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Different Loves 4A

I wrote Chapter 5.
It won't be published here.
It's the last chapter.

But I also realize that there are many more
Loves that are important.
And today, Doug haunts me
From the grave.
This is a story of love lost.

He's Chapter 4A.
Not because he doesn't
Qualify for or deserve
A chapter of his own,
But because, in so many ways,
He was part of Dave
And me.

I already told you the story of how I met him.
(if you don't know it, click "story" to read)
Dancing in the cellar at UPS.
How I was entranced,
By him,
His energy.
How in that hot room,
With music pulsing, pounding,
He pulled me into his arms,
And pressed against his chest,
I breathed him in,
Cool, bracing, cinnamon and smoke.
Like the air had too much oxygen,
Dizzying and clarifying
All at once.

Once you experienced Doug,
His intensity,
You never forgot it.

I told you the story of his death.
Dave holding on,
Doug letting go.
The horrible irony.
I don't think I told you
How his death,
Even more than Dave's,
Destroyed me.
Broke me.

This chapter is the in-between
Of the story.
Of how love was lost.

I told you that Doug and I dated
A little
Our freshman year at UPS.
Too much alike,
Too much intensity.
Too much.
Like magnets,
I was drawn to him,
Only to crash violently into him,
Out of control.
But one turn of a magnet
Pushes back with equal force.
It was confusing.
He'd go missing for days.
Then I'd find a note like this one:

I never knew
Quite what to do.
Never knew how
To handle him,
What to think.

As I got to know him,
As he opened his wounded soul
To me,
I grew to love him.
To care about him deeply.

And of course,
I was in love with him, too.
Everyone was.

He was brilliant.
In so many ways.
Not only wicked smart,
But he was like the
Moon and the stars,
He illuminated dark places.

Somehow, even with letters like he wrote,
We drifted apart.
No big break up scene,
Just a gentle floating away.

I saw him from time to time.
It was a small campus after all.
And each time,
His eyes would search mine,
With a sharp intensity,
Familiar by now,
But somehow painful.

I thought it was love lost.
Maybe there was a lesson
About learning to hold on.
I didn't know that the loss was
Only beginning.

A few years later,
Dave and I started dating.
Doug recognized the emptiness in me.
He told Peter, "This is bad.
She's going to hurt him."
(like she hurt me?
had I?)

Dave moved into my apartment.
Doug was there every day.
Every day.
He saw the changes happen
In me.  In Dave.

Soon Dave and I were engaged.
Doug took me aside.
Hands on my shoulders,
Eyes, sharp, intense,
Boring into mine.
"You won't hurt him?
I couldn't stand it if you hurt him."
"No.  I love him."
Searching my eyes,
Looking for my truth.
"Okay then.  Okay then."
He pulled me close,
Held me tightly against him.
"Okay then.
You do know this is a package deal, right?
Two for the price of one.
We're a family now."

And we were.
A trio.
The three of us together.
So many
Talking until the sun rose.

So many nights,
On that battered couch.
Dave and Doug talking,
Me, laying across the two of them.
My head in Dave's lap,
My legs over Doug's.

And the nights Doug hurt,
When the demons of his past haunted him.
I'd hold him on
That damn couch.
Laying back,
His head on my chest,
Our legs tangled together,
Absorbing his tears,
Cradling him,
Until he could finally

Dave checking on us,
Soft eyes,
"Is he okay?"
"No, but we'll keep him safe.
We won't lose him."
I thought I could do that.
I really did.

Crazy times.
Like the two of them driving
Into the mountains and coming
Back with a
Charlie Brown tree.

Or my first birthday
As a wife.
I came home to a
Dark, empty house.
I called Mark, Erik.
"Where the hell are they?"
"Did you try the West End?"
Of course.
They were there.
"We'll be home soon."
They walked in.
Drunk.  Oh Lord.  Drunk.
Made me close my eyes while they
Carried something to the bedroom.
Laughter, hammering, swearing.
I watched tv.
Two hours later,
They emerged, grinning.
"Look, honey!"
It was a microwave cart.
"Really? Really?
That's the best the two of you
Could do?"
Bewildered, both of them.
I almost felt sorry for them.
On my next birthday,
Doug baked me a cake
And brought me flowers.
Dave bought me an
Amethyst ring.
Seems they could learn
After all.

So many road trips.
So many evenings,
Cooking dinner together.
So many moments.
Small moments,
Watching Dave mow the lawn
And Doug take out the garbage.
Or argue about who would
Open the door for me.
Walking between them,
To open it myself.
Hearing them in the other room
While I made coffee.
Watching Doug study law books,
Watching Dave grade student papers.
Kisses on the top of my head
When one of them walked by.
Monumental moments,
Kyle Douglas was born,
Named for Doug.
Then Kyle's death,

And then he was leaving.
Going to Hawaii,
Doing his law magic.

Dave was heartbroken.
He went to bed early.
"Make him stay."
Doug and I stayed up
To talk.

"A package deal,
You said.  You promised."
"You don't understand.
I have to go."
"No, I don't understand.
I don't understand at all."
"Shelley," he whispered.
"I love you.
But I have to let go."
I said, "Your own life.
I get that.
You can do that here.
You can find a life.
And still stay with us."
He pulled me close,
Placed his cheek against mine.
His tears, my tears,
Flowed together in the place
Where our skin touched.
"Shelley, I can't.
I can't.
You don't understand.
You could never understand."
"I can, tell me."
"Shelley, I can tell you anything.
I tell you everything.
Not this.
I need to let go.
I can't let go."
I settled down into his arms,
My head on his chest,
Listening to his heart beat.
Trying so hard to hear the secret
He couldn't share.
And I knew, something was lost.

Dave woke in the morning.
He said he stood there
Watching us sleep.
He woke us, asking,
"Could you make him stay?"
"I can't.  He says he can't."
And Dave gathered us
All three together,
In his arms.

For a while,
We heard from him often.
Calls, funny cards.
Laughter.  Long, silly, newsy letters.
We found our balance
Without him.
You do know that the triangle
Is the strongest geometric form?
With only two sides,
We collapsed.
But found our center again.

Then Doug broke his neck
And sank into an abyss of pain.
Chronic, unrelenting pain.
And the addiction that followed.
We were found,
But Doug was lost.

One night,
The phone rang.
Dave answered, woke me up.
"It's Doug.  He needs you."
So I listened.
Sobs across the ocean.
"Shelley, I can't.  I can't."
He needed help,
Rescuing from himself.
In the days before cell phones,
Dave ran to wake up the neighbors,
To arrange a treatment bed and a taxi.

I kept talking.
"Help is coming.  It's on its way.
I'll stay until the taxi finds you.
I'm right here."

"Shelley, I love you,
I've always loved you.
You are my heart.
You always were."

"I'll call when you get to the hospital.
Is the taxi there?"

"It's here, I'm going.
Do you know,
Your love saved my life?
Do you know?"

"I know, love,
I know."

He never made it to the hospital.
Love lost.  Again.

We talked to him years later,
The night before
They removed the tumor
For the first time.

"It's on me, Shelley," he said.
"It's on me.
I love you, still.
Forever, right?
You're my heart.
I love you.

"I know," I said.
I also knew he would be lost again,
The minute I hung up the phone.
My heart sank.
Dave's life on the line.
Doug gone.
Our house full of amazing people,
Yet I was alone.

And Doug was lost.
More lost than I realized.
I thought he was only lost to me.
But he was lost to himself.
Adrift on a sea of
In a place I couldn't reach.
So far gone, I stopped trying.
Except for my entire being
Willing him to come home.

When he died,
Doug being lost
Was etched into my soul.
A scar I still carry.
It broke more than my heart.
It broke me.

I felt every emotion.
Heart-wrenching sadness
And eventually, eventually

Love found again.

He left me a note.
I can't share that.

But Doug,
Yes, I know.
I love you still.
I always have.
I always will.
You're my heart.

I'm still not sure
What the gift of
A love lost is.
Knowing you can survive?
Accepting sometimes there's nothing
You can do?
Knowing that even death
Cannot defeat love.
Not even the lost ones.


  1. Beautiful. I have read your posts since the beginning. I prayed for Dave. And for you. And for your children. I admired your strength. Still do.

  2. By the way, how will Chapter five be shared?


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