Max has cancer. I found out yesterday quite by accident.
I haven’t thought about Max for over a decade. I put him out of my mind, so much so that in all the pieces of history I have scratched in my notepad for stories to develop here, Max isn’t in it. I was a terrible asshole. I knew it then, and I know it now. Time hasn’t worn the edges of that separation.
Max is a one-who-got-away. I panicked. When he said I love you, I said I think we should see other people. Now Max has cancer. Please tell me why this matters to me? I’ll tell you why.
Love wasn’t my end-result goal: I was not in college to find a husband. For a good time call…it was partnership, sex, someone to party with, a consistent person. Not to work towards happily ever after, but for happily right now. When it stopped being fun for one of us, it was over. No hard feelings.
Until I met Max.
Sure there were things about him that annoyed the ever-loving fuck out of me – like his red corduroy game day pants – but mostly Max made me feel complete. I was the party girl, or the wild girl, or the girl-who’s-like-a-guy girl. I was the hiker, or the kinky-sexer, or the slam-poetry attender. The school girl or the fantasy fairy princess, but rarely was I GG, all that she can be. Until I met Max.
He bartended for want of something to do, and because it was his friend’s bar. During the day he was a scientist doing research I didn’t understand, but was fascinated nonetheless. I broke up with him during one of his mid-week shifts. A regular had returned after a few weeks away. His name was Johnny.
“Draught?” Max asked.
“Please,” Johnny said.
“As you wish,” Max said.
“You look happy. What got into you?”
“Her,” Max said and pointed at me. “I love that woman.”
Two hours later I broke up with him. His friend called a server over to take the bar and he and Max went back to his office. I paid my tab. As I was finishing my beer another server told me,
“You made him cry. You should know that.”
I broke his heart, but I broke mine too. I never went back to that bar again. Well, not exactly never, but not when Max was working. Neither of us gave the other a second chance, not even the offer of a second chance. People thought we should. And they were probably right. Max probably did love me. And I probably loved him. The world will never know.
Max said I love you and I left. I ran into the arms of the man I eventually married. A man who never said I love you, unless you count the times he used his fists to tell me how he felt.
Now Max has cancer. Why does it matter? Because I never stopped wondering, did I make a mistake?