I don't have many things from former beaus (beaux?) floating around anymore. Time and a few well-strategized man-detoxes (detaux?) have cleared out many of the trinkets, jewelry and somehow-leftover socks from the corners of my home.
There remains, however, this. This is a lovely pewter fairy who hangs from invisible string from the mirror in my bathroom. It has hung delicately from mirrors in my apartments for fifteen years. And yes, when I see it, I sometimes think of the man who sent it to me.
That isn't an unpleasant thought anymore. That relationship was a long time ago during a different time when I accepted and even encouraged a kind of drama I no longer tolerate. It all -- the man, the relationship, the time, the chaos -- served a purpose. It taught me why saying no is so important, particularly when you are in love. It taught me to walk away when things felt off-kilter for too long. It taught me that no matter how often some pot-smokers swear they will cut back or quit or put you first, the frozen Snickers bar in freezer is a dead giveaway that it will never happen.
See? Valuable lessons, all tied up there with invisible string and patina.
We ended things after too many months of seeing other people and fighting on front porches and driving by each other's houses -- all those ridiculous things that seem normal and heart-crazy when you're in your early 20s. Finally, I moved away. Far away. Across the country-far away.
And just before I left, he told me he was moving, too. With his new girlfriend. Just about a half-hour from where I was packing up to live.
I was irate. I was on the phone at work, where I was a receptionist in an office full of men, but I snapped. I screamed into the phone that he would not be moving there. My co-workers peeked around the corner to see if I was OK.
And eventually, I was. I mailed 30 boxes to Oregon and he and his lady-friend turned south toward California. I was still angry back then but I was moving on to grad school and older men and not him. Still, he occasionally sent me cards and letters. I didn't respond.
Then one day, a package arrived. Inside was a note about seeing this at a farmers market, thinking of me. It was taped to a hastily wrapped pile of rough tissue paper that held this fairy.
I loved the fairy. I hated the gesture. Or, I hated that I wanted to keep the fairy so badly.
So I hung it up for a while, just a short while, rationalizing that it was very much me.
Fifteen years later, she's still flying around quietly where I live. The ex-boyfriend has flitted in and out of my life a few times over the years. We exchanged emails for a while when I was getting divorced -- banter that felt familiar but wasn't enough to sustain very long. Another year, we had friendly drinks during which I discovered he was still that same infuriating man who half-wraps the right gift and then ambles off to dig aorund in the freezer.
I didn't miss him. I still don't. But it's never been time to release the winged lady who connects us.
I like to think she reminds me that I am the one who lifted off, I have lots of practice at flying away, my wings are at the ready. But she could also be saying, "You were there once. And now you are here." Or, "Accept the gifts, even when you're not fond of the person who send them your way."
Whatever the message or lesson, she hangs patiently in a place where I have seen her several times a day for plenty of years. She's consistent and sweet and tied mostly to my own reflection now.