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It was all supposed to be to the tune of some glorious Crystals song from the early '60s, when everything was still innocent, and my life would be a wall of sound from "Then He Kissed Me." Love would be simpler than tying a string bikini, the kind I wore a lot while waiting on the beach for my ship to come in. The men have piled up in my past, have fallen trenchantly through my life, like an avalanche that doesn't mean to kill but is going to bury me alive just the same.
There is no yelling, only silence—the kind in a Carole King song: the phone that doesn't ring, or the words you didn't say that you think of on the staircase spiraling down once the door is locked behind, or maybe even months later. I could have and probably should have spent the rest of my life with him, might have avoided scenes like the time some guy I was seeing later on chased me down Topanga Canyon with a hot frying pan, screaming at me something about learning to make my own goddamn omelets.
When I was still in my twenties, for several years I had this wonderful boyfriend; I'll call him Gregg—he's the one we're all waiting for: tall, blue-eyed, with this thick black hair, all smart and sensitive, an inveterate graduate student who used to rub my feet at the end of the day with a lovely pink peppermint lotion from the Body Shop. In other words, had I just stuck with the good boyfriend, I could have prevented a good deal of extraneous craziness. The calm I had during those years was like a dormant illness or an allergy that doesn't emerge until later in life, or something you don't see coming because it's coming from within: You are making yourself ill. It was nauseating daily, and I couldn't still myself against a funny feeling that there had to be more to life than waking up every day beside the same person.
To say I was bored would be to misunderstand boredom: I did not need to take up table tennis or ballroom dancing—I needed a sense that this wasn't the end of the story.
The idea of forever with any single person, even someone great whom I loved so much like Gregg, really did seem like what death actually is: a permanent stop.
Love did not open up the world like a generous door, as it should to anyone getting married; instead it was the steel clamp of the iron maiden, shutting me behind its front metal hinge to asphyxiate slowly, and then suddenly.