A Perfect Love Story
He was my hero.
I was his hero.
In the throes of infatuation, we confessed to being one another's perfect hero.
He nicknamed me "pickles." I called him "hoagie-hold-the-mayo."
That's me on the right. The X is on the left. He wore gray. I wore blue. Of all the zoology classes in all the towns in all the world, he walked into mine. His way of walking, his way of lurching forward, his head a buttressing bulwark against threats and enemies only he could see, his bullyish swagger and stern glare caused people to shudder while scrambling out of his path. Few people dared tread within his territory.
He was frank to say, "I stick my neck out for nobody!" Yet, I didn't believe him.
I didn't believe him because in my heart I knew he was lying. Despite his machismo, staunch independence, and relatively scrawny pencil neck, I sensed that underneath his armored protestations was a gentle man. A good man. A man who ached so profoundly for love that he lied about not caring for anyone. Or to be more specific: not caring about any object, place, or thing of which I am the prior.
He was a man who dared not admit the depths of fiery passion and smokin' desire belying his cool facade, masking his vulnerability in a flimsy defense that an empathic woman could see through like white gauze over a bowl of clabbered milk.
He was a desperate man seeking liberation from the prison of his divided heart, duplicitous countenance, and slight double chin. He was a disciplined man bracing himself against life's cruelties; the misery of rejection, the fear of abandonment, and subsequent neuroses presenting a 301.81 on the DSM-IV-TR. Not that a diagnosis would cause him doubt or serious reflection. He knew who he was. Even if he didn't.
His rakish personality disguised a gentleness that I and I alone, realized he possessed. A gentleness guarded by a hardened shell, his inner child cached within furious outbursts and temperamental explosions. Even my faith in his gentle nature required rose-colored glasses at times; so unpredictable was his split personality. Oh, how I loved the both of him!
My feminine intuition sensed, nay KNEW with every fiber of a woman's seething lust, that somewhere deep inside the heavy artillery of his caustic self was a tender man waging war with scornful women. I suspected his cynical shell masked a sentimental man, waiting for a perfect woman to soften his heart with her unconditional love and endless tears.
I was wrong.
Ours was a romantic comedy, the drama of “pickles” and “hoagie-hold-the-mayo”. As idyllic romances have warned lovers since Adam first met Eve however, perfect love concludes in lamentable sorrow; the tragedy of human amourous interruptus portrayed in anguishing amatory literature. “Perfect love ends rudely.” Or so the great love stories foretell. Stories like the perfect love of Robert and Francesca, Romeo and Juliet, Narcissus and Echo, Lancelot and Guinevere, Samson and Delilah, Homer and Marge Simpson.
I count myself as one of the aforementioned star-crossed lovers, my compassionate magnetism drawn to his law of self-attraction. Perhaps my story is not destined for classic literature or Wikipedia, but to me, it's worthy of annotation; for what ensued during our loving years was naught but a notion of an extraordinary imagination: mine.
From soulmate to helpmate to sinking shipmate, my story unfolded with devious twists, malicious plots, and an unanticipated mutiny on my booty. Mine is the tale of the true hero. A hero named Pickles because as long as she sandwiched herself next to Hoagie, she would always be in one. A pickle, that is.
When our perfect love arrived at its inevitable climax, I found myself submersed in a foggy haze on a twilight lit tarmac, dutifully waving "Au Revoir" to my beloved. It was February 14th, Valentine's Day.
My pitiful hand turned coquettishly from his eyes, chewed fingernails hidden in shadows cast by an eternal moon; a wincing smile frozen on my thin and ever-thinning lips. Lips that would never again meet his.
Lips that would whisper his name in reverenced hushes during lonely nights when memories stalked the dreamtime and depression interrupted sleep patterns. February 14th. February 14ths would be as triggering for me as the anniversary of Pearl Harbor is for veterans. Yes! I declare myself a veteran! A veteran in the war between the sexes called "Love."
I promised myself that never again would my lips be washed with soap or Lancôme facial cleanser. I would discipline myself to preserve the kiss of Judas relishing in the flourishing of his residual bacteria. Like a snake presiding over the Garden of Eden, my lips would remain a sanctuary to his former presence. No licking. Only flicking.
With emotions burning through my body like insiatible fires consuming dry timbers in decrepit buildings, I accepted my fate, as any middle-aged woman must do. The lessons of childhood had come to fruition: a man may love a woman so much that he will be forced to leave her.
The universal resonance of this truism challenged my under-developed narcissism. Who was I to question tradition? Was "I" so special as to consider my self irreplaceable? I would rather die a grisly death than betray the patriarchal values teaching me to be a willing sacrifice to the building of a great man's kingdom.
I was a martyr to his cause. He was a rebel without one.
When Hoagie was forced to choose between his life or his wife, I prayed...YES! I prayed he remain steadfast and true to his values and not be swayed by the commonality of sacred promises kept. You see, the sacrifice of a woman's love is the groundwork upon which great men tread. I was a regrettable casualty to his authenticity. A woman must know her place as the propitiator of a man's self-actualization.
"But what about us?" I murmured.
"We'll always have Paris."
Paris. A memory of family vacations in Europe.
Paris. The first city where I told him to "Pluck off."
Paris. The Seine River over which I vowed to divorce when returning to the States.
But that was then and this was now and now was more relevant to mortgage payments than then because then was not hindered with debt, and now can never be then anyway and now I wanted to stay married because I could not foresee the now way back then; though I could see the then now. Besides, I went to Paris for the waters.
"What waters?" he had asked while posing for a family photograph in the center of the Pont des Arts Bridge.
Silencing memories of Paris reduced cognitive conflict between what I yearned for then and dreaded now. I gazed in his steely eyes with little yellow sleepy crusts protuding from the corners and begged, "But I said I would never leave you, and you said you would never leave me, and we both said we would never leave our family!"
"And I never will." He replied, pausing only briefly. "But I've got a job to do and where I'm going, the other woman won't let you follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. She insists on fidelity and honor and all those attributes you aren't."
He stood his ground.
His face turned stonily towards the future, erasing me in the shadows of our final love scene on the runway. With theatrical flair, as only the independent man can do with straight face, he turned once again, towards me. He said loud enough for paparazzi to record in the annals of romantic history, “It doesn’t make much sense that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
His prescient words diminished me to the height of an awkward child, ashamed in being the Captain's last pick for Red Rover Come Over.
“Here’s looking at you kid,” he said.
And he left.
I do so love a man who lives true to his values: a man whose commitment to self-development supports the sacrifice of both wife and family as an unavoidable but regrettable loss, in the manifestation of his destiny.
The ending of our perfect love was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
With my Self.
Trailer of Casablanca, a 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, not Pickles and Hoagie-Hold-The-Mayo.
Don't know the famous movie lines? Click HERE