As is my habit, I arrived too early for my departing flight. That day in particular I anguished over boarding another long haul aircraft to somewhere dreading spending several hours alone.
Going through security, I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. She said, “Khaled”, with a beaming smile. I remembered her instantly with her distinctive reddish hair. It had been decades since I’d seen her last, but I remembered her from college, my sister’s friend.
She asked me where I was going and as chance would have it we were on the same flight. She seemed pleased. She asked me about my sister and I told her that all was well. She passed on her regards.
We walked to the lounge together and she said she’d see me on the plane. There was still more shopping to do.
In the business class lounge, I called my sister to tell her I ran into her college friend. She asked me to pass on her best regards as well, but told me to do my best not to sit next to her on the plane. Curious, I asked her why. She explained that her friend had a two topic repertoire and one of those topics was a dear friend of mine, Mohab or Mo, with whom she apparently had a long standing obsession. She said if she starts talking about Mohab you’re doomed.
I boarded the plane sitting in my regular window seat close to the exit. The seat next to me was empty. My sister’s friend, who they seemed to be holding the plane for, sat next to me after asking the cabin attendant if that seat were free. I watched in awe at how much carry on luggage she managed to bring onto the plane. Three big shopping bags, two stacked carry-ons and a huge purse surely did not leave her empty handed. I helped her load all of her belongings into three bins and it was lucky for her, and everyone else, that the plane was relatively empty.
As my sister predicted she was a talker. She began by asking me about work, my personal life, becoming extremely probing. She gave me an immense amount of information on her life too and at a very personal level. She needed someone to talk to I assumed.
And, as my sister predicted, Mo quickly came up after all the pleasantries were exchanged. “How is Mo?”, she said. “Both of you were inseparable weren’t you?” I told her he was well. But, she wanted to know more. “Is he still married”? “Is he happy”? “Does he still live in the city”? And, it went on and on.
She asked me if I knew whether she and Mo had been an “item“. I smiled. She took that for a yes. She went on to explain that they had only dated for a few weeks in college, but that was so long ago.
She said that Mo over the years had become her obsession. She called her state of mind when it came to Mo “mobsession”. This was getting interesting.
Abruptly, she apologized for asking me questions about Mo for which she already knew the answers. “I follow him on Facebook”, she said. I asked if they were still friends and she said, “no”. She explained that Mo had a public profile on Facebook that anyone could see, but that he isn’t very active on that platform.
She told me that Mo was the first “boy” she’d ever kissed, if not truly loved. As she became more open about her “mobsession”, it was like she knew the number of strands of hair on his head and the length of his eye lashes. This was getting strange. The more she talked the more detailed she became. It was like a painter's obsession with her subject with every detail so vivid you could see it all emanating from the canvas in her mind.
I asked her with all of this raw emotion dating back decades, why they broke up. She said he broke up with her, that she smothered him, and he wouldn’t let her back in his life. All of her attempts at bringing them back together consistently ran into a brick wall.
She said most women follow a pattern of obsessing about a man from their past as a result of three stages of pre-marital experiences. First, there is the man a woman falls in love with who didn’t pursue her. Second, there is the man that fell in love with her who she didn’t pursue. Finally, there is that random guy that you meet, who ticks off all the boxes, so you take the logical step and just marry him.
She went on to describe her marriage as being “practical”, her husband as a “good man”, and that being an unemployed housewife whose job is to raise the kids as “vanilla”. In my mind, without being judgmental, “ticking off all the boxes” partly explained all the shopping bags from the high end stores she was carrying. More stuff for her “vanilla” life.
Out of boredom she said her “mobsession” was born. She said she knew that any obsession is dangerous, but this one wasn’t. She hadn’t talked to Mo in decades, would never infringe on the life of a married man, and that she was just following him “closely”.
She said that her friends made fun of her over her “mobsession”. That she fell in love with this man thirty years ago and that she still loves him in her own way today. It “happens a lot”, she said.
I asked her if she still had these strong feelings for Mo, shouldn’t she try and reach out to him? She seemed shocked at the mere suggestion. She said “I’m married, he’s married, how’s that supposed to work?” You could be friends, I said. But, she snickered at that idea.
