sat home and remained faithful to only him, I never saw or heard from him. He did not seem to pine for me or mourn for my absence.

It took awhile. I have to admit that when I realize the truth of the matter in a given situation, that does not necessarily mean that my heart immediately jumps on board.

There are, however, a few moments of my life that I look back on with pride. Moments when I surprised myself. When I stepped out of the box for a moment and risked it all…for myself. There was one night when I was hanging out with my friends at the cabin and he did not show up until about ten minutes before I had to leave for my curfew. When he saw me….I was upstairs about ready to climb down and he was downstairs getting ready to come up….he seemed genuinely happy to see me and asked me not to go. I have to say….I wanted to stay. But something made me say no that night. Perhaps it was because I told him that I had to be home for curfew and he smiled at me and told me to forget my curfew. And I remember thinking…you aren’t the one who will get grounded and you won’t be there if I do get grounded. So I told him….see you next time. There was no next time. That would be the last time I would see him at the cabin.

I have never forgotten that night long ago. And I have never regretted making that decision to go home.

This was not a post about priests and abuse but I think that the propensity for being abused has seeds that are sown young with faulty beliefs about what love really means. And when you are 15, self-respect brings about pictures of yourself in a rocking chair knitting socks for your cats when you are old. Self-respect means not having any fun or letting go or getting any attention from the one you seek it from. And I don’t even know if I consciously was thinking about self-respect at the time. And I don’t know if I would have made the same decision if I had known that I would never be given another chance again to be with that person.

Because I think I would have thought that I could somehow hold onto him had I stayed. Again thinking that my actions would have some kind of difference. That perhaps this time would be the time that would make him think about calling me instead of just being glad to see me when he happened to run into me.

Once again, this may be my story but it’s not about me. Abuse gets its roots into you and you don’t even realize that you are out the looking for a dance partner who will deliberately step on your toes if you let them. And you will let them because you have learned that is what you do if you want love. Period. And it’s sad. And you pass it on to your children the way you pass along your hazel eyes or your love of pizza.

If you are wondering whatever happened to the one that got away…..he got someone pregnant, got married….and was then caught in bed with someone else.

I titled this entry “The Phantom in the Mist” because that was the term I used back then when writing poetry about relationships I had that seemed to exist but yet had no substance and I wasn’t sure what exactly I was trying to hold onto because nothing was really solid. Yet try I did. Because that is what you do. You give 110% percent of the relationship to hold it together. Even if it was holding together empty air. That was my definition of love. That is what I saw my mom do. That is what I see I have passed down as well.

This was not about priests….but it was about the culture of vulnerability and how the seeds get sown.

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