I remember when I first met my lover. I was an earnest 23, barely a year out of university, and Alex was a young man of 27. We both worked for a large Fortune 500 company.
I was flown to company headquarters to take part in a sales training course. There was a couple dozen fresh-faced twenty-something’s, eager to demonstrate our sales expertise and network with upper management at the hallowed halls of corporate.
Our instructors for the course were up and coming managers, expressly picked for the assignment for their sales acumen, charisma, and corporate vision.
Alex, with his broad shoulders, athletic grace, and easy smile, readily stood out from the other moderators. He was blond, with twinkling, inquisitive eyes, and he surveyed us with a friendly, open gaze. I liked him immediately and my sales radar registered, “sharp guy.”
The next few days were busy with sales and role-playing exercises, how to work with prospects and clients, how to close the deal. Rigorous, methodical sales training but the moderators kept it light and moving along.
On the last day, I woke up in agony. Several years earlier, I had been diagnosed with endometriosis and occasionally suffered bouts of debilitating cramping. Knowing that calling out sick was not an option, I pulled on my suit and stumbled in my heels into training. I knew I was pale but I maintained my composure and applied myself to the tasks at hand. I looked up to see Alex eyeing me curiously. Embarrassed, I looked away and started a conversation with a teammate. Suddenly I heard a quiet voice say, “Put your feet up on this, you might feel better.” It was Alex, and he had moved a chair toward my legs. I was speechless and completely moved by his sensitivity. I muttered, thanks, and dutifully swung my feet onto the chair. He was quietly kind to me throughout the day, without calling attention to me.
At the time, I simply thought he just being thoughtful, looking out for his “flock”, so to speak, and really didn’t think I’d run into him again. He lived in Boston, I lived in Pittsburgh, and worked in different districts so no reason to interact. So I thought.
A few months later, Jenny, one of the other reps in Pittsburgh, came back from the same training very excited and all atwitter. She had met this “fabulous” guy at training, he was one of the moderators, and he was coming to Pittsburgh as he had an account here that he had to call on every month. We would be taking him out for a night on the town. Since I lived near the airport, I was going to be picking him up and meeting up with everyone. I said, no problem, who is this wonderful person? With the exaggerated infatuation that only a 23 year old can have, Julie nearly swooned when she said his name, “Alex!”
“Amalie, you had him too, when you went through training. He remembers you!” I was taken aback. “Really?” I was surprised, I was one of so many young sales people at the training and he was an up and coming manager with the company. It seemed extraordinary that I would stand out. I was flattered.
As scheduled, I picked up Alex at the airport. Conversation was lively and friendly and he was exactly as I remembered. A bit taller and still as good looking. When we met up with the other girls, the games began. I have never seen such fawning and flirting in all of my life. Alex was the center of such attention! I almost felt sorry for him. My friends were jockeying to sit next to him, to buy him drinks, it was amazing. It was as if someone had cast a spell over them and I watched in amusement as they all tried to one-up each other for his charms. Alex handled it all with aplomb and didn’t become cocky or even seem to notice.
But I did, and my interest grew. So I stayed cool. I remembered some background on Alex that I had gleaned at training, that he was an English major in college. I had a strong English background, having been in AP English in high school, and almost majoring in English myself. So I casually dropped a few literary allusions in the conversation. Bingo! Attention successfully caught! Soon, Alex sidled up to my side and we were deeply ensconced in conversation. Woebegone faces soon surrounded us. But we were too entranced to notice.
The evening ended with me driving Alex back to his hotel. We sat in my luxury Aries company car with the vinyl bench seat and chatted for what seemed like hours. As he prepared to leave, we paused and looked at each other. The kiss was inevitable.
As our lips met, mighty Zeus looked down from Mount Olympus, carefully aimed his lightning bolt and struck home. My Aries car shook, we trembled, and everything shimmered with the impact of that lightning strike. Pause now for the operatic aria.
So, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but that is what it felt like. I’d been kissed before but never like this. It was gentle, passionate, searching, loving and possessive, all at the same time. Every inch of my body was on fire and tingling. The last thing I wanted to do was try to drive home. I had this sudden clarity of “this is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with”—I just felt it with such assuredness. This from a girl who was fiercely independent, wasn’t going to get married until she was at least 35, was defined by her career, blah, blah, blah, and more BLAH.
I don’t know how long the kiss lasted, (a moment? Forever?) but the repercussions were felt to this day. No one has loved me, devastated me, supported me, understood me, more than Alex. He is the love of my life. It has been an unconventional relationship, one I don’t think many people would understand. But it is not for others to judge or approve.
That kiss, ah, I can still taste it, feel it, even today. The hair on my arms stands up at the memory of it. It still has that power to thrill me. And so does the man.
When I was very small and wanted to disappear, to break free of it all, I would go to our backyard and climb onto my swing. I’d pump my legs furiously, climbing higher and higher into the sky, leaning back, eyes gazing into the clouds, feet feeling as if they were grazing the tree tops. My girlish voice would peal at the top of my lungs, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morrrrning!” I could spend hours on that swing, feeling the exhilarating wind in my face, the sun on my skin, and everything else would just fall away.
I’ll call myself Amalie. It is my mother’s name. Not that she is French, she’s actually mostly White Russian. When I told my lover that, he murmured, “White Russian, eh, that explains a lot!” Her name is the result of a typo on her birth certificate. Her mother was called Molly so we think that was supposed to be her true name.
At the core of it, I ached to get away from my typical middle-class, suburban upbringing, where athleticism and cheerleading seemed to rein supreme and reading books and a large vocabulary were suspicious and strange. I often walked home alone, trailing behind the other students, struggling with an unwieldy stack of library books. I was taller than most of the other girls, as tall as most of the boys and I remember cringing in 5th grade when my Catholic school girl uniform was yanked up by some mischievous boy, “would he notice that I already have hair on my vagina??”, hidden though it was by my white cotton panties. My breasts had already betrayed me, signaling my all too rapid entry into woman-hood at an all too early age. I simply wasn’t ready. Not for the gawking boys who gazed openly at my breasts, even the men who glanced sheepishly, looked away, then looked again.
My parents didn’t know what to make of me. Who was this changeling child that they had brought into this world? Both my parents were stolid, unimaginative, realistic, and somewhat critical. They loved us dearly, though, and believed that participation in organized sports promised entry into Heaven, or at least turned you into a promising human being. It was unfathomable to them that I shied away from anything athletic. They couldn’t understand that the last thing I wanted to do was run in public with my errant, bouncing breasts or try not to stumble with my too quickly growing and awkward limbs. My parents and I fought over sports ad nauseum and I soon began to hate them, never mind what I thought about gym class. Oh, the horror!
One day, the most popular boy in grade school, the one I had an unbearable crush on, circulated a survey around the school. “Do you hate Amalie Garvoille, Yes or No”. When it was passed to me by a smirking classmate during Social Studies, I covered my face in shame and despair and collapsed in silent, shaking sobs on my desk. What was wrong with me? Why was I so maligned? Was I really so terrible?
As a result, school became a place to be dreaded, and I carefully and fearfully navigated the social potholes that I seemed so ill-prepared to avoid.
As I write this, I stop and my fingers hesitate on the keys. Why relive all of this? I have moved on from this and succeeded in so many ways. But every journey has its first step, every story has its genesis. Thus I was formed.
So it begins. This blog won’t have any true starting point. I don’t have any particular measure of my life that I wish to dissect and share. It will be more a series of snapshots, of moments dealing with the difficulties of illness, body image and weight gain, self-esteem, sexual fulfillment and exploration, relationships and at times, abject loneliness. And the joy of breaking free of it all. In short, a life, my life.