His name was Sherlock, a ball of scruff and matted fur and the kind of eyes my dad always called “soul eyes” – those dogs that just look at you with their hearts pouring out. Overflowing with a purity of love and trust that I’ve seen very few humans have. I almost don’t know how to respond to that kind of look. “How can you look at me with so much affection? You don’t even know me!!”
But there he was, adoring and perfect. Sherlock, the West Highland Terrier, eager for his permanent home.
As we approached, his tail picked up windshield wiper speed, thumping back and forth. His baby pink tongue sticking out of his mouth, the goofiest smile that made me want to scoop him up forever, and if we could have, we would. We would have adopted Sherlock on the spot. Our little family of three, a triangle of love and trust. My heart would belong to two boys, Sherlock, and him (Lobster, as we’ll call him), the only human boy I’d ever seen with soul eyes as real as Sherlock.
Those eyes that looked at me in class with a kind of sincerity that I hadn’t known. I assumed he looked at everyone that way. He just had soul eyes, a wealth of love to pass out. Enough to toss it to the girl a few seats behind him. I figured, that’s all. He just looks at people with those eyes. And that’s all.
So I didn’t really look back. I avoided thinking this was anything special. I convinced myself I wasn’t on fire when he was near. He wasn’t the match that could set everything I had worked so carefully to keep contained up in flames. I had lost my father, and for a while, myself. Cold was all I wanted. Mechanical. Robotic.
The warmth was too familiar, too much like the happiness I had felt before my dad died. Before I saw innocence choking in smoke. No, I couldn’t have that. Compartmentalize. Focus on metal. Unfeeling. Cold. I wanted to be cold.
But he looked at me and everything was burning. And we couldn’t keep from burning. We burned together and it was so bright and beautiful and I wonder if I will ever burn like that again.
“He’s hypoallergenic! He won’t bother your allergies!!” I was shrieking, thrilled at how perfect Sherlock was going to fit into our lives. Lobster kneeled, put a reassuring hand atop Sherlock’s head and I could see how in love we’d all be.
“He’s pretty, pretty darn cute. And Sherlock. Man, what a name. I love it,” Lobster looked up and smiled, those eyes. That smile. I was burning for him still, after all this time. After years. Being silly teenagers. Graduation. Flying 3,000 miles away from each other and hoping the fire could remain.
“I love him.”
I love him. I love him, a lullaby I would sing to myself on nights he was across the country. It’s funny, I think. How much closer I was to marriage when I was 19 and now that I’m 23, I can’t even remember what trusting in a future with someone feels like.
Is timing really part of the equation? Or is it something we say to lessen the blow? Maybe when things work, they just do. And sure, it gets messy and complicated, and your hands will get dirty. But maybe timing isn’t part of it.
But what if it is?
What if you meet your “Lobster” and you’re just a teenager without enough understanding of the world to know this isn’t just a puppy love? What you feel isn’t just hormonal or the comfort of another body – that being young doesn’t diminish the very real thing you shared with another human. What if we had met after college? What if we had simply lived in the same state and grown together instead of apart, with 3,000 miles pushing us in different directions?
I close my eyes and wonder why I don’t write about him more. I wonder why I fixate on foolish men and almost relationships that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t mean much. They won’t mean much when enough years pass.
But my Lobster? He will.
He will always be the name I hear and I swallow, hope nobody hears the residual pain in my voice.
Did I lose the one? Did I lose the love of my life?
Is it possible to meet your Lobster and have the timing be all wrong?
And more so, will you ever meet again?