A Memory That Makes It Worth It All

Recently and often, I’ve gotten misty-eyed thinking about the “what if.” What if I knew then what I know now, say at eighteen?


Last night, I really pulled apart the thought. I put it on a table like a frog on a plate in my high school biology class, and it waited for me to dissect it. I bet they don’t do that anymore. I mean, with the digital age and all. I’m sure they can find another way to teach the same lesson.


Anyway, I traveled up and down several avenues and arrived at the same conclusion–I would have to be reborn to different people to have a different outcome. Because we start before we can do anything about who we become, before we realize who we are. 


Get it?


If not, read that last sentence again, very slowly. 


So, last night I went to bed after 2:00 a.m. listening to Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell. Like, I’m on this Lisa Jewell kick right now. I respect her work. So…emotionally intelligent. The slow grinding process of getting humanity. I call it feet-on-the-ground authoring.  


At the end of the book, the heroine of modern days and the hero of modern days simply kiss. And when it happens, it sets off the fireworks in my heart and tears in my eyes. Because I have seen him be so afraid to fall in love and to believe that he’s not worthy. And I have seen her pull from the good stuff within to make the right decision. I’m ordering the book so that I can read the written version. I must see this beautiful story, consume its words.


Anyway, for some reason, that story led me to a memory. I was eighteen, and he was nineteen, tall, gorgeous, just beautiful. He had long lashes and eyes that seemed to fall in love with me anew whenever he looked at me. And oh my God, could he smirk. I’ve never seen a smirk like his, ever. I had never been so in love. And it was more than youth; it was him. 


One night, the Commodores came to our post in Korea. I remember what I had on–ripped, faded, bleached spotted jeans and a white turtleneck cotton shirt. I loved the turtlenecks back then. 

Anyway, a song started up. I had never heard the song before, but he had. We were in the crowd, in front of the stage, having a good time dancing and just being glassy-eyed happy. But then, that song started, and he took me by the hand, quickly guiding me past all of those bodies until we were far beyond them. Standing in a field of grass, he gathered me in his arms. I still remember what he smelled like, felt like. I used to love to put my ear on his chest and listen to him talk, laugh, and even breathe.


And he said, this is for you, or something like that as the Commodores sang, “Your once, twice, three times a lady, and I love you…” 


I don’t know…


That memory never leaves. It guides me when I write romance. Because I have been loved thoroughly and beautifully and admirably. Memories of him guide me when I write romance. He was pure. Unsullied by bad relationships. When he was trusting. Once, he saved a girl from getting raped. True story… He was on CQ duty, and he and I were sitting at the desk. The girl came in drunk with a guy she had never hung out with–they weren’t in each other circles. I remember him asking, “What’s X doing with Y?”

And I was like, “I don’t know.” I didn’t see it. But he had. He had street smarts that I didn’t possess–this maturity. 

He went upstairs and caught X trying to take off Y’s blouse. (I remember their names, but I won’t speak them because of the sensitive nature of what almost occurred. But I will never forget their names. I will always see their faces. I will never forget that night.)


So, he was a hero too.


And so today, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t want to live a different life than the one I have lived because that experience with him wouldn’t exist. And I want my memories of him to exist. I want him to exist just as he was then–in all his beautiful glory.


I’ve learned that we become stained by true love. If you experienced it, like really experienced it, then it’s on you. It can’t be washed or scrubbed off–it’s beautiful staining.  Noting or no one has ever beat that beautiful boy-man that I met so long ago, who sat with great posture, made smoking a cigarette look sexy, and cursing poetic.




And so I will never ponder “What if” ever again! 


Much ❤️Z.L.