A couple of years ago, I came up with a theory about old flames: Like sneezes, bad news and abysmal Hollywood sequels, old flames seemed to pop back into my life in threes. Depending on the timing and the circumstances, this has been either comical and fun or just plain too much chaotic drama to rock the boat of an already teetering current relationship.
At the time I first formalized my theory, my most recent ex was repeatedly asking me to hang out while exhibiting date-like behavior, yet declaring himself to the world “undateable.” Then he shocked me with a sleep over invitation, something I couldn’t even always count on during our time as a couple. Around the same time, the man who had really been by my best friend through all the harrowing health challenges the previous four months was finally giving me the signs that he was ready to take action on what he’d been hinting on the entire year before—that he seriously wanted me to reconsider ending the committed relationship we’d had for two years. Finally, the ridiculously sexy motocross athlete, with whom I’d had a brief fling after that committed relationship ended, rode back into town—and into my life, unfortunately under tragic circumstances.
One old flame at a time was sometimes more troublesome than I’d wish, but still manageable. In triplicate, old flames threatened to swallow me in overwhelming wildfire.
Old Flames Return
So last week, when The European waved his tempting flag of invitation in the air after the lovely budding of a new relationship, I wasn’t overly surprised to also hear from The Music Man. Ever since we broke up a little more than two years ago, after a tumultuous six months of dating, he has shown varying degrees of regret for not being fully appreciative of us in the moment. So when he dropped the bomb on me that he feared he might have skin cancer, which was coming on the heels of his not quite mid-life crisis (always trying to rush things), it made sense that he would be looking back on his life with a certain degree of nostalgia.
Yet I was completely unprepared for what he lay on me as I blissfully enjoyed a hot fudge brownie sundae at the restaurant we’d agreed to head to once he realized I was not going to cave in and get horizontal with him. Spooning hot fudge and peanut butter covered ice cream into my mouth, I listened as he told me that Spring Break for school was coming up the next week—he’s a high school history teacher, of all things—and he envisioned going on a tropical vacation. He said he thought seriously about whom he could take with him, whom he’d sincerely want to as company. He had gone through a list of possible girls, disqualifying them for various reasons, until he came upon the perfect companion.
“And that person was you,” he said, as I struggled to swallow my ice cream. “Sure, I pictured you in your bikini looking sexy as hell, but I also thought about who I’d want to talk to, travel with, spend more than a few hours around and just share this dream vacation with. And the vision that came into my mind clear as day was you.”
Despite the fact that he knew I was dating someone, he said he couldn’t help himself from extending the invitation. He knew what he wanted, and that was me on an island. Not really sure if I should be taking this seriously, I thanked him for the flattering offer but told him I didn’t see how I could possibly accept. He told me to think about it.
The next day, the man continued a wooing campaign that threatened to put Hallmark to shame. The normally crass man with a strong sex drive and a none-to-meager ego was telling me and showing me through old photos how much I meant to him, idealizing our past relationship, and talking to me about how “life hands each of us only so many chances.”
A sexy man whisking me off to a tropical island… It sounded like a chapter from a bad romance novel. Even worse I knew all the character flaws, plot holes and I had a much better reality I was living at home, complications and all
Fortunately, my old flame understood and apologized for overwhelming me. He said he had to go for it as crazy an idea as it was. While I still can’t believe he went there, I kind of have to admire that he shot for the stars.
As for the third old flame? Not overly surprising, but I once again heard from the amazingly ambitious man with a beautiful soul I dated far-too-briefly last year before I let long distance and our conflicting schedules dissuade me from continuing things. He is back from doing work for his non-profit overseas, and he’s coming to see his best friend in the state this following weekend—did I want to get together? While it would be genuinely great to see him again as he is an amazing person and was a truly special friend, I also know he too wants more from me than I can give him now.
The trick about old flames, I’ve learned, is not to lean too close to get burned.