The Last Lost Boy

July 31, 2010

Originally published in More Magazine

When at the age of thirty-three my children were abducted by their father a second time, I embarked on relationships with younger men. I called them the Lost Boys, this chain of twenty-one-year olds seeking direction at the crossroads of a third seven-year cycle. The surrogate babies; baby boyfriends whose only chance to grow would be triggered by an eventual slashing of the umbilical cord that would leave us both bleeding.

But the Last Lost Boy felt more like a brother—

One Saturday afternoon two newcomers turned up for my beginning jazz class. One was a tall black youth with the body of a linebacker. His friend, an Eurasian, had the slender build and honed definition of a martial artist. They both showed ability, but the black youth soon dropped out. The other boy showed up regularly to every class I gave. He was a conundrum and a pain. He drove me crazy and stretched my patience to the limits. A street-dancer and gang banger from the projects in Defense, he had unlimited talent and the idiosyncratic style of a born clown. Added to this was a real dedication and ruthless work ethic that was continually threatened by his lousy attitude. Whenever he made a mistake he pouted and stamped his foot in temper. Then he’d huff and puff and curse, turn his back and stomp off to the back of the studio. No matter how often I tried to explain that his behavior was disruptive and disrespectful to his fellow students, not to say thoroughly unprofessional, I could not get through. One day he did the unthinkable. A slower student got in the way of his hurricane advance across the floor. He shot out of the corner like a loaded missile with all the energy and bravura and machismo of his habitual pent up anger and frustration. A timid little Parisienne, unsure of the steps, skittered nervously across the floor directly in his path. With a snort of impatience the incorrigible delinquent put a hand in the small of her back and shoved—hard. I quickly stifled the thought of how we all just longed to do that at one time or another, and threw him out of class.

“Get out!” I yelled, “Get the hell out and don’t ever come back. This is my space. My territory. Take your violence and your shitty attitude and your selfish little street punk self and don’t you dare to show up on my turf again!”

He was back, bright and early the very next day. I had to concede a grudging respect. I could never have survived the humiliation of that attack, much less have gone back to the same teacher.

If there was one rigid rule I prided myself on never breaching, it was a taboo on teacher –student relationships. .But the Last Lost Boy started to show little signs of affection. Running past me in the corridor on the way to class, he would grab my hand and press it briefly to his heart or his lips. He started hanging around after class and offering me a ride home in his car. This was tempting; that nightly ride home in the metro was hell in summer and worse in winter. I tried to interest him in a career in dance. He certainly had the ability and work-ethic, but I came up against an impenetrable wall of resistance. I was sick of my own growing frustration and ready to give up on him, when one summer he followed me to Montpellier where I was teaching a workshop.

When the Last Lost Boy approached me after the third class of a stifling day and offered to drive me to the beach to watch the sunset and cool off, I was filled with gratitude.

Once there he reached out and took hold of my hand, “I want you to give me more.”

“What on earth do you mean?”

“You know. — I want you to give me more. You know. More

I knew what he was getting at and I was partly astounded at his cheek and amused at his presumption.

Ecoutez, mec, what more could you possibly ask for. I give you all a little of my blood every single day in class! How dare you ask for more?

“But me, I want more. I want you to love me.”

“I love you already. I love all of my students.”

“But me, I want more!”

“Forget it!”

But the Last Lost Boy would not forget it. For two years he persisted in a relentless pursuit. I had never met anybody that just would not take no for an answer. At regular intervals he would repeat his proposition.

“Romantic love has a shelf-life of about two years. You think you are in love now, but in two years you’ll be sick of me. — I’m not Mrs. Stone!”

“Who’s Mrs. Stone?

Oh, Jesus.

“I want you to love me,” he whispered for the umpteenth time. “Why won’t you love me?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!  When you can do four pirouettes and get a dancing job. Come back and talk to me!”

I was shocked at the speed at which he mastered the four spinning turns. The job came not long afterwards.

I knew I had to honor my promise

Our bodies had instant knowledge of each other. Incestueuse déjà-vu, ancient as Egypt. My baby bro’. Oedipus was nowhere in the mix; it was Ptolemy all the way

I warned him two years maximum was all he had with me.

“This is the shelf-life of romantic love, my friend. Then it dies and you begin to look for that spark again. You’ll be tired of me and my demands and my relentless expectations. You’ll be ready for someone your age. So make the most of it.”

It was eight years before circumstances forced a parting. I thought I would soon get over it.

But I never did. Sad night crept into the cracks in my heart. I had grown accustomed to his adoration. I soothed my heart with rage. Illogically, although I knew he had made the only possible decision, I resented him for leaving. He too, was heartbroken and persisted with all his usual stubbornness to pursue a continuing relationship with me. I cruelly rejected him. I felt he had lost the right to be around me. He felt that he had every right to love me forever, in whatever capacity the relationship provided. My love for him was conditional and miserably punitive. His for me was unconditional and indestructible. I had thought I was the mentor, the wise sophisticated one. When it came to loyalty and purity of spirit he was way ahead of me. He never gave up on me; I only really understood the reason for our separation when his little boy was born. He and his wife asked me to be the godmother of a wondrous little being whose beginning in this world was made possible by our ending.…

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