he is my what if guy

      Coronado, CA, Christmas 2012

The lights dimmed. We shifted in our squeaky seats and ran our feet along the floor, sticky with day old coke and melted jujubees. Right before the theater went dark, she leaned over and asked me:

"Do you have a what if guy? That one person who you occasionally wonder about from your past even though you are, of course, blissfully married to CHB?

Ah yes. The What If Guy. The One Who Got Away.

"Yes, I think I do." Don't we all? **********************************************************************************

When I met CHB, I was living in Korea and in the early days of a long distance relationship with a phenomenally good man in Atlanta, Georgia. After spending one Sunday afternoon in CHB's company and then several more weeks talking with him online I began to question my feelings for Mr. Atlanta. My conscience was tangled and tried. CHB and Mr. Atlanta courted me from afar for two months, at which point my heart and head were engaged in a full blown civil war. My head fiercely advocated for Mr. Atlanta. "He is safe and centered and smart," my sensible head said. "He is good."

My heart didn't say much aside from whispering, "CHB is your tidal wave."

Being a pragmatic and cautious sort, I deemed my head the victor in the end and stopped communicating with CHB altogether. Although we weren't talking anymore, I couldn't still my affection for him. CHB haunted my dreams for nights on end. In my quieter moments, questions and regrets ruptured the surface of my consciousness.

What if I didn't live in Korea? What if I weren't involved in this relationship with Mr. Atlanta? What if I had thrown caution to the wind and watched it swiftly float away?

What if? What if? What if?

CHB became my What If Guy.

After one year, the "what ifs" were so many and so often and the dreams so visceral, that I had to silence my head and give voice to my heart. I broke off my relationship with Mr. Atlanta, moved to Provo Utah, and buried the 'What If'. CHB was now just my Guy, simple and unadorned. ********************************************************************************** Our hearts are marked by so many folds, secret compartments, and tucked away places. We have enough rugged geography in those fleshy spaces to harbor a lifetime of loves. But at some point we choose, above the rest, that one love who causes our hearts to shake and divide asunder. Those smaller loves still exist (our first kiss, our high school crush), but maybe they've been knocked into hidden recesses or perhaps toppled out of our quaking hearts all together until that one moment when someone asks us about our What If Guy, and they reemerge for an afternoon.

I marvel that CHB was every kind of love to me. At different points in our history his love writ large and other times small. In the beginning, his was an earthquake kind of love that fissured the chapel floor and knocked me plum off of my church pew; later his was a ghostly love that floated on the fringes of sad songs and midnight dreams. He was, for a season, the What If Guy and even the One Who Got Away. Today his love is just as my heart prophesied: a tidal wave as fierce and inevitable as moon's pull on water and as constant, even, as the daily rise of our orange robed sun.