Apr 30

Day 29: Covet

I walked up to her when I was 16 years old in the Biology Lab of St. Thomas Aquinas High School.  It was a sunny fall day, and my mood was light.  I caught her attention with a “Hey,” then asked her the question,  “Are you an airhead or what? I hear you are an airhead.”

It was the least awkward things I had done in my life, like I was supposed to do it. There was no pressure, no fear. I don’t know if I had even had a crush on her then.  I just know she has pretty eyes and lovely ankles. It was the ankles that caught my attention, but they didn’t explain why I was smooth and confident.


I might have started out with a really stupid question, but airhead was actually a word we used that year. To me, it was not a term of derision, but more an indication of an ethereal, light-hearted person like myself. At the time, it was not sexist and it surely wasn’t actually flirting, was it?

Then she laughed. And I lost my heart. Everything became flirting.

She laughed so loud most students in the room turn to look at us.  She laughed so loud she lifted her hands in front of her mouth to stifle it.  Her big, pretty eyes – already big and brown and full of depth and sadness and hope and …something else — opened wider than before.  She continued to laugh.  Her shoulders shook with each breath.

I do not remember how she answered, but I feel I should.

I was too busy realizing I had found my perfect girl. And she found something she wasn’t expecting.

We never actually dated in the traditional sense. We spent hours on the phone. We spent evenings sitting in her living room.  She dated two other guys in our school over the next two years. One of them was a track star who looked like he stepped out of a teen movie. The track star told me one day after they broke up, “Go tell her how you feel. You are all she talks about. She likes you a lot.”

I did that. The next Tuesday I asked her out on a date for the weekend.  She turned me down saying she was going camping with her family.  Two more weeks, I did the same thing.  Two more times she turned me down. I dropped it, realizing she was being nice and trying not to hurt my feelings.  We were still constant companions and I was every day, in love with her.  And obviously she just thought of me as a friend. We had adventures at the beach and I took her to poetry readings. I even listened to Kiss, a band I didn’t really love, because it was a band she loved.

I graduated and started dating other women, but I wasn’t far from her.  The autumn of my freshman year I worked for her mother who ran a fruit basket company. I delivered fruit baskets. For her mother. So we could be close.

I remember one day that winter sitting around with her in her living room. The wall facing the bay window was tiled with mirror.  The topic of camping came up, and she sighed.  “Remember that one time my dad took us camping every weekend? That lasted like 10 weeks! That sucked.”

I remembered.

There was no sin in unrequited love, but this love was not unrequited.  I was just a coward, more concerned with protecting my feelings than opening myself to hers.

Our closeness faded as she fell into a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse and began a relationship with someone who dragged her down further.  Her engagement to the marine had a paper arrangement, and had not lasted long.  Her new relationship had a hopeless to it.

The last time I saw her in that early era was to introduce her to my new girlfriend, who described the situation as being uncomfortable because my friend obviously loved me more than anyone in the world, and it was palpable.

I never stopped thinking of her. Questions lingered for years. Had I failed her for not being there at her lowest points? How many chances had I blown? Had I given up other chances for young romance, fixated on her? And the worst question was, “Had I imagined our closeness?”

I would hear the song, “What A Fool Believes,” and my heart would bleed a little, figuring that there was no connection and nothing was ever really lost. Other times I would hear a Kiss song and feel she would be there waiting if I drove to her childhood home announced.

In adulthood, I contacted her and found she remembered me. And against any reasonable odds, she has been waiting for me to come for her.

For months, we corresponded over the internet and through phone calls. She had left the first, horrible husband and was remarried to what appeared to be a great and lucky guy.  I finally saw her again in the Summer of 2001.  This is not the story of that reunion or the lifelong rift that developed between us that summer.

This is the story of how I coveted her from afar through so many years.  Like King David I had seen another man’s wife in her emotional nakedness, alone on a roof, and I wanted her to be mine.

Maybe I could have taken her if I tried. I was a coveting man though, not an adulterer. She was a coveting woman, not an adulteress. Coveting is not desire or lust. Desire and lust are merely the mechanism of one body imagining another.  No name, no story, nothing else. Just…WANT. Coveting is about the specifics — the idealization and elevation of the other and the attachment to the lust. If religion is the deification of a civilization, coveting is the deification of that desire.  Beloved and loving raised to an art form.

She died, divorced, in 2015.  That’s all I know about her death.

But I live with the longing, the pining, the loss, and a new set of questions.

All because I wanted someone who was always somebody else’s.

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