Day 4: Husband Material

May 23rd, 2015

Joslyn Hamilton, freelance editor, Salt Lake City, Utah

I’m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

The year is 1998, and I am a 26-going-on-42. I’m single and in swift decline, ready to settle down for good as soon as possible. I live in Washington DC, not because I like it there, but because I just somehow ended up there… a pattern I will carry forward for the next 15 years, and potentially for the rest of my life.

I fear time is slipping away from me, and meanwhile, not a prospect in sight. The only guys I like at all in Washington DC are gay, plus that one cute enigma who works at the Japanese knick-knack store off Dupont Circle, also probably gay. I am bored out of my mind, and reading lots of Anais Nin. I am also most likely on antidepressants.

One May weekend, on a whim, I decide to drive my old maroon Jetta north to Vermont to spend some time with my old high school friends. At a party near Mt. Snow, I meet a guy. He’s really cute. He has dark, wavy, shaggy hair and sea-colored eyes. And he doesn’t give me the time of day. Naturally, I can’t resist this, and in a move uncharacteristic of myself, I throw myself at him.

While he is exceedingly standoffish, there are glimpses of emotion that draw me in. He’s shy, quiet, aloof. But his eyes go deep. Late at night, in the dark, he twirls my hair through his fingers and tells me he’s never felt hair so soft. He says this with wonder and not a trace of guile. 

A few weeks later, I lure him to DC with tickets to the Tibetan Freedom Festival. It’s 1998 and we all care deeply about the problems in Tibet, although we aren’t totally sure what they are. The shaggy-haired dreamboat takes the bait, but once he arrives in town, his seeming disinterest in me kicks up a notch. Which only makes me more determined to make him mine.

Although he’s not exactly husband material.

He works for the EPA, living out of the back of his pickup truck as he collects water samples in off-the-grid places all up and down the eastern seaboard. Every winter, he picks a different ski town to land in. He doesn’t have a cell phone — no one does. It’s 1998. The only way I can get in touch with him is to call his mom, who of course I have never met. I find out later that I am far from the only hopeful contender making his mom’s rotary phone in Pennsylvania ring. “Is Jonny there?” “No, dear.” My journals from that time refer to him as “the hot nomad.”

Jonny Mac

Another nomad in my life, my old friend Joe, also shows up at my house that weekend. He calls me from a payphone on I-95 to tell me he needs a place to crash for a few days. Jonny and Joe become fast friends and eat mushrooms at the benefit concert. They forget to tell me this, and I spend the entire day looking for them after they immediately vanish. Hours later, they resurface at my house and spend the rest of the night playing guitar and watching basketball.

The next morning, Jonny tells me he is cutting his visit short to go rock climbing with Joe in the next state. I spend the day in bed, inconsolable, cursing Joe.

Still, I wait for Jonny to call.  And he does call—once. He tells me he is moving to Utah for the winter, to ski. He seems utterly disinterested in me, his call a cursory obligatory follow-up. I decide to invest in some pride and take a hint.

Seven years later, I see him at our mutual friend’s wedding.  He still lives in Utah. He is married; I am not. My heart races when I see him—some sort of an amalgam emotion comprised of panic and attraction. He has buzzed his dark, wavy hair short to his head. He’s cleaned up, wearing khakis and a navy button-up shirt. His wife is freckle-faced, vaguely pretty, wholesome. I hear he is in nursing school, settling down after all.

I am one of two bridesmaids, and have to stand in the receiving line, where I beg the bride—my best friend—to let me take a bathroom break as he and his wife inch up in the line. She makes me stay put. I am mortified. Obligatory greetings are exchanged, and then I spend the entire rest of the wedding avoiding them, acting out sideways by getting really drunk and publicly making out with several people over the course of the evening. Jonny doesn’t seem to notice me at all. He goes to bed early while the rest of us watch the sun rise.

I later find out that he saw me one last time—the day after the wedding. I was driving away in a big black truck, braced against the door with my head against my hand, obviously hungover. He was in the next lane on Route 91, driving to the airport. He felt a pang of regret as I passed. I didn’t see him. 

Years later, looking for photos from that wedding, which took place before the days of iPhones and Instagram, I come across only one. I am in the foreground, smiling, in a hideous green bridesmaid dress. He is in the shadows behind me, with a buzz cut, looking serious.

Jonny and I at Karen's wedding

Facebook is invented. I reconnect with tons of old friends, until I have nearly 1,000 connections. I’ll pretty much accept any friend request. But when Jonny’s tiny face pops up in the “friends you may know” box, for literally years, I ignore it and feel a strange combination of regret and embarrassment that I stuff down.

But then, one day, in August of 2013, I get a friend request from Jonny.

Without pausing to weigh the ramifications or to try to be cool, I immediately click “accept.” Soon, he sends me a private message. He still lives in Utah, all these years later. And he’s getting a divorce.

At this point, I consider myself basically dead inside. Relationship after bad relationship after live-in boyfriend after cross-country move, I have never made a good decision in my life. Now, I am alone in a tiny cottage in Marin County, just outside of San Francisco, with my two cats. I am 3,000 miles from where we first met  and well aware of what a cliché I have turned into. Things have not, in fact, turned out at all as I had hoped. I never got married. I never had kids. I no longer date at all. I am profoundly dispirited.

Yet, cautiously, Jonny and I begin to converse. A message every other day, then every day, then sometimes more than once a day. We reacquaint. Or rather, we get to know each other for the first time.  On a hunch, we jump in.

In October, he “coincidentally” comes to the Bay Area, where I live, to see a concert with his old friend Arlo—the same friend who first introduced us, 15 years ago, and who is still one of my best friends, and who happens to live, all these years later, in the next town over from me, across the country from where we grew up.

This is how it begins again. Now, I am 43. He is 46. I live with him in Utah, and he is turning out to be husband material after all.    

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7 Responses to “Day 4: Husband Material”

  1. Mary says:

    Gorgeous. This made me so happy, I am sharing it with everyone!

  2. Mary says:

    Gorgeous. I love this so much, I am sharing it with everyone!

  3. Patrice says:

    Hi Josylyn,

    I LOVE this story. I am so glad you and Vanessa are doing some writing again. I am really enjoying reading it these last few days. Have a good day!
    Patrice

  4. Sydney says:

    But we need the rest of the story- it’s too good! Feeling your shine.

  5. Lori Benjamin says:

    This makes me want to find that guy in Paris. 1992 … heh, heh. Loving these, Jocelyn!

  6. Lori Benjamin says:

    Joslyn … :(

  7. [...] It’s funny that I moved here to have kids and get married. And I am very happy to have ended up with my husband and my two beautiful twin daughters. It was a happy turn of fate—not the inevitable end to a lifetime of seeking, but an unexpected surprise. My husband was simply the right one at the right time (although once, he was the right one at the wrong time).  [...]

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