Have you ever done something so awful, so hurtful, so despicable that your stomach churns and your heart pounds with fresh horror every time the realization washes over you again?
I have. It hit me today that I just may be a truly terrible person.
To tell the whole story, I have to go back twenty years to a point in my life when things were really not going well. Things had just ended with my first love, and I was learning to deal with my first taste of heartache. I was in a dead-end job with no foreseeable escape in the near future; I was lonely and desperately unhappy.
Then I met a Really Nice Guy. Not traditionally handsome, but cute. Big, soft eyes, an adorable smile, cute little dimples. Absolutely delicious silky brown hair that I just couldn’t keep my hands out of. He was tall and just pudgy enough to be a comfortable cuddler. He worked two jobs – sometimes three—and took care of his mother while keeping a watchful eye on his younger brother.
He was perfect on paper.
And oh, his kisses! With all due respect to Mr. First Love and to my ex-husband, I never knew anyone who could kiss like Mr. Nice. We could make out for hours, until my lips ached and my body quivered, and I still couldn’t bear to stop. I loved to stand and press myself against him while we kissed goodbye, because of the perfect way our bodies fit together. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the poor fellow took a lot of cold showers while we were together. To his credit, he never once pushed me for more, although I’m fairly sure it couldn’t have been easy for him to walk away after we got ourselves so worked up.
I wanted to fall in love with him. I tried to fall in love with him. I tried so hard. I told myself over and over that I must be falling in love with him, or I wouldn’t enjoy kissing him so much. He was a genuinely nice guy. Perfect in every way. Maybe I was still hurting from Mr. First Love. Maybe I was just waiting for some elusive, magical “spark.” Maybe I just wasn’t ready.
Whatever the reason, I . . . didn’t love him. So I broke up with him after stringing him along for far too long. I felt like a cruel and heartless bitch.
Probably because I was.
Over the years, I heard he got married, had kids. He got a teaching job at my old high school and even had my niece and nephew in his class.
Still a really nice guy.
Over the years, I got married, had kids, moved to a small town. Changed careers, lost a few loved ones, had some good times and some bad times.
Wrote a book.
I struggled to name my characters. I had to use names that were not too weird, but not too boring. Names that didn’t represent anyone currently in my life. People thought they recognized themselves in early drafts and were offended or flattered. The romantic hero’s name had to be changed because the ex-husband thought it was too close to Mr. First Love’s name (for the record, the similarity never crossed my mind). The heroine was too close to a friend’s teenage daughter. Everybody had something to say, an opinion to offer, and I paid too much attention to all of them.
I gave my heroine a real jerk of an ex-boyfriend. Couldn’t be Ken. Couldn’t be Mike. Not Tim, Jeff, Mitch, David, Rob, Jim, Evan, Steven or Joey. Not Brian, Carl, Kevin or Andrew. In desperation, I grabbed a name out of mid-air: Randy. There was no one in my life at that time who was named Randy. No one who could be offended. No resemblance to anyone alive or dead, right?
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I ran into Mr. Nice on Facebook. I spent a wonderful evening chatting with him, catching up on everything that had happened over the years. I remembered so many things about him, asked about his mother and brother and kids.
I really enjoyed talking to him. What a nice guy. He even bought a copy of my book.
And promptly “unfriended” me on Facebook.
Why, I wondered. What did I do wrong? What happened?
I was standing in the shower this morning when it hit me from out of nowhere.
He read my book. Randy read my book.
My ex-boyfriend Randy read my book with a horrible jerk of an ex-boyfriend named Randy.
I am a terrible person.
I can’t even begin to fathom how much that must have hurt him. I can’t apologize to him; even if he hadn’t blocked me on Facebook, what would I say? How would I explain it? Why would he ever believe me? He may be the nicest guy in the world, but nobody is that nice. He’s got his limits, and I crossed them.
I have felt sick all day as I keep thinking back over what I did to him. I am so, so sorry, but he will never know. I blew it, folks. I hurt the nicest guy in the world. Not deliberately, which would have been bad enough. I did it carelessly, thoughtlessly, which is even worse.
I don’t like myself very much right now.
I’m pretty sure Randy doesn’t like me very much either.