We all have to make choices in life. I've always been pleased that I could look back over my life and not regret many of my choices. Even the ones that weren't so great played a role in making me who I am, so there aren't many I would change.
But there is one choice that I still think about from time to time, and wonder how my life would be different if I would have made the other choice. What if I had followed through with what I wanted to do, what I had planned to do, at the time?
I met him in an AOL chat room 17 years ago. He lived in upstate NY. I lived in southern California. We flirted online, and the flirting became sexual. Just talk, of course. Then it turned into weekly phone sex (sometimes more than just weekly). Still, it was just talk. What else could we do living at opposite corners of the country?
But I was in love. We were in love.
Communication was a bit different then than it is now. Those of you who are under 30 may want to sit down because this is probably going to shock you. We had online chat (at a very, very slow speed...remember 56K?) and telephone calls, and I'm talking about regular land lines. Cell phones were very uncommon then. They were typically called car phones and ordinary people didn't have them, so there was no texting or going for a walk and calling from around the corner. I did have a pager, though, so he could page me and I could call back or I could get myself to a phone where he could call me. To exchange photos, we had to take actual pictures, have them developed, and send them via snail mail (back then, it was simply known as "mail."). I sent panties. He sent me CDs that I would listen to for hours on end while I thought about him and how much I wished I could be with him. We read erotica and included it in our fantasies. He'd send me erotic books with hidden notes.
My husband asked to see my computer once when he was chatting with me and the words "I love you" popped up on the screen as my husband was looking. Yeah, that was a difficult one to explain, but I managed to explain it away (I am Kat, you know). From that point on, we used a sort of shorthand for "I love you." He selected a particular uncommon vegetable and we would use that word as our shorthand for "I love you." Eventually, we just started using the first letter of that word as our symbol for our profession of love for one another. No, I'm not going to tell you what the special word was because it's between him and me. It still means something to me. Yeah, call me sentimental if you want. Whatever.....
The phone sex was fantastic! He had (and still has) the most amazingly sexy phone voice I have ever heard. It wasn't long before just hearing his voice would get me wet. We had a standing time every week when he would call me. It was a night when my husband was out each week and I'd be home with my oldest (at that time only) child. I'd put the baby to bed and then go lie down in bed and wait for his call. I'd take off all my clothes and wait, fighting the urge to touch myself as I thought about him. Then the phone would ring. I'd answer and hear, "Hello," and I'd melt. Every time. The sex came first. I'd come a few times, he'd come, and then we'd just talk until it was approaching time for my husband to come home. As soon as I hung up the phone, I'd be looking forward to the next week's call.
Yes, he was married. He had already been married for a long time. I had been married for about 6 years. Talking to him was easy. Listening to him talk about his marriage, his work, and his life was even easier. He understood me. I didn't keep any secrets from him. and he still loved me knowing even the unpleasant stuff about me. It was remarkable to me because I didn't think anyone could.
His wife was an invalid and was very dependent on him, not just for his income, but for day to day assistance like cooking, cleaning, and helping her in and out of the tub. As the years went by, she became sicker and sicker. I knew he would never leave her. He made that very clear, and it was one of the things I admired about him.
I made a plan to take my young son and move to New York. I thought that I could rent an apartment near where he lived and if I couldn't be his wife, I'd be his mistress. He didn't have any children, and I wanted to give him children. I started investigating apartments and jobs and day care in his area. I thought about what I could take with me that could fit in two large suitcases because that's all I'd be taking. I starting thinking about how I would tell my mother, my friends, my husband. I started to think about when I should go.
It was the closest I have ever come, before or since, to actually leaving my husband.
I didn't tell my lover about all the plans I was making because I didn't want him to try and talk me out of it. He was sensible and responsible like that and I didn't want to hear it. I just wanted to be with this person who made me feel like no one had ever made me feel before - and he did it from 3,000 miles away. I was chatting with him recently and I finally told him about my plans back then and he was really surprised. He never knew how close I came to really being his.
I can't remember exactly what stopped me. I held onto the plans for another year or so and then I let them go. Our relationship had changed to more of a friendship, although we continued to have awesome phone sex whenever I traveled, and I never worked up the courage to take the steps I needed to take to put my plans into motion. I thought about how much I still loved my husband. What kind of woman leaves a man she still loves? That's crazy, right? I thought about how wrong it would be to take our son away to the other end of the country. What kind of mother does that?
So, I stayed on the path I was on, and the other path - the one that included moving to NY and following my heart and desire to be with this amazing man - became the road not taken. While I think about it from time to time, I don't regret the decision to stay.
But our story doesn't end there. We stayed in touch, on and off, for 17 years. I started seeing W (my first real affair; see My First Affair - Who, What, Where, When, and Why), but that didn't end our relationship. His wife passed away. That didn't end our relationship, either. I moved to northern California, had more children, started a business. He retired, traveled around the world, and settled in a nearby state with a girlfriend. None of that has ended the relationship. No, the relationship is not like it was in the beginning. We've both changed in some substantial ways. Sometimes we stop "talking" for significant periods of time. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other. His political beliefs annoy me now. Mine annoy him. In fact, we are so different that some of my friends have asked me why I'm even friends with that guy after they have followed some of our debates on Facebook.
What they don't know is that he holds a very special place in my heart.
What they don't know is that he is my dear friend and I love him.
Someday we may finally meet in person. Or maybe we won't. It doesn't matter. We share something very special and rare. It's a product of the early days of social media, and it has weathered almost a generation of change.
I have only truly loved 4 men in my life. My husband is one of them. This online and phone lover that I still have never met in person is another. How do you stop loving someone who has been an important part of your life for so long?
You don't. At least I don't.