I'm a chronic insomniac. I've never slept well. Ever. As a child, nap time was spent spinning stories to amuse myself. Not much has changed. I often wonder if I would have even become a writer if I were able to sleep like a normal person. Insomnia has given me endless storytelling hours and many of those stories have lingered long enough in the light of day to be written down.
I didn't think I had a barren acre. I mean, I've had bad relationships and huge disappointments like everyone else, but nothing I've written about. At least, nothing I thought I'd written about. Earlier this week while I lay wide awake listening for the baby to cry, I realized my barren acre: a girl I once loved. The first girl I really fell in love with. Only I didn't know it was love.
I've written about this girl so many times I've lost count. I think there are only two stories that are specifically about her, that hold enough details of real experiences to be considered about her. But there are at least a dozen other stories that are haunted by her. Memories pulled out in the middle of the night, turned over and over like worry stones, then tucked away for safe keeping.
The memories have faded after twenty-five years. I guess that's why it took me so long to connect this week's theme to her name. Sure, I've written about her over the past decade or so, recalling the moment when I realized that my affection and devotion was more than friendship. (I'm embarrassed to say that realization was a long time coming.) I've written about that moment and other moments as if they're suspended in time-- as if I have only to take a few steps and I will be right back there and I can say something or do something to change the course of our fate.
Nothing ever came of it, though. There were moments of intimacy that went beyond friendship, but we never discussed it, never explored it beyond the moment. Nothing could have come of it, even if I had been bold enough to tell her how I felt at the time. I didn't know any woman who identified as a lesbian, much less as bisexual. I was fresh out of high school, still a virgin, in love with a girl and completely clueless that was what I was feeling. It's funny. It's sad. It's life. Maybe if I'd had the internet...
What did I know about love at nineteen? Little to nothing, except that I'd only dated boys to that point. I convinced myself she was like the sister I didn't have-- except she wasn't. She was like the girlfriend I didn't have-- and wish to this day that I had. Deep down, I think she felt the same way about me but couldn't say anything. There were too many obstacles for her-- religion and upbringing and a fiance. I don't think she could have overcome them all for something so risky. I'm not sure I could have-- but I think I would have tried, for her.
I never told her how I felt. Not really. I flirted with the topic for the couple of years she was in my life, but something held me back from professing my love. Fear of rejection? Fear of not being normal? Fear she would laugh, or worse, hate me? Probably all of the above. By the time I realized my true feelings and was confident enough not to give a damn what anyone thought, she was married and gone. I mourned her loss like a death. And then I tucked the memory of her away, along with pictures and trinkets and gifts she'd given me, and forgot about her.
Only, we don't forget about the ones we love. The ones who work their way so deep into our hearts that forgetting them is impossible. She stayed there even after we lost touch, after I got my heart broken a few more times, after I met and married my husband. We reconnected off and on over the years, but it wasn't the same. How could it be? We were different people and whatever we had was gone. I don't know her now, we're not the same girls we once were. And yet... the heart remembers.
And so I have written about the girl I loved, woven her into my stories the way she wove herself around my heart. I've written about unrequited love and it is her name that echoes. I've written of lust and lost and it's her I was thinking about. I've written about bone-deep need for understanding and empathy and remember how she was the one I turned to when things were darkest, the one who might have saved my life the first time I thought I didn't want to live anymore. She's there in my words, the same way she's still there in my memories. A part of me.
Barren acre? I guess. Some say unrequited love is more powerful than love realized-- and maybe that's true. There is no real sadness anymore. It's been too long and too many good things have happened in my life. She was one of those things that just wasn't meant to be and I let go of her a long, long time ago. Mostly. I revisit her memory in my writing, taking those steps back to moments suspended in time when words or a touch might have made a difference. Or maybe they wouldn't have. I'll never know. But she is still a part of me, that girl I once loved.