Broken Hearts & The Road Not Taken

CHAPTER 1:  This is how I broke my mother’s heart:  After graduate school, I announced I was leaving New York for good and heading out west, just so I could be with G, the man who had, by then, already broken my heart once.

G and I had been college sweethearts at a school near Boston.  I graduated a year ahead of him and moved to Maryland to pursue my Master’s, and missed him dearly, pining for him every waking moment.  I called him each night just to hear his voice and see how he was doing, certain that he ached for me, too.

Here I am, circa 1979, in front of the Smithsonian.

So sure was I that I decided to “surprise” him one weekend with an unexpected visit, only to find him with another woman.  He offered no explanations, no apologies.  Humiliated and distraught, I returned to Maryland, and the first thing I did was phone my parents. They urged me to come home. Whereupon, they made me feel, as only parents can do, loved and protected. I spent the rest of the weekend on a rollercoaster of crying jags and my mother’s comfort foods. When I returned to Maryland, I convinced myself that if I made G jealous, he just might reconsider the error of his ways.

So I started dating. First, a guy that worked for the CIA (nothing special, just a clerk of sorts). Then, one too young to be giving him the time of day. Another whose greasy hair reeked of patchouli and whose pimply nose flared when he kissed. What was I thinking?  I also attended concerts featuring bands I knew G liked, such as Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and would nonchalantly call him to tell him about it.  But none of my attempts worked.  He just didn’t care.

Slowly, I returned to concentrating on my studies, making friends at school, and finding myself an internship. I’d read in the college newspaper how The Little Professor Bookstore was planning on publishing a monthly newspaper of book reviews.  With nervous trepidation, I walked into the store and offered my services. I met the manager who took me to the back office and introduced me to Joe, the editor of the new publication. After a brief conversation, Joe made me assistant editor. Together we did everything—the editing, layout, ad copy, and overseeing the printing.  I even got a chance to write some book reviews, including one for a little-known Jacqueline Susann novel that had just been released posthumously, Yargo.

Joe and I had such a great time working on the book review. It was our passion. I felt as though I had found my calling and was doing what I was meant to do. Besides, I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I genuinely enjoyed doing something meaningful with someone as caring and supportive as Joe. Funny, too.

Judith (center) and Joe, with a friend (whose name I cannot recall) at our graduation barbecue.

And during this time, I stopped thinking about G.  Which is probably why he started calling again.  By now, he’d graduated and moved to Seattle. Feeling lonely, he asked me to join him. How could I, I wondered. My graduation was still a few months away and I was happy with my life in Maryland.  Joe constantly encouraged me, telling me I had a knack for writing and editing.  “Don’t leave,” he said more than once.  “We’re just getting started.”

School ended and my friend Judith, who also was graduating, threw a barbecue party that lasted well into the night. We gathered in her backyard, all our friends, and Joe.  With Jackson Browne on the record player, Joe and I danced amidst the fireflies, fluttering like ribbons all aglow. He urged me to stay, and though I was tempted to–for I’d never felt this content–the nagging pull of G was strong. With no viable job prospects in Maryland, I let my old feelings for him take control.  Which is why, in the end, I said goodbye to Joe, Judith and the little world I had carved out for myself.

So this is how I broke my mother’s heart.  By telling her I was moving to Seattle to be with G, the man who had dumped me in a most unceremonious way, and that we would be living together.  Which was horrifying news for my Latino, old-world parents, who must have been wondering, why would I subject myself to even more pain from this man?  Seems they were embarrassed, too, by my plans, for, in order to save face, they concocted a deception for the relatives: I was allegedly moving to Texas to stay with a girlfriend from college while I searched for a job.  That was their story and I promised to stick to it.

I broke my mother’s heart, and later, G would break mine. All over again.  And though I haven’t thought about the Little Professor Bookstore in years, and the excitement of working on the book review, I do wonder, what would my life be like today had I stayed?