Keepsakes From A Past Love
Years ago, I moved to a different continent under the guise of attending college – the truth is I was going through a rebellious stage and wanted to prove to myself that I could survive all on my own in the big bad world. Plus I was running away from a boy whom I was immensely crazy about but who was crazy about someone else. So I did what very few 19-year olds would do, I didn’t just move to across the country, I moved across the world to a whole new continent.
If my mother felt sad, she never showed it. She wished me luck as I packed up my bags, gave me a hug and sent me off. I found myself in Alabama with just tuition and a few basic needs and absolutely no friends and family. But I am a social person by nature and before long I had made a handful of friends. I was living in the only International dorm on campus and before long a British boy caught my eye.
Had you told me I would end up dating this guy, I would have laughed hard at you. He simply wasn’t my type. He was a whole year younger than me and a tad too sweet – and I was going through the necessary bad boy phase every girl goes through at some point in life. Plus he had this annoying crush on Britney Spears – back in her “Hit Me Baby One More Time” phase. I never imagined in a million years I would fall for this sweet boy, and yet fall I did. I fell so hard being without him actually hurt. Like real, physical pain.
This British boy was my first relationship. My first serious relationship. He is that guy who set the standard I have measured every guy in life against since I met him. Most guys have fallen short of the standard he set, one or two have come pretty close to meeting his standard but no one has ever really met the high standard this guy set. I was lucky he was my first relationship. He treated me like a queen. He treated me the way I would like a man to treat my daughter, if I ever have one. He was smart, respectful, loving, attentive, caring, affectionate and every other single good word you can think of to describe a human being. In one word he was perfect.
And out of all the girls on campus, he chose to date me. Not only did he date me but about five months into our courtship, he asked me to become his wife. He proposed without a ring, I actually thought he was joking. We were hanging out in the game room in our dorm one evening with a whole bunch of people when he whispered “will you marry me” in my ear. I laughed, because I thought it was a joke, and said yes and promptly went back to watching the game of pool happening before us.
A few months later when I visited his family for the first time, I woke up to my first snow storm ever – where I originally come from, the sun shines all year long and I had never seen a single flake of snow. But on that very cold morning, all snowed in with nothing to do but watch TV and talk, my love woke me up and told me to look outside my window and there in the deep snow he had written the words “I love you, will you marry me”. And then he presented me with a ring – two rings actually. One silver and one gold. Placed on top of each other, they made a beautiful set. I was thrilled.
A few months after that proposal, fear set in. Commitment has always scared me mainly because I have yet to see a single happy couple or what qualifies as a healthy relationship in my life. I see couples fighting, cheating, bad mouthing each other and generally just being mean to each other. And when we got back from England, all I could think of was “oh my gosh we are going to turn into that couple that hates each other”. So my mind went into overdrive looking for ways to sabotage the relationship. I looked for arguments where there were none, I made up fights and picked every little thing apart and being the sweet guy he is, he never once fought back which really infuriated me. Fighting just wasn’t in this guy’s DNA and he always managed to remain calm even when I was raging and foaming at the mouth.
In a very short time I went from being the girl he fell in love with to a certified bitch and yet not once was he mean to me. I am not proud of that period in my life. I am not proud of the way I acted and I am certainly not proud of the way I treated him. He deserved better, so much better. The final straw for him wasn’t the fact that I had turned into a crazy bitch but it happened on a regular weekday – probably a Tuesday or Wednesday. I went to my Biology Lab class and while conducting an experiment, one of my rings accidentally fell into the sink and down the drain. I never recovered it and that evening, sitting in our tiny one-bedroom apartment, I had to look my fiancé in the eye and tell him what had happened. I don’t think for one second he believed what had happened was an accident, to him this was my final act in sabotaging the relationship and he was officially done with the whole relationship not long after that.
To this day, over 11 years since that fateful day, I still keep the other ring. I didn’t return it when the engagement ended. I still carry it with me in my wallet. I have never tried it on since the day things ended between us. I have told a lover or two about it but I mostly just keep it to myself. It’s one of the treasured keepsakes from a past love – a love so great that was cut short by my immaturity. I still hold onto other keepsakes from that relationship – a black and white picture of us taken in his dorm room about two weeks after we first officially became a couple. He is hugging me from the back and we are both smiling hard and ofcourse there is a Britney Spears picture in the background. I also still have a picture of him sitting in a chair with a big smile plastered on his face – that’s the picture he gave me the night I had to fly back to the States an entire day before him. He said he didn’t want me feeling lonely and he hoped looking at his picture would remind me that someone loved me.
My most treasured keepsake from my love is something I kept with me until a few years ago. When things started getting serious between us, he made me a scrapbook with all our dreams – the places we wanted to visit, where we’d eventually settle down and even the names we had picked for our kids. It was detailed, it was thoughtful, and it’s the best gift anyone has ever given me to this day. I kept it locked in a desk drawer and came across it the month I filed for divorce from my then husband. I allowed myself to fantasize about the road not taken. I wondered about the British boy and what had happened to him. Our break up was so brutal than we still don’t speak to this day. But that day I summoned up the courage to look him up on Facebook. By looking at the few pictures he had made public, he seemed happy. I sent him a long overdue note apologizing for being a bitch and thanking him for being a truly awesome man. I specifically told him I was not looking to reconnect but I wanted him to know how incredibly sorry I was for my behavior then. He didn’t respond. I haven’t bothered him since then but every once in a while I say a prayer for him and wish him all the happiness in the world because if there is anyone who deserves it, it’s him.
Often people ask me why I hold onto my engagement ring while I didn’t hold onto my wedding band and to me the answer is pretty simple – the engagement ring is a constant reminder that I should never settle for less when it comes to dating. It’s a symbol of how a man should treat me. I know this because I had a great guy show me how a girl is really supposed to be treated. I just wish back then I had been mature enough to treat him the way a man should be treated. It’s a little too late for him and I to go back in time and repair that relationship but every time I look at that engagement ring and other keepsakes from my past lover, I vow to myself that if I ever meet another man who treats me as well as he did or even better, if that’s possible, I will be the best girlfriend that man has ever had.