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