“Of course, you can’t be friends with someone you loved passionately once”, she replied emphatically. She said, most people can relate to the feeling of love for someone from their past, but bringing them back into your life years later would be asking for trouble. She said, by reconnecting with an old flame, especially if you’re both married, risks taking the love you have for someone and spilling it over into an obsession with the possibility of a lot of people getting hurt. I was getting thoroughly confused.
She said a woman’s love for an old flame, the man that was “the one”, is a very strong and lasting emotion bordering an obsession. She repeated this was “normal” for most women. I didn’t know what to think.
She asserted that if I had truly ever been in love I would understand. It’s a state, she said, where you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, the day begins with Mo and ends with Mo even if he isn’t there. She said love is when someone won’t leave your mind for a minute.
Emphatically, she said, Mo was the perfect man for her. She knew this immediately. He was her soul mate that never was. His stature, his voice, his eyes, his wit, everything worked. She was his, but he walked away. For years, she said, she never noticed anyone else unless they looked like him. Crazy, stupid love, I guess.
She became more colorful as her “mobsession” rant continued. She said, that being around Mo awakened her, stirring the sediment that had long ago settled at the bottom of her heart. With Mo, she was a part of something larger, and somehow more alive.
She would do everything, she said, to be in his proximity. She said, I expressed every feeling I had for him this way: I love you, I hate you, I think you’re the devil, I think you’re wonderful, I want to be with you, I don’t want to be with you, I will never call you again, please call me, forgive me even though I don’t know what I did. She said this madness started the moment she met him and he shook her hand. It was like a disease
infected her and it lives in her heart to this day.
But, everything was reduced to a fantasy when Mo rejected her advances over and over again. She said to this day, she can imagine a wonderful chance encounter with Mo just to see if the magic was still there, or if her mind had been playing tricks on her all of these years.
And, I could see this chance encounter playing out in my mind. I could see them meeting after so many years, her smiling so sweetly, bursting with joy, tossing her red-hair to get it to fall perfectly in place, staring into his eyes with a fierce level of emotion, with a love unparalleled. He’d say something meaningful to her, and she'd melt right in front of him. But, I knew reality could not live up to that. He was married,she was married, it had been decades since they saw each other. This was pure fantasy and nothing else. Just a bored housewife who’d invented a “mobsession” in her spare time.
I was sure now that her reflections amounted to a love story that is mostly made up, from memories that are mostly false, between people who hardly knew each other. She imagined so many things that were never there, and a fantasy of what could have been was all there was to all of this.
Then after all the talk of “he’s married and I’m married”, this happened. She asked me if I had his number. Of course, I did, but now what? She already has an irrational obsession with Mo and her request caught me off guard. I thought to myself without obsession, life is nothing so just give her Mo’s number. Maybe there is something real here. After all, she can get his number from a variety of people, or even from the Internet. I dictated the number and she logged it into her phone.
Shortly afterwards the plane landed. Hours had passed like minutes while she brought me into her life of “mobsession”. In the cab, I called my sister to recount the story. She was horrified. How could I give her Mo’s number she shrieked. Insistently, she said the best course of action now was to call Mo to warn him about what was likely coming.
That seemed like a prudent course of action. I called Mo and he was happy to hear from me. I told him I ran into his old girlfriend and gave him her name. To my astonishment he said,”who”? I repeated the name. Mo was clueless.
I said, but you dated her in college, only for him to say “I dated a lot of women in college and this one I honestly don’t remember”. He asked me to describe her. I said she has reddish hair, hazel eyes, about 5’5. He said, “yeah sounds like my type”. Then he said “is she hot, I mean should I even bother to answer her call”?
Realizing that “mobsession” was just a one sided fantasy, I told him she wasn’t cute, that she’d aged badly, and quickly ended the call. None of that was true.
Maybe this way I could spare her some disappointment and she could hang on to her “mobsession” for a little while longer.
I guess we all have our obsessions of a partner, or partners, who probably forgot about us a long time ago too. And, maybe this is how the human mind works. You glorify a love from your past to make up for a lack of love in your present.
But, maybe, just maybe, there are some of us obsessing about someone from years ago who is still obsessing about us too. Maybe some old flames can be reignited, and others not so much. Maybe for some an incredible chance encounter is still possible with someone who won’t struggle to remember your name. Or, maybe it’s just easier to look for love in your present than in your past.
And, if you can’t find love in your present, there’s no need to dismay. Just reimagine your past and spice it up in any way that makes you happy. Then, obsess all you want. After all without obsession, life is nothing.