Justin was my mistake.
Mistakes happen, don't they? No malice aforethought, no pre-planning, you just end up screwing something up and you never planned to.
I was half in love with Justin for years. Blond and tall, with a face like an angel (I don't that say that lightly -- he actually DID have an angelic face, if an angel can have dreamy eyes and a wicked, knowing smile). But we were just friends for a long time. I helped him with girl trouble, and he supplied me with cigarettes as we lay on our backs in his country driveway, watching the stars.
Years later, he came to me. As a friend. We spent an afternoon together, just talking, and by the evening, we were in love. Head over heels -- it was big.
The problem was that I wasn't free. The timing was all wrong. I was in the middle of trying to fix a relationship that ended up in freefall, as it should have, but I didn't know that then. I only knew that Justin fit into small, discrete pockets of my life, when I could hide him in my treehouse in the Oakland hills. But oh, I loved him hard. Too hard.
I told him we couldn't be together. That it was the wrong time. I broke his heart, and mine, too. I did it over the phone, mistake number one. Mistake number two, I stopped answering his phone calls.
It was a supremely assholic move. I loved him -- why couldn't I just talk to him? Try to explain more why we couldn't be together? I was scared that I was doing the wrong thing. I was also scared I was doing the right thing.
I wrapped myself in the huge red flannel shirt I'd borrowed from him, the one with the worn spot at the shoulder, where he would absent-mindedly rub his chin when he was thinking, and I sat on my porch, smoking, listening to the phone ring.
Pearl Buck said, "Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied." That was my moment. I let it pass, unremedied.
Finally, after many phone calls that I let go to voice mail, Justin left a message saying he'd seen me in a dream, and he'd let me go. I cried and cried, knowing I'd done it all the wrong way. I've gone on to dream of him many times over the years, and every time it finally feels real -- I tell him how many times I've dreamed of this moment -- I'm ecstatic to see him -- I grab him and apologize for the way I hurt him and he smiles at me with those sweet, sweet eyes, and everything in the world is right.
Then I wake and realize it didn't happen. My mistake sits there, grimacing at me in the dark, and I'm unable to do anything about it. Sometimes I fantasize about posting his last name online in an entry like this, because I can't find him -- maybe he'd find himself and contact me. But why? So I can apologize for making one of the biggest mistakes of my life? For letting a love that was more lovely than most others I've known go because I couldn't make the timing work? And doing it badly, furthermore? Or maybe his wife would end up Googling him and ask jealous questions, and I'd end up feeling even more stupid.
Or maybe he'd never know, and never care. Maybe he never thinks of me at all. That would be, basically, what I deserve. Justin and I only had perhaps six weeks together, all told, over several years. And it's not like I want to be with him. I love where I am, and I love who I married. Our love is the biggest I've known.
But I regret the mistake I made by hurting someone I loved in an unnecessarily cruel way. I should have answered his calls. I know I should have. (I even wrote about HERE six years ago, and mailed a letter to his mother's address, with the hope it would get to him, but I don't know if it ever reached him. Oh, I hope it did.)
I gave the shirt to Goodwill years ago in a fit of closet-cleaning. I purged other things, too, love letters from other people that I knew I'd never want to read, pictures of times I didn't care to remember. But I made a mistake in the way I broke up with Justin, and I made a mistake by getting rid of that flannel shirt. Damn it.