Lincoln loved me when I was an innocent 18-year-old girl.
His love burned bright and inexorably for months as I struggled with his attentions. I couldn’t understand why this handsome 19-year-old boy liked anything about me, but he clung tightly. His letters came regularly, his beautiful cursive unmistakable. His words inked so tenderly my young heart often broke as I read for I was confused and uncertain about my own.
He had no car, so I would drive to the shipyard where he’d be waiting for me, the giant Navy ship he called home loomed heavily behind him like a sleeping mountain. He’d pick me up and squeeze me and I’d sigh not with pleasure, but with impatience. I wished he didn’t like me so much.
Our little misbegotten love affair ended when my little sister caught him reading a letter I had written, but never sent. A note which captured a vulnerable moment wherein I contemplated loving him. His earnest search for me in that letter caused me to evict him from my life instantly and without remorse. I crushed him irrevocably that day.
Years later I hunted for him online. Little tidbits of information he’d told became the only leads I had. He was from Texas somewhere, I had his last name, he’d been in the Navy. I poured over people-finder and high school class websites, but to no avail. And then Facebook happened and there he fucking was.
I found him married, with many children through different marriages and configurations and discovered that he had lived 60 miles away from me for 5 years until he’d been restationed to somewhere in the south (via the Army this time).
We quickly caught up, but it came to a screeching halt one day when he announced that his wife was uncomfortable with him talking to me. My husband understood my excitement and had blessed my discovery that Lincoln wasn’t dead. Apparently, Lincoln’s wife had very different feelings about me. And so, amid his many apologies, we said goodbye again in 2008.
In 2016 I became curious about him again and re-found him on Facebook. I was no longer blocked from his account and messaged him, fingers crossed. He was instantly receptive this time: he and his wife were separated and he was now 80 miles away, not several states.
We texted and talked on the phone round the lock for days, a virtual love-fest of lost innocence and crossed signals. Our youthful romance figured prominently for him throughout his life and explained his wife’s misgivings of me. I apologized for being such a broken girl. He revealed he had been a virgin, too. Our words were tender touches, two blind people rediscovering their surroundings with gentle explorations, every sense at attention.
Tearfully one night I revealed my double life. He said he accepted me no matter what and was proud of me. I shared the blog and Hy and everything I had ever done. Still, he accepted me. We set a date to meet.
He was a card-carrying biker now, literally a member of a national biker club with initiation rights and rivalries; the whole nine yards. Tattooed all over, short, brown beard with a handlebar mustache, a Harley-Davidson hog his only form of transportation. He looked formidable in my doorway, leather vest covered in biker paraphernalia, but his big bear hug was just the same. And my immediate response to pull away was the same, too.
We reacquainted ourselves as adults side by side on my couch for the duration of a single drink. I called a Lyft and we headed out to my favorite bar. I didn’t want to just sit and drink at my house, the bedroom around the corner.
We laughed and flirted for hours. The sun set and tears flowed as we finally said the things we’d always yearned to share. I felt like a star-crossed lover, pulled away from a sweet tenderness I’d never again know.
Back home on my couch, we kissed. His plump, soft lips were the same, his sounds, too. I mounted his lap and he suckled my breasts — a move far past the Second Base of our youth — and I rubbed his crotch. But I couldn’t go further.
I dragged him to bed, pulled the covers over us, and we fell asleep.
In the morning, I awoke to his big arm flung over my waist, his belly smushed warmly against my back. I felt trapped.
He murmured and wriggled closer to me and I held still, but wanted to run. His sweetness felt foreign, wrong. I didn’t deserve it. We got up and I made us coffee. He had to head back to the club for a meeting that afternoon.
I was nervously distant and felt as if I could see the pain on his face, but it’s possible I only suspected to see it. It was me at 18 all over again. We hugged and kissed goodbye and the last I saw of him was the menacing skull and cross sewn on the back of his leather vest.
Over the next few days he’d call in the mornings to see how I was and we continued to text. The intensity of our reunion clung to me like old perfume. How could I fit him into my life? I ate men for breakfast and Lincoln was no piece of sausage. But I wouldn’t have to figure anything out.
One day, the texting didn’t happen. I checked in and his answer was cursory. Another day passed. Again, barely a response. And then he said we needed to talk.
My stomach dropped. “Only one other man has ever said that to me,” I told him. “And then that man left me.”
“Things are complicated,” he said.
A day or two went by without any other word and I guessed that he was reconciling with his ex and we could no longer be friends. “Am I right??”
“Yes you are. Did some soul-searching. I appreciate your friendship but this is the path I choose.”
I burst into tears and tried in vain to get him to reconcile with her and still be friends with me. He refused.
“I can’t believe this… I mean, of course you have to do what you need to and I support that, but… fuck. This hurts. Not gonna lie.”
“I know and I’m sorry. But I have to make her and my son my priority. Not just over you but the club and everything else.”
“I get that, I just don’t know why you can’t do both: be in my life as a friend and make her a priority but, ok… I guess now it’s my turn to have my heart broken, huh? I wish you the best, Lincoln, and I’ll always be here for you. I’ve got to go – need to pull myself together before I head into work.”
And his final words to me:
He unfriended me on Facebook and has remained silent since, just as he said he would.
I doubled over and sobbed. Lincoln seemed to be my lifeline to so many things. The innocent girl I was to the wanton woman I am, the past to the future, from Hy to Me. And he had chosen something else outright over any of it in even the slightest form.
I cried for a few more minutes, took a deep breath, and brushed myself off. I had lived most of my adult life without him thus far; there was no reason I couldn’t easily go on without him for the rest. But now the story is sad for far more reasons than youthful misgivings and childish anger. Now I’m sad because I know I have truly lost him — forever — and I wish I had never found him again.
Soul searching, indeed.