The Ex Files #4: He Makes Me Feel So Young

Whether he was the man that go away or the jerk you were thrilled to get away from, a long-ago love can reverberate in the most suprising ways. Five women spill….

by Mel Miskimen
Photograph: Eddie Guy

Oh. My. God. There he was. At the ward table, getting his ballot. Damn, he looked good. It had been what, 30 years?

I was a poll worker, registering new voters during the presidential primary. It was midmorning, the before-work rush had subsided, and there were no voters in the grade school’s gymnatorium except for . . . Dave.

I didn’t even know that he lived in my neighborhood! The last I heard, he had moved to Thailand—or was it Taiwan?—and worked for a relief-type agency, something like the Peace Corps, but not. Whatever. He always made causes seem so sexy.

He still had that Kennedy smile to go with his still-not-very-gray head of Kennedy hair. He turned. We made eye contact.

“Dave?” I said, along with a prayer thanking God that I had bothered with makeup that morning.

He gave me a long look. Nodded. He seemed confused. Or was he remembering...

We were 23, working for the summer at a park with an outdoor pool. The pay was lousy, but our tans were great. He was tall, lean. Rode a motorcycle. It was the year we had vowed would be our last at the pool. Time to grow up and get real jobs. He invited me to a party. I remember that we danced a little, necked a lot and then...oh, Dave!

Now he stood in front of my rickety folding table. He said nothing. Maybe his memory needed a nudge.

“Johnson Pool?” I said.

Nope. It wasn’t registering.

I named names of people we had worked with. I brought up instances of near firings, long lunches, the time the authorities found all that pot growing in the woods near the statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Again, nothing.

“It’s me! Mel!” I said.

He shrugged, the way my 20-year-old son does whenever I ask him about his plans for his future, then turned and proceeded to cast his ballot. No “How ya doin’?” or “Gee, it’s been a while.” Maybe Dave had sustained a head injury that had caused him to forget our more-than-memorable sexcapades.

Or maybe the sex hadn’t been that great? Or maybe—unlike him—I’d let myself go to the point of being unrecognizable!

His vote was counted. He accepted his I VOTED! sticker and walked out the door, leaving me to ponder, “What the—?”

When stuff like this happens to me, I write about it. So I went ahead and posted about the experience on a website that no one reads—I know, because after several years, I’ve gotten maybe 23 hits.

Whoops, make that 24.

Someone left a comment. It was from a “Dave.” Oh, no. My Dave? Should I click on it? I’d watched enough Dr. Phil to know that this was how affairs started. But it was a chance I had to take. I clicked.

He’d seen my post. Found it funny and complimentary. And after reading it, he said, it all made so much sense: how his son, Dave Jr., had gone to vote and run into a crazy lady who peppered him with odd questions and strange tales, and how he’d been thisclose to calling security when the crazy woman had followed him to his car.

(Oh yeah, well, I guess I left that part out.)

Time to move to a new city. Or at least to a new congressional district.

MEL MISKIMEN is the author of Cop’s Kid: A Milwaukee Memoir.

Previous: The Ex Files: The Two Boys Who Helped Make Me a Feminist

Next: The Ex Files: A Day at the Beach, and Then Some

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First published in the February 2014 issue

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