"Write while the heat is in you."
- Henry David Thoreau
Author of Walden
Everyone knows stories of unrequited love, either their own or someone else's. Fodder for romantic comedies and romance novels, they're popular because we can relate, or because we can empathize with someone else's pain.
So here's mine. Yes, although written in third person, it's memoir. You can undoubtedly guess which character is me.
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They started as a threesome, though not in the way that implied, simply students at San Francisco State who hung out together. Dylan lusted after Lynn, who already had a boyfriend, and was best dorm buddies with Gail. They were an odd group, but it worked.
The trio looked like 1970, which it was. Lynn had straight, long dark hair reaching her waist, enhancing madras dresses with blousy sleeves. Dylan, a jazz musician with shoulder length hair and a brown, thick leather band around one wrist, wore denim shirts and jeans. Gail, a suburbanite turned rebel, dressed in Birkenstocks, overalls with a beaded flower she sewed onto one thigh, a loose top, and no bra.
They attended campus concerts, movies and lectures, and ate meals together in the SFSU cafeteria. Over time, Dylan gave up on Lynn and began to focus his attention toward Gail.
The night the three of them ended up in bed together was a turning point. Nothing sexual happened. It was a logical extension of wine, marijuana, fatigue, and only one bed in Dylan’s apartment. Hours later, Gail awoke to find the other two cuddled together, still asleep, but arms entwined.
She wasn’t amused. Nudging Dylan, hard, she said:
“Take me back to the dorm. Now.”
Still trying to wake up, he tied his shoes, grabbed car keys, and they walked together to his parking space, leaving Lynn behind, sound asleep, or at least pretending.
When Dylan pulled up outside Merced Hall, Gail stepped out of the car and slammed the door behind her.
“Fuck this,” she muttered to herself.
The next day, she went on a date with someone new. He wasn’t her type, too preppy, but he was attractive, although the visible mattress lying in the back of his van was discomforting.
News of her afternoon outing reached Dylan before she returned. She answered the phone, already ringing off the hook:
“I don’t know if I can do it, but I want to give us a try.”
“OK,” she said.
He made an excuse about needing a place to stay that night. “Two friends are visiting, and I want to give them their own space.” They shared her single bed for the first time.
A year and a half later, after co-habiting, breaking up, seeing others (including a brief fling between Dylan and Lynn, while Gail dated no one), they were now “trying again.”
It was almost Christmas. Sick with high fever, chills, profuse sweating, and coughing up phlegm, Gail drove herself to San Francisco General.
“You’re on the verge of pneumonia,’ the doctor said. “Go home and sleep or you’ll end up in the hospital.”
Gail called Dylan:
“I won’t be going home with you for Christmas. I almost have pneumonia. Doctor told me I have to stay in bed.”
“OK,” he said, not sounding particularly disappointed.
Three days later, hearing the phone off in the distance through her codeine induced haze, she answered:
“Guess what I got for Christmas,” she heard.
What she wanted to hear was: “I’ve been worried about you. Are you okay?” Instead, she heard a list of gifts he'd opened that morning.
When the call ended Gail grabbed paper and pen and began a Dear John letter.
She was done.
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