BY: Jeffrey Nathan Schirripa
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
~Alfred Lord Tennyson
It was Thursday, around 5:30 P.M. on a perfect spring day; I was sitting in the patio section of a restaurant across the street from a busy train terminal, waiting for Marie to arrive. Every couple of minutes the terminal would unleash a fresh batch of homebound commuters. The seemingly endless waves of commuters served as a good distraction as I continued battling the army of butterflies in my stomach. I am not accustomed to being nervous but it seemed appropriate to feel anxious before my first date with the girl who I didn't want to remember and could never forget.
One week before, I had seen Marie for the first time since graduating college three years earlier. I had finally revealed the truth that had been haunting me since the first moment I ever saw her, a truth I had spent years trying to ignore, a truth which had to be confessed, a truth she deserved to hear, a truth she needed to believe -- Marie is the standard against which I measure all other women. Another train pulled in and the terminal started producing a new mob of commuters when Marie called to tell me she had arrived.
The butterflies kicked into high gear as I looked across the street. This wave of commuters contained the woman who forever changed the way I look at all other women. Marie stood out from the crowd like a rose in a barren desert. She wore an unforgettably bright smile and casually walked with an elegance that was as surreal as it was intoxicating. My breath was taken away at the first sight of her beautiful smile. Somehow Marie found a way to make her smile even more alluring when she spotted me from across the street and started walking over.
Little did I know, this date would be the start of an enlightening journey that would ultimately leave me with the knowledge that following your heart will prove insufficient if you allow your fears to create even the slightest bit of hesitation or restraint.
The next two years were a roller coaster. During good times we talked for hours, laughed and enjoyed being together as if our ups and downs and everything else in the world were completely irrelevant. I found myself totally at peace with the job I created for myself -- making her feel as comfortable, safe and happy as possible. I thought her eyes revealed that she reciprocated my feelings.
It was not only Marie's physical beauty that captivated me; it was something infinitely more rare and significant. By my standards, nothing can compare to a person who effortlessly exudes an energy that eases the mind of all stress, while simultaneously enabling all that truly matters in life to be displayed with brilliant clarity and joy. The women I had dated in the past all possessed the attributes I wanted (intelligence, humor, physical/inner beauty and compassion) but those characteristics were never enough to make me content -- I needed more. I needed a woman with the unique ability to profoundly strengthen and inspire me, a woman who forced me to become a better person simply because I knew she deserved the absolute best I could offer, a woman whose well-being I viewed as being equally or more important than my own.
Eventually we drifted apart, leaving me wondering why the vicious hot/cold cycle had continued for those two years. Was it because I hadn't been assertive enough about what I wanted? Was it because we are both afraid to trust each other with the inherent responsibility that a deep connection like that requires? Maybe my instincts were all wrong and she never felt the same way for me as I did for her. Regardless of what the real reason was, I don't feel any differently towards her or see her in a lesser light. In a strange way I don't care what the reason was; all that matters to me is that she is happy and safe. Regardless of how much I want to be the one to make her smile like no one else can, I'd be content knowing she is smiling and being treated like gold (as she deserves to be) by someone else.
Even though things turned out much differently than I believed they would, I learned valuable lessons from my experiences with Marie. Truth be told, although I have called Marie "the one who got away," the fears and hesitations which I believe to have ultimately kept us apart made Marie "the one who never was" more than anything else.
Even though I would love to go back in time and change how things unfolded between us, I have no regrets. I followed my heart, and although she never truly returned my feelings, she deserved the kindness I gave her nonetheless. I learned that when a person as special as Marie comes into your life you owe it to yourself and to her to follow your heart and put it all on the line. Otherwise you'll allow your fears to restrict your future, leaving you with nothing but memories of "the one who got away" or even worse, memories of "the one who never was."