Call me Pip for the purposes of this story. When I was a younger man, I always assumed that I had inherited the uphill battle; that I’d always have a smaller margin for error than my fellow man. I’ll be blunt about this–I’m not the vision of the idealized All-American cover boy. And I never knew that not playing high school QB could haunt you 20 years later either, but apparently–it can. People, in my experience at least, like to “type cast.” And yes, I’ve been “cast” into some less than satisfactory roles in my day. But here’s the thing–I’m a good guy. I’ve always just been the type of guy whose qualities become most apparent only to those patient enough to forfeit a few “style points” in the process of getting to know me. So my strategy growing up was this: I could end up with the girl of my dreams but I’d only have a few chances to get it right. I’d almost have to sneak up on her–emotionally–at first, maybe. But once she’d let me in, she would never let me go.
And that’s exactly what she told me when we met: that she’d never let me go.
She was a Southern beauty; a real small town ruby tucked away in the crevices of an area too small to register on a map but glorious enough to outshine the sun for those of us who were ever fortunate enough to glimpse her. That’s (almost) how I felt when I met her. That’s the image I had of her when she left me. And for so many years, that’s the image of her that I carried with me: any time I’d find my mind drifting back to memories of yesteryear, that’s the picture I’d see.
I won’t make this overly dramatic; I didn’t think about her every day. It was a long time ago. It’s as if I’d lived multiple lives since I last saw her complete with their own loves & their own losses. But throughout that entire time, I’d always assumed that she was better off without me than I was without her. It’s not that I’m underselling myself–there’s so much for which I’m grateful. It’s that, people like her always seemed like the chosen ones. They could make a thousand mistakes & get ten thousand more because the world just liked them better—as if the world picks & choose their predetermined winners & losers. She was beautiful. She was “All-American.” Every pattern I’ve ever borne witness to in life conditioned me to believe that people like her—the beauty pageant winner types–that the grass would always be greener on their side of the fence. I’d just have to settle for the less green side.
Well, with the advent of “social media” & good old-fashioned interpersonal networking: our paths recently crossed. I caught a glimpse–only a glimpse–but enough for me to see what her life is like now. She’s accomplished so much & has made good on many of the goals she placed for herself when I was with her, so good for her. But, while assessing the situation, I couldn’t block out the almost drumroll of revelation that I was telling the truth when I recognized, years ago, that I would be better off without her too. She has made a good life for herself, but it’ s obviously not the palaces & rainbows existence that she scorned me for not being able to deliver to her. Her life has had it’s share of struggles & setbacks too.
I hope I don’t sound too critical. For sure, I’m nowhere close to where I expected to be at this stage of my life. But I almost expected that for myself. I’m the guy who started out behind the starting line, the one who couldn’t afford to make a mistake if he planned to keep up with the crowd because I had the “style points” deficiency. But even for the “chosen ones;” the beautiful people & “born winners” …even for them, things are far from perfect. Once the mist of the vague fairy tale happy ending clears & the high resolution of reality sets in, we all take our share of hard knocks.
Yeah, she broke her promise & let me go long ago. But it’s safe to say that it has been better for both of us that she did. I’m just as fine on my side of the fence as she is on hers.
DISCLAIMER: The prose entry is based on true events but was never intended for & should not be interpreted as pure biography. Any personality traits or situations that mirror real life are purely coincidental. This piece is not intended to diminish, disparage, or any way insult any person; but instead, intends to leave a message of mutual hope & equality. The use of the name “Pip” in the opening sentence is an allusion to a line in Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations.