I couldn’t see the face of the man in the clinch, so I couldn’t determine if it was Derek. But there was something about that clinch the man was in that made me think it might be him. The couple was not in any hurry to end the embrace, and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable about gawking at them, so I turned and walked away. I felt as if some of my blood had drained out of me, making me a little weak and off balance.
I knew that Liam had seen me looking at the couple and also knew that I was a bit distracted, so back at the car, I admitted that I’d had a moment of thinking the man in the clinch was Derek, who I had gone out with for five weeks that spring. I felt I owed him the truth about my behavior. He was silent.
As we headed towards Allenspark, Liam made a rather sarcastic comment about my so-called trip down memory lane that day. I was taken aback. Not one to wallow in the past, I nevertheless do love to share places I’ve been to with people. That was what I thought I’d been doing with Liam that day. He seemed to see it otherwise or perhaps was a bit annoyed by my reaction at The Chapel on the Rock and was referring to that as the trip down memory lane. I didn’t ask what he meant but was somewhat defensive about not usually being prone to excursions into the past.
We parted quickly once back home. We had spent eight hours together, and Liam looked tired. Was he just tired from our adventure or was he weary of me? It wasn’t news to me that I could wear out men. Perhaps Liam had spent enough time with me that he was wondering if we could be friends after all.
I still felt off balance. I could not get that couple’s embrace out of my mind. But then, I could not get the image of all those couples in Estes Park out of my mind either. All day, I had felt a longing for something I was lacking: being part of a couple with a man I loved and who loved me. Had I been stopped in my tracks by the motorcycle couple because the man reminded me of Derek, or had the man reminded me of Derek because he was so clearly into the woman with him?
What had really caused the small moment of shock at the sight of the couple?
I paced my bedroom as I let myself feel whatever it was that was churning within me. Did Derek still have a hold on me, fully two and a half months after our five-week relationship ended? Was that possible? In my mind, I allowed myself to be right there in front of that couple in the clinch. The man I now doubted had been Derek had reminded me of Derek mostly because the way he held the woman with him had propelled me right back into the feel of Derek’s embrace. It was the embrace itself that was so compelling. When Derek had held me, I felt adored, valued, prized even. And I felt part of a twosome that was merging into oneness with every embrace.
Derek had become the archetypal man: hero and lover; protector and friend. From the night he had first come to dinner, I had realized that he roused something that transcended who he actually was. In fact, the two of us together transcended who either of us was separately. And he had so many qualities I wanted in a man. He had become a kind of prototype. Or perhaps it was more that our brief relationship and my ongoing thoughts about him had conjured the feelings I wanted to have about a man.
Those feelings I wanted in relation to a man, in relationship with a man, were what had made me stop in my tracks at The Chapel on the Rock. Was it coincidence that it had happened there, or had members of the divine fellowship that look out for me and guide me conspired to make it happen in that place I considered holy? Had the holy quality of the place lent some power to the event?
I didn’t really know. What I did know was that once I saw that Derek had become the archetypal man for me, some hold he still had over me released its grip. Did my heart still warm at the thought of him? Yes. But I suddenly felt more objective about it.
That daytrip with Liam had been very useful. It had crystalized an understanding within me: I could not settle for a man I liked but who could not invoke the feelings I wanted for a man with whom I was in relationship. And the experience at The Chapel on the Rock had crystalized another understanding: The man I wanted invoked the feelings I’d had with Derek.
Was it possible to find and attract the archetypal man–my own version of the archetypal man, not a universal one? Could my longing for him draw him in?
Note: The names Liam and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall