I was married to Wingman for 30 years and dated him for another six prior, before I gave him the "marry-me-or-hit-the-highway" ultimatum. Which didn't leave many other years to date. But I did have a first love. A high school first love who committed suicide last week.
I met him through my brother-they played on the same summer baseball team. He was a hell of a shortstop-he lettered in high school as a freshman. His dad died when he was young, so he was raised along with two brothers and a sister by his sweet little Japanese mom. Being half Asian, his looks were exotic, and with his long shiny black hair, just a little bit dangerous-so different from the Catholic School boys I saw every day. He was three months younger than me which put him a year behind me in school. Imagine-me a cougar-in-training back then.
After high school, we grew apart. I was Little Jackie Paper and he was Puff the Magic Dragon. I went to fashion school to be a department store buyer. He just wanted to play baseball. We broke up and he joined the Navy. We got back together, only to break up again when he was doing a Med Cruise and I met my Wingman. I didn't even break up with him in person-I sent him a letter.
He did some nasty things in retaliation. He tried to run me down with his truck. He slit all four tires, then crapped on the ground and wiped it all over the windows of my red Mustang-true gross story. I hid my car in a tire shop by work so he couldn't cause any more damage. Then he started setting red cars on fire at the mall with Molotov Cocktails. One Friday night, my mother called me to say he threw one at their house. The police picked him up before my brothers and Wingman could beat more crap out of him.
I remember the day the police officer came to my store to let me know that he was being sent to the looney bin. I still have the note-10 days for observation, then to the Navy brig if he was found sane. A couple of my co-workers and I went out to lunch to celebrate and when we returned, there were cops all over my department. First Love escaped the hospital, but not before he left his own note to say that he was coming back to kill me. The Navy then took over, found him, moved him down south and I never heard from him again. I did learn that he had been an alcoholic, stopped drinking, got married, and was living a quiet country life.
I heard the news of his death from my brother. First Love was separated from his wife, depressed after a bad car accident. That day, he cleaned his house, did the dishes, then went into his bedroom and shot himself. That really ticked me off. How could someone with his background get a gun?
But what really surprised me, was my reaction to the video of his life posted along with his obituary. As I listened to Bruce singing "Thunder Road" and the pictures changed from a beautiful Asian baby into the teen I dated, and then into this smiling man, I found myself crying. Crying over a man who hated me enough back in the day to want to kill me. Then crying over two men-one who used a bullet and the other who used booze to end their suffering.
Time has softened the pain they both caused-like forgetting the pain of childbirth. Together, these guys represented over 40 years of two sometimes happy but often rocky love relationships. Yet I can only smile and imagine what it would be like if they were to meet in Heaven today. It's got to be at a Yankee game which they both loved. When they discover that they had me in common, there would be discussions (First Love: "Her butt is HOW BIG NOW???" Wingman: "Really-she sent you a letter to break up? What a Bitch!") debates (Bruce vs. the Beatles) and bragging rights ("She always came to see me start Varsity." "She always came to see ME playing bass in my band.").
One day, my grandkids may look through my photo albums and scrapbooks and ask about First Love and Wingman. And I'll tell them about two awesome guys who loved nothing more than the smell of new leather mitts, the sound of the crack of a bat, the sight of men in pinstripes lined up on Old Timers Day. And I'll tell them that at one time, they loved me.