Nonfiction | Then & Now

Second Chances

People do incredible things for love, particularly for unrequited love.
–Daniel Radcliffe

            It’s a hot afternoon in August, and
I am on a date with Dan Morris, a man who I have loved unrequitedly ever since
he sat next to me in Spanish class sophomore year of high school.

At 15, I loved
everything about him—his smile, his eyes, his kindness, sense of humor. He had muscles at a time when most boys still
had baby fat. He was a football player and a wrestler, but he was also in the
drama club. He was self-assured and had a confidence that I envied.

I loved him. He tolerated

After graduation, we
lost touch and I went to college, then graduate school out of state. During
that time, I held every man I dated up to this idealized image of Dan. As each
relationship came to an end, it only validated my certainty that Dan was the one.

Then at 27, I move back
to Michigan to sleep on an air mattress in my parent’s basement and figure out
what I’m about to do with my life. I’m recently single, recently slender, and
recently unemployed. Things start looking up, though, because we’ve
reconnected, and now I have a date with Dan.

So, we go to lunch, and
the conversation and energy volley between us. Laughter and smiles are flying
back and forth, and I’m electric with post-teenage joy. Yet, I notice that his
hair has thinned in strange places, his muscles aren’t as defined as they used
to be, and he has a really bad leopard-print tattoo on his forearm. I ignore
those things because I am drunk on excitement and anticipation of where the
afternoon will take us.

He invites me back to
his house to “hang out.” Almost immediately we start making out on his mom’s
couch just like I had always wanted to do in high school. The day had only
gotten warmer, however, and sweat begins to accumulate in every fold and
crevice of my body. The more I try to ignore it and focus on Dan—Dan!—the more
I am distracted by it. I am melting into a puddle right there on his mom’s
plaid green couch.

His lips are all over
me, and I feel his breath crawl slowly from my collarbone, up my neck, until
his mouth reaches my ear, and my entire body is electric, boiling, and sweaty.
I mean, this is Dan the man, not Dan
the boy, and I’m a woman now, and I’m thinking, “If you ask me, I will say

mouth against my ear grows hotter and heavier as he comes in closer and
whispers, “Can I put it in your butt?”

world holds it breath. Everything hinges on my response. After all these years,
this is what he wants?

             My brain jolts to the area he’s vying for, and
notice that’s where all my sweat has collected.

This isn’t romantic.
This isn’t even hygienic.

definitely, this is not what I want.

What would I have done
if this question had come a decade earlier? The 15-year-old me wouldn’t have
had to answer that question because the 15-year-old Dan wouldn’t have asked.
Then I realized it was the teenaged Dan I had been longing for, not this guy. At
15, I would have done anything he wanted, but I wasn’t the 15 year old version
of myself anymore, and at least I had enough sense now to realize the

I giggle. I smile. With all my Midwestern girl politeness, I respond, “No,
thank you,” in a small and shrill little voice.

feel the energy drain from the room and disappointment take its place.

There are a few
half-hearted kisses and intentional gropes, but it’s over. I pull away and
mutter that I should probably get going and he says something about his mom
coming home from work soon, so, I adjust my clothes, collect my purse and
myself, and leave out the front door. I don’t look back. But this time, it’s
not because I can’t. It’s because I no longer want to.