Remember that Sheryl Crow song “You’re My Favorite Mistake?” Oh God, is he my favorite mistake: when we were twenty-one, my ex was six feet of slim, hard muscle, bleach-tipped spikes, bright blue eyes, and raging ADHD. He had a restless mind and the gleaming intellect to match it: my ex remains one of the two smartest men I’ve ever met. The other man is my husband. But while my husband’s smart in a gentle way, in a way that putters among fantasy novels and biology, C. argued politics and policy with a bulldog’s tenacity, often in class (his vicious one-sentence put-down of modern colonialism in South America remains so infamous at our university, all these years later, that quoting it would break anonymity).
Lord, I miss that boy some days.
I was dating someone else when we hooked up. “I’m coming up for your birthday,” he told me (I lived in another state and was going home for a few days).
“Don’t,” I told him. “You know [current boyfriend] is coming up.”
He threw me that adorable lopsided grin. “Maybe I’ll do it anyway.”
“Don’t you do it,” I said, because even then I knew better than to dare him. He’d take any dare. I loved him for it.
He gave me a back-bending kiss and grinned. “Won’t you have to wait and see?” he asked, and walked away with that usual cocky saunter, that walk telling everyone he owned the place and knew it.
I spent my birthday terrified two guys were driving ten hours up 1-95 to fistfight at my front door. My ex didn’t make good on his threat, thank God. But it was that lovely tang of danger, that wonderful threat, which made him everything. Later, we did leave our pot in my underwear drawer for my parents to find. But that’s another story.
That Was Twenty Years Ago
I haven’t seen my ex in twenty years. I miss him sometimes, down across two decades of kids and marriage. Life has slowed. I still live in my college town, and sometimes, I’ll remember: this hot summer night reminds me of driving out to his parents’ house and fucking in his hot tub while they watched TV, and if they’d have only turned around from that stupid episode of Survivor… This is like the night we shot cans off his diving board with a BB gun and scared the fuck out of his neighbors.
He was dangerous, that boy. Everyone knew it, and I was dangerous along with him.
We smoked too many cigarettes. We had too much sex — loudly, in my dorm room next to the stairwell, and we increased our volume when we heard footsteps. My ex would argue with anyone, about anything, for no good reason, then switch sides mid-stream as an intellectual exercise. We skipped too much class. We played our music too loud. He drove his car too fast — and he had one of the first available car MP3 players, so we sang along to everything, wind in our faces. My ex had a charming, improbable love for Billy Joel, and we memorized every single word to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Like everything else, it was a competition: who could do it first?
Once, I said that he wouldn’t marry me in Vegas.
No, my ex said. You wouldn’t marry me in Vegas.
Uh-uh. I crossed my arms. You wouldn’t.
No, you wouldn’t.
You’re the one who wouldn’t.
Suddenly, my ex’s phone rang. “Child, what the hell are you doing?!” yelled our dorm’s assistant principal. No hello, no how are you.
“Uh, [redacted] and I are about to get married in Vegas because she says I won’t do it and I think she won’t do it,” my ex said.
“Get yourselves back to [dorm name redacted],” he snapped. “And child, don’t do that.”
My ex and I were just crazy enough to do it. Thank God he somehow stopped us.
I Don’t Necessarily Miss My Ex
I looked him up. Of course I looked him up. When I was in his city once, where he’s now a high-powered lawyer, I made my friend take my phone after I got drunk. “I’ll call him,” I threatened, based on a Facebook pic of him mountain-climbing. “Don’t let me do it.”
He’s married now. Our kids are the same age. He isn’t that tall, cut guy anymore: he’s gone bald, gotten a bit of a middle to him (who hasn’t?) I looked at his picture. I don’t miss sleeping with him (though the sex was great) — I’m happier sleeping with my husband. I don’t miss arguing with him — it got exhausting, and we fought about everything. Yes, counting the number of palmetto bugs we killed with a designated spoon and adding a sticker to the calendar was fun. But it wasn’t worth stompy loud arguments.
I don’t miss my ex.
I miss being young and dangerous. I miss the looks on people’s faces when they saw us walk by. Oh shit, it’s them, their faces would say. What the hell have they done now? I miss the eye-rolls, the anti-authoritarianism. I miss fucking the guy with the piercings and dyed hair who yelled at people in class. I miss boredom that ended with BB guns, or trips to tourist traps, or speeding down the interstate with no destination.
Truth? I’m too old for that shit. He is, too. And I don’t ever want us to be boring together. I want to hold that relationship in whirlwind just as it is. I’m happy with my husband, happy to be quietly smart, to share coffee with him in the morning and wake up with someone who genuinely loves me, not my performance of myself.
I hope the same for my ex.