ran into my first girlfriend at the grocery store last night. Well, I didn't actually run into her. When I spotted her frowning at a beet in the produce aisle, I slammed my cart into reverse and hid behind a display of mangos until she left the store.
I have planned my life carefully over the past decade so that a chance meeting like this would never take place. Thanks to the Internet, I've been able to track her movements and chart a course that would keep me well out of her radar field. Some people might call this behavior 'creepy.' But I prefer to think of it as preventative stalking.
To this day, fifteen years after we first kissed on the University of Chicago campus in front of a statue commemorating the first sustained atomic reaction ( how could I have not known at that moment that the relationship was doomed? ) , the slightest reminder of her still gives me heart palpitations. A couple weeks ago, I drove past the exit to Chinatown, where we had our final date, and I was flooded with the type of melancholy usually reserved for gray Sunday afternoons, when all you want is for it to be Saturday morning again.
By the time we spent that evening in Chinatown, I already knew that she was involved with a man and was 'ambivalent about her sexuality.' ( She didn't seem all that ambivalent the week before, when she stuffed her hand down my shirt in front of a group of school kids at the birds of prey exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo. But, I digress. ) None of that mattered that night. I was newly gay and emboldened with the rapture that comes from learning something completely thrilling about yourself. It was like I suddenly discovered I was a superhero armed with the special power to love only her and be a really good kisser. I wasn't going to let a little thing like a penis get in the way of our happiness. But, apparently, my girlfriend and the penis had other plans.
Every lesbian has a first girlfriend story and they almost always end badly. Maybe it's because these first relationships are too powerful to sustain for any length of time. They're like splitting the atom—blinding in its mighty beauty, but ultimately capable of destroying the world.
And that's what this relationship did—it obliterated my little universe. But, as my mother has always told me, there is nothing that can't be cured by a hot bath and a long nap. After several years of constant bathing and snoozing, I started to feel better.
From my detective work, I knew that my first girlfriend had gotten married, had a couple of kids, and moved to a posh suburb several miles from my home in the city. That's why I was so shocked to see her in a grocery store in my gritty neighborhood. As I watched her leave the store I had a thought—a crazy thought, the type of thought plump with foolish optimism that used to cloud my brain when I first met her. Maybe, I thought, she has done some preventative stalking of her own and she stopped at this store in hopes of seeing me. After all, I was her first girlfriend, too, and once you've split that atom, the energy surges through the universe forever, impossible to contain.