About a Guy I Once Knew

He was that guy.

In the history of guys, he was the guy every girl has known. Some girls even marry that guy, but not many. By the time that guy gets ready to settle down, he’s no longer that guy. He’s mellower, older, a little tired.

But my guy, who was that guy … well. He was the perfect concoction of things that are that guy — deep blue eyes, dark hair just starting to gray, a decade older and a million times more sophisticated than I was at twenty-one. He drank single malt scotch while he snorted expensive lines of cocaine. He could dance for hours and hours, rounding back to me every so often through the course of an evening to make sure I remembered he’d brought me to the club. As if I could forget.

He broke my heart, of course, sending me headlong into a disastrous first marriage, during which I would drive by his house every so often just to see. What was I looking for? I don’t know. I just needed to be sure he was still out there.


“When I get married, I want her to be someone just like you,” that guy had told me once.

So of course I looked for him on Facebook when I first joined, and there he was. The shock, of course, at seeing that guy, now a gray, middle-aged man — the same shock felt by millions of people who searched for that guy — or that girl. And yet, it was nice to see him, with his wife by his side, windblown on a sailboat. It was funny, in a way; all my memories of him are at night, and there he was, healthy and smiling in the sun. So we both had done OK: me in my second marriage with two grown kids, him with his, tall, blonde, strong-looking wife. I wondered if she was “just like” me.

And then, one day, he died.

I found out one rainy afternoon as I clicked around Facebook, checking in on friends I hadn’t seen online in a while. There was a notice about his funeral with an address and a phone number. He had died a few weeks earlier.

It was a shocking way to find out. Abruptly, he was dead. Click over and there it is. A 21st-century death notice that seemed to open a window into the 1980s and remind me of how much time had passed. It suddenly struck me — like the sudden rainstorm outside — that I would never see him again. I had always thought I would; we had even talked, the summer before, about meeting for dinner — he and his wife, my husband and me.

I started to cry, and then I couldn’t stop. I cried for him, for his wife, for the days on sailboats that he’d never have again. I cried for that guy, the one who danced so well and treated me so badly, who charmed me and seduced me and left me always wanting more. I cried for the girl I was, who was mad about him, who called his house just to hear his voice on his answering machine, who was grateful for anything — anything at all — that he would give.

Then I did something that might seem strange. I called his wife.

“I just want to tell you how sorry I am,” I said to her. “I knew him long ago and he meant so much to me.”

She was patient and kind. Her voice was the sound of a broken heart.

He’s still there, on Facebook. I see his face pop up every so often — “suggest friends for that guy.” I try not to look. I prefer to remember the person who swept me off my feet, handsome and dangerous. That guy.

Previously published on Purple Clover

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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      It was surreal, finding out on Facebook that he had died, but I believe that will happen more and more.

  1. says

    I have one or two of those guys, as well. I still do keep in touch with one of them and recently found out he had a heart attack not long ago – he’s still smoking, although he told me he’s not “doing coke anymore,” which kind of surprised me at his age, holy moly, he has kids, why would he still be doing coke?! I still feel that sweetness and sadness when we correspond via email now, for each others birthdays and big occasions. For me, it’s nice to have some closure after all those years…..
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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      Yes, the fact that I felt that we had come full circle and were both happy made it easier.

  2. says

    I can totally relate to the thought of “That Guy.” Mine was just 3 years older and we met in college. And do the line he gave me was, “We had the right relationship at the wrong time.” UGH. And of course I found him on Facebook and we exchanged an update email. And then I finally had my closure.

    • Sharon Greenthal says

      That word keeps coming up in the comments – closure. I guess it’s important to put things to rest.

  3. says

    I knew that guy, too. I pretended he didn’t matter for many years. Then (like you) I looked him up on Facebook. I was quite relieved when seeing his face didn’t make me go back to that time when I swooned at the thought of him.
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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      Equally strange was having an old boyfriend find me on Facebook for the same reason – to put the past to rest.

    • Sharon Greenthal says

      I think it took me finding my husband to finally get over my “what-if” scenario. After that, I really didn’t think about him the same way anymore.

