Thursday, February 14, 2013

Women Who Loved the Loser

For Valentine's Day, the pseudo-holiday for smug couples, a complete count of all the women (well, they're women now) who have ever fallen for the Complete and Total Loser, in chronological order.
There haven't been many.
Remember passion? The Loser doesn't.
1. Diana, aka, Tinkerbell; 1963 - 1967. Neighbors, the two rode tricycles together in the Loser's driveway, which was flat, unlike hers. They also rode early skateboards. The first mass-produced skateboards were lethal things with steel wheels that slid out from under you. (An older neighbor named Ricky fell from one when his family lived in California and Ricky was never the same again.) This didn't matter to the Loser and Tinkerbell; they rode them on their stomachs, going down the hill of their road. They wore out the toes of their sneakers by dragging them to regulate their speed. The Loser got old enough in a few years to be able to cut through three backyards to visit his friend Steve. Tinkerbell would rather he played with her instead. Once, when both were eight, the Loser, poised on his bicycle, a two-wheeler, said to her, "Want to play a game?" She said yes and asked which one. "Run away from Tinkerbell!" he said. Struck dumb with rage, Tinkerbell reached and pushed the Loser, who fell hard on the street. He deserved worse than that. It was cruel of him. The Loser moved a mile away, if that, when the Loser was ten. It may as well have been across the country. Diana wrote a nice letter to the Loser in 1978, when he was a college sophomore, suggesting they get together to "see how they turned out." The Loser didn't respond. Now Diana manages a convenience store near where the Loser lives. She's divorced and has a son. The Loser's been to the store many times, but has seen Diana only once, a few months ago. She didn't recognize him and he said nothing. She looks well.
Kids can be great, and not just when they're sleeping. The Loser will never have kids.
2. Peggy, 1966 - 1969. They met in an elementary school that went only to third grade. The Loser was vaguely aware that Peggy would stare at him, her big, brown eyes unfocussed, as if in a dream. After they'd left the little school for single-sex schools, the Loser encountered her just once, on the commuter train home. Again, Peggy stared at him as if in a trance. The Loser pretended not to notice, focusing on a book. Enraptured, Peggy missed her stop. The stops were just a mile or so apart, but at that age it's cause for panic. Peggy screamed and jumped up on her chair, where she reached for and pulled the cord that ran the length of the train car and was for the conductor's use only. Every kid thought that if you pulled that cord the train's wheels would lock, flinging passengers against hard objects, making sparks fly from the undercarriage, making the train stop two feet before a washed-out bridge, like in movies. No such luck for Peggy. All it did was signal the conductor, who ignored it. Bigger girls wearing white blouses and pleated skirts, probably sixth graders, came to Peggy's aid, consoling her and promising that their mothers would help Peggy get home after she disembarked with one of them at the next station. The Loser and Peggy exchanged no words and he never saw her again. In 1983, the Loser's mother, who knew of the relationship between the two, though the Loser never knew how, sent the Loser, two years out of college and living in Minneapolis, Peggy's wedding announcement from a local paper. She was, of course, a raven-haired beauty by now with big, pretty eyes. 
3. Annie Johnson, summer, 1970, Massachusetts. The Loser and his family spent two months each summer on the coast of Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border. Annie was a native New Englander, a year younger than the loser, then twelve. Annie was short for her age and had long hair. They danced at the country club. During the slow dance, the Loser saw his mother and other adults looking at them adoringly. Embarrassing. He bent his legs so the height discrepancy wouldn't be so great, thinking that would be the polite thing to do. "What are you doing?" Annie said, annoyed. She put her hands on the Loser's waist and pushed upward until he stood up straight. They promised to write. The Loser got a letter sometime in the fall, October perhaps, in which Annie declared her love for him. She said she had some dollars and that she would send them to him. The Loser discussed this with his mother, who advised telling Annie to keep her dollars. He agreed, and did. By the next summer, Annie's crush had abated and her circle of summer friends no longer included the Loser.
4. Susan, 1997 - 2002. They met in Japan in the mid 1980s, where both taught English to Japanese factory workers and executives. Susan was from Wales. She had an abusive boyfriend she stayed with despite the abuse for much longer than you'd think a woman as smart as she was would. Years after it ended, the Loser asked her why. "Because," she said, "he was just so good looking." The Loser had seen him a few times and couldn't disagree. They kept in touch sporadically despite the distance. She visited him in 1991 and they kept it platonic. She was nice looking but overweight and, sadly, the Loser has never been able to get the initial oomph in a relationship with heavy women, so his friendships with them have never gone beyond that. Susan got in touch with the Loser in 1997 and asked to visit again. She said that she had designs beyond friendship for him. He didn't shut the idea out completely. She wasn't, after all, morbidly obese or anything, and she spoke frequently of her vigorous exercise regimen. And he genuinely liked her. Susan came and stayed for a week. The sparks didn't fly on the Loser's end and he felt terrible about this. They drank enough that the Loser did become able to be physically intimate with her, twice, and she left with things in limbo. It had been fifteen years since the Loser had had sex. She was the fourth woman he'd had sex with. He was her thirty-second man. Years of expensive phone calls followed (she didn't like email), many of them ending with the Loser saying something mean "by accident," and Susan hanging up in tears. After yet another "last" call, the Loser didn't hear from her for four months. Finally, she called and told him she'd been seriously ill with something no one could diagnose. Her brain had shut down so much she was unable to communicate. She recovered fully. During her illness, she dropped a lot of weight and talked about how surprised she was by how many men hit on her now that she was thin, albeit for an unhealthy reason. They began to email on a regular basis. Later, she got ill again. A friend of hers who knew her emailed the Loser saying a call to her hospital bed would cheer her immeasurably. He did and it did. The other women on the ward, Susan reported, were "dead impressed" at her getting a get-well phone call from America. She recovered and went back to her job as a high school teacher. They talked of her visiting again. In August of 2002, a week or so went by with no word from Susan. On a Sunday night, the Loser took a break from playing solitaire on his computer to check his email. He opened an email from a friend of Susan's. She had died earlier that day. (The Loser has not played a game on a computer since that night.) He flew to Wales and attended her funeral. Advice if you ever go to a funeral in England and you're a man: bring a black tie. It's the only color acceptable at a funeral. Really, you're better off not wearing a tie at all than a tie that isn't a solid, jet black. The Loser bought one when he came back even though there's no reason he'd ever go to England again, especially to a funeral. She was forty when she died, and she'd died in King's Hospital, which is an excellent hospital in London. There's been no one since. 
This is of the Loser's mother visiting the Loser's father on Christmas Eve of 2010. Both were dead within a year, neither died alone. The Loser will.


  1. I think this might be your year, B (i'm sure you disagree)..

    1. Thanks, guy, but I've heard that at least once a year every year since, oh, 1978 or so.