So, I had a secret boyfriend in my teens. He was way older. I can’t say how old he was, because he would get in trouble.
Nobody knew about him. Nobody but me and him.
I went for a long time without calling in my twenties. But we had one of those relationships where he was never really out of my life.
He knew I was serious about a relationship, which is why he was extra discreet and considerate whenever he needed me.
Maybe I should start this story again. I don’t know where to start, though. I don’t even remember meeting him. He was always just there. This man has always been in my life. And he’s always been married, but I didn’t understand what that meant when I was younger.
His name was Harvey. He stood tall and his presence was alarmingly big. His presence cut through everything.
Harvey told me I was beautiful and super smart, almost as smart as him. He said I was mature for my age. I believed everything he said. Why else would an older man want to spend time with me?
He also told me that I was slutty with guys my age and that I embarrassed myself when I wore crop tops and dark lipstick.
But that was only when he was in a bad mood. Harvey was a jealous guy.
He could also be a father figure. He wanted me to lean on him when I struggled with decisions. He taught me discipline. He never came right out and said what he thought of my high school boyfriends, but he made comments – offhand unclear metaphors about teen boys in general. I guess I was supposed to decode those messages. Or maybe I wasn’t. Harvey was big on teaching me to think for myself. Nobody had done that. He said it was a shame I had no role models to raise me proper.
Harvey thought my parents were stupid. He said parents should know what’s going on with their kids. He said that I deserved better. He was the better.
I don’t think my parents were stupid. But I know they didn’t love me. They didn’t see me. I was riding in cars with boys by the time I was 14. I was out getting stupid drunk on vodka and oj – drinking entire 26ers and, one time, sleeping in a tent next to tracks back when the trains still ran.
A friend’s father called them that night to check on her. We did that thing where we both tell our parents we’re at the other’s house. When he found out she wasn’t safe, he went out looking for us. He practically had to drag my dad out of bed.
After that incident, my parents stopped asking where I would be. They just gave me a curfew and were in bed most nights before I got home.
See why I think they didn’t really love me?
But Harvey loved me. He took care of me in ways I needed but didn’t know I needed.
Because he was married, he thought it was a good idea for me to date boys my own age. He knew that I wanted to be with him. I knew that was impossible. So, we shared. It was as good as it was going to get for us.
Looking back now, I don’t think I would have felt safe dating boys my age if Harvey wasn’t around. I knew that he would take care of any situation that came to me. He’d never let a boy get away with hitting me.
Harvey was very protective of me. He was intelligent and street smart, because in his younger years he got caught up with the wrong crowd and ended up in jail.
No boy would know what hit him if Harvey had to step in.
I don’t know why I felt that I needed to be protected like that. No boy had ever hit me. I couldn’t explain, so I didn’t dwell. Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved. That’s what Harvey said.
When I got serious about a relationship in my 20s, I sat down with Harvey to find out his thoughts. I was nervous. Part of me still wanted it to be just us, even though I knew that was impossible. Part of me wanted to have a chance to put my whole heart into my new love.
I told Harvey that we were talking about moving in together. I said it was what people did at my age when we’d been together for a few years.
He got weirdly serious, or maybe formal is the right word. He asked me if I wanted to be with this guy. He asked if I saw it going toward marriage. He asked if I felt he treated me right.
He didn’t ask about the boy’s job or career aspirations. He didn’t ask me to detail exchanges between us. He didn’t ask if I loved him or thought he loved me.
Harvey had access to information about people and I never did figure out how. I assumed that he already knew what this boy did for a living, who his family was, how he did in school and who he spent time with when he wasn’t working.
I won’t say that Harvey gave me permission to move in with the boy, it was different. If I had to explain it, I’d say he sanctioned the relationship between me and the boy.
And he promised he wouldn’t interfere. I was a grown woman. He wanted me to make grown woman decisions.
Harvey told me that he was going to give us space to be together, but that he wouldn’t be out of reach. Anything I needed, I just had to call. And I took him up on that especially in the first year I lived with the boy. Life after college wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I ended up having to work at a full serve gas station to make the rent while the guy I lived with pursued his dreams (which made no money.)
Harvey called me a few times in that first year. His marriage was going through a transition. His wife was struggling with the idea of being an empty nester as their youngest went off to college.
We spent a few afternoons together. Though my boyfriend didn’t know it, Harvey got us through some tough times. He helped me to not only accept our differences, but to live with how some of how my boyfriend saw me made me feel.
Truthfully, without Harvey, I would have left my boyfriend years before I did.
And when I finally did leave him, Harvey thought he would have me to himself.
It wasn’t as simple as he thought it would be. I fell for someone. I wanted to be with him, but he didn’t want to be with me. My heart was broken.
Harvey had never seen me so depressed. It made him question how much I loved him.
The longer I held onto my feelings for this man without being able to be with him, the more Harvey doubted my dedication to him.
He tried to help me get over the pain, but I was devastated. I wanted to shut down and close everyone out.
He took me on a vacation. At first I said I wouldn’t go. I told him I wouldn’t take his money. He said he paid with points. We went to a three star all you can eat and drink resort. He wanted to make love in the ocean. I wanted to get drunk and drowned.
On our second last night, he got drunk and told me I needed to grow up. He said I was acting like someone had died.
I’d never seen him so upset about my feelings for another. From the beginning, when I was a teen, Harvey encouraged me to fall in love with boys my own age. He said he couldn’t give me everything I deserved because he was married.
“Is that what this is?” He asked. “Are you finally putting it all on the line to get me to leave Mary Elizabeth?”
It made me laugh when he said his wife’s name like that. He thought I was laughing at him.
Harvey pushed me out of our room and locked the door. I slept in the hall with my back resting against the door.
In the morning, he begged me to forgive him, and I did, but things were not the same between us after I saw that he was capable of violence.
Thankfully, when we got back, Harvey had his hands full with his wife as she struggled to deal with their oldest daughter dropping out of college and moving back into the family home.
Mary was not impressed. Just as she was getting used to having the house all to herself, she had to share again. She’d been sharing for years. She thought she had put in her time as a mother.
I was left to heal my broken heart alone – something I had never done in my life.
Harvey had helped me through the grief of my own family issues, and every other heartbreak.
I had no idea where to begin.