In her drunkenness, Sabrina suggested we all kiss each other to gauge the level of chemistry between us. When it was my turn to kiss her, I felt a wild sense of exhilaration and danger like I was teetering on the edge of the tallest skyscraper. Because the kiss lingered long, my date huffed: "OK, OK. We get it" and then ran upstairs to the bathroom, just long enough for Sabrina to ask for my number.
As the weeks turned into months, the crude notion that she'd be nothing more than a post-break-up fling gave way to the first inkling of love. I'll never forget the moment that feeling spread through me like heroin, levitating me into an unfamiliar universe, where all that I wanted most was within reach.
She was wearing a tattered orange Mets shirt as a nightgown and was sitting on the edge of her bed, sharing all sorts of personal treasures with me -- a photograph of her three-year-old self, an '80s Polaroid of her family on vacation, her prized Simpsons' figurines, and a favorite comic book. It was like we were in kindergarten and it was her turn to show-and-tell. While her back was turned to me, she leaned down to pick up another trinket of some kind and in that moment, staring at the sweet silhouette of her beautiful back, I felt, for the first time ever, the most exquisite adoration for a person I could touch.
Three and a half years in, my love for Sabrina has replaced all the others. But a new longing lingers -- one rooted, ironically, in having the woman I've always wanted and not believing our passion is sustainable or mutual.
My self-protective instincts tell me not to lean on the ephemeral nature of romantic love and to prepare for its perfect happiness to end. But the tension between not wanting it to end and believing it inevitably will leaves me in a limbo of longing that electrifies each moment with the bittersweet awareness that it may be the last. In a funny way it works in the service of maintaining the excitement of new love. So, too, oddly, does my belief that romance is always a lopsided affair.
I'm convinced that romantic relationships are never mutual. One person is always pining after the other, and that person, of course, is me. No matter how often or loudly or sincerely Sabrina expresses her desire and devotion, I can't quite believe that she loves me as much as I love her. While that translates into pangs of jealousy and imagined threats -- does she still yearn for her first love? Is her love swayable under someone else's gaze? -- it also sustains the flush of adrenaline that comes in the competitive chase for her affection. Her love feeds me just enough to feel nourished, but always leaves me hungry for more.
A month after my dad died, my mother got a call from Adel. A mutual friend told him of my father's passing. In the four lengthy conversations that ensued, my mom learned that Adel had taken up with some Hare Krishnas. He told my mom that his priest divined that it was God's will that he and my mom should wed when she, 54 at the time, turned 62 and that they should wait one year following my dad's death to see each other. But my mom, who'd waited 35 years for this moment, was done with waiting. She let him go for the second and final time, but she still longs for what might have been.