  4. says

    Wow…this one touched a nerve. That guy for me was just a year older–but those blue eyes, that dark hair, and charisma larger than life. Drank, smoked, broke my heart…but wrote poems and love letters that made me weak in the knees. He died too–but many years ago and much too soon–he was only 27. I will never forget him. Sobbed at his funeral. Now I feel like listening to Joni Mitchell!
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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      And since he died so young he will always remain young in your memories. It was a relief for me to see that this guy had aged and looked like any other middle-aged guy.

      I love Joni Mitchell!

  5. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    I had one, too. And we also found each other years later. Hoping for closure, I asked my husband if he would mind if That Guy and I met for dinner. Just once. He agreed, and we did. Well, I told That Guy how he had broken my heart. How devastating it had been to discover he had cheated on me multiple times. How it took years to get over him. And now? I felt nothing for him. He had aged badly. He still had annoying mannerisms. He was single — divorced for years. I was married with children. In the end, I was the lucky one.

    • Sharon Greenthal says

      Yes you were the lucky one. And you – and I – probably wouldn’t have recognized the good men we married had it not been, in part, for that guy.

  6. says

    I’m in the minority here because I didn’t have “that guy”. There is one guy that dumped me but over the years I only wished that karma had come round and gave him what he deserved. I never wanted to see or hear his name mentioned again.
    But tho I don’t have any experience w/”that guy”, I just wanted to let you know I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog (and this post, natch!).
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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      Yes you were the lucky one. And you – and I – probably wouldn’t have recognized the good men we married had it not been, in part, for that guy.

  7. says

    I knew this guy once upon a time……and now, after 50 years and the death of our spouses I’m knowing him again. This is who I refer to when I say “there’s this guy” but of course I can’t write about it yet.
    I feel safe telling you all; but it takes time and is scary with the mix of emotions with grief and caring again. Maybe it will be something, maybe not….for now he is a comfort and gives me hope again.

  8. Cheri Furr says

    I met that guy (minus the drugs) 1st yr of college. He was a Jr., and when he graduated, I transferred to a college closer to his job. We got engaged before Christmas Sr. year, had booked the church, & engagement pictures were getting ready to print. I drive the 2 hours to his place every weekend. When I went at the end of January, he started crying, said he would still marry me, but he had cheated on me. I took the ring off, threw it & left. Spring was a blur of sobs. I gor his phone no. Recently, & he profusely apologized, saying I never deserved that. He said he had been alone the last 16 years, married & divorced twice before that, and had at least 8 jobs. I know I am better off, as my “smarter” husband (with a very successful career) & I have been married for 37 years.

  9. says

    I don’t have a “that guy”, well I used to but I married him 23 years ago. I had the biggest crush on him in high school then we both married other people. 2 divorces later and a couple of years we ran into each other again and he’s been my guy ever since. I’m relatively new to FB but I can’t imagine how that would feel. Don’t know if I would have called his wife though.
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    • Sharon Greenthal says

      I was surprised at myself for calling, but I was so glad I did afterwards. She was genuinely appreciative of my reaching out.

  10. says

    I think your choice to call the wife was so kind. It’s soothing to know others have had unique knowledge of a person you’re grieving, even if over different reflections, and anything to make a person feel less alone at a time of loss is okay in my book.

    This will probably stay with you awhile. (Here’s an e-hug from me).

    • Sharon Greenthal says

      Thank you for the e-hug. I lived with this story for two years before I could write about it!

  11. Soni says

    Oh my . . . So sorry for the loss; regardless of your current relationship, he was a special person who resided in a small part of your heart. I did, in fact, have a similar “guy”, in college. I loved him so much, I stayed with him even when he told me that he would never tell me “I love you”; I stayed with him even after I flew to DC to visit him one summer, we (ahem) broke a bed in his father’s house, and yet he still wouldn’t say I love you. I loved him so much I had to hang on to hope that he would change his mind some day. And then, he was gone. He joined the Peace Corps and I never heard from him again. I’ve managed to find him online, a video even, as he is in politics. My heart leapt when I saw him, but then reality sank in – I would have been a very bad politician’s wife. He knew back in college that he would pursue that route. He must have known somewhere deep down, right? So he was trying to spare me . . . right?

  12. says

    Well, you just stirred up a boatload of memories, so before I commented I went to FaceBook and looked for that guy. Couldn’t find him. There were tons of guys with the same name…many kids. Now I wonder if one is a son. I more than likely most of us have “that guy” in our lives. It makes me thankful I am where I am. Good post, Sharon….sorry you found out that way.
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