I fell in love with Matthew Jenkins at a Speedway in Gove. We lived in a small, paradise-like sea-side town in the tip of the Northern Territory. There were only 1000 residents, so we grew up never knowing what a lock was. Our car doors and house doors were always open/unlocked. Nothing ever went missing or got stolen. EVER. I look back on that time and wonder if it was real – or did I imagine the ideallic childhood I lived?
Anyway. Back to Matt.
I’d never had an obsession before. Typical of me to find my first ever one with a boy. I was 14, Matt was 16. He was broken on the inside, mouthy, sarcastic, shy, tall, as thin as a rake and had big ears. I thought they were gorgeous. Matt was shy and gave off waves of fragility and fear – fear of rejection. Fear from the endless teasing. Other boys his age called him “wingnut” and bullied him, so he stayed out of the limelight and kept his head down.
I met Matt at our Church Youth group. I think there were about 25 of us and we were all really, really close. To have a town full of best friends was probably the best experience of my life. I looked forward to Friday night with all my heart – being picked up by Julia – who was in her 20’s and I thought she was “so adult” and looked up to her. She had a beautiful heart and a lovely, throaty laugh.
I think I knew of Matt, but my eyes/heart were on a young man (a year younger than me – the SCANDAL of it, hahahahaha) called Elvio. I’m not even going to bother changing boy’s names on this blog, it was so long ago that I don’t think anyone will mind. Elvio got picked up before I did and even before I shut the door behind me when I got into Julia’s car, we were arguing. We would argue about EVERYTHING. The weather. Food. Colours. Sports. Shows. Music. It was passionate and thrilling and under it all was this amazing, delicious wave of sexual tension that I literally lived for – for years. Even though we “hated” each other, we saved each other seats at dinner, sat together all through youth and whenever we were required to ‘partner up’ for a game or a task, it seemed only natural to look for Elvio – and he for me.
So Matt? Matt was a shadow – a boy in the youth who didn’t talk much and if he did, it was with a low voice and very to-the-point.
Then one day, as love does – I saw him.
I suddenly became aware of the blue of his eyes. Against his white skin and raven black hair, his eyes were like jewels.
Elvio too was very handsome. Blue-green eyes and gorgeous curled hair over his cheeky, friendly, amazing face with a big grin whenever he won in our weekly banter…but when I looked at Matt that day…everyone around us…everything around us…disappeared.
So instead of arguing with Elvio, I found myself jostling my body against Matt’s as he held my glasses aloft in his long arms and baited me “come and get them”. I couldn’t reach, we both knew it, we both loved it and I went to bed with butterflies in my stomach dreaming of what Matt’s lips would feel like on mine.
Elvio was all but forgotten about. Bless him. At the same time as I noticed Matt, Elvio was talking more and more about a girl in his class at school. It was as if we’d both gone our seperate ways at the same time so neither of us was heartbroken. I remember Elvio inviting this girl of his to Youth group one night and I thought she was one of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen. She was Columbian or Spanish or something – with long, thick, dark hair and a beautiful friendly, sweet face. She was so CUTE I just loved her right away. Bravo Elvio I thought that day. You’ve chosen such a beautiful girl. There was no envy, just deep, heartfelt happiness for my friend.
Fast forward to months of flirting and chasing and winding each other up and Matt and I were suddenly dating. We met up at the Speedway – him with 4-5 ‘mates’ around him, me with the same. We all ‘hung out’ together but it was like everyone knew why we were there – it was so Matt and I could sit next to each other and pretend to watch battered cars rev their engines and go around in circles for hours on end.
We kissed and I felt like the whole world stopped. His breath mingled with mine…his tongue circled mine…my stomach bottomed-out as if I’d fallen off a cliff suddenly and it was thrilling and wonderful and new and exciting all at once.
We dated for a year. It was a roller-coaster of yelling, making out, arguing, making up, laughing, screaming, crying and making out some more. I loved Matt so much. We wanted to get married, bless us. Matt said when I was 16, we could apply for a “special license” to get married and if our parents agreed, we’d be husband and wife. Oh my heart, I wanted that so badly.
Our romance was abruptly ended as Matt and his Family moved away to Katherine – a bigger town 4 day’s travel away. We promised to make it work and for a good 6-8 months, we really did. Long phone calls, long letters (back then there was no internet so hand-written letters were everything – and no mobile phones – so a phone extension chord was a MUST for a teenager, so you could walk the phone to your room and try to speak ‘in private’ with the love of your life or your best friend).
Then one fateful night, Nathan came to Youth group.
I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since, but when we looked at each other as we were introduced, sparks went off. It was like we were surrounded suddenly in fireflies and fireworks. I was breathless from the rush of it.
“…boarding school and here for a few weeks” Nathan’s friend finished introducing him. I’d missed most of what he’d said. So had Nathan. His eyes didn’t leave mine. Our friends seemed to sense this (it was obvious to anyone) and they all went off to talk, leaving Nathan and I alone in the living room. I think we just stood there, looking at each other. Other youth, parents, helpers and little ones ran around us and the world went on but we didn’t move an inch.
Suddenly, I was propelled into a seated position and my best friends were on either side of me. Nathan was across the room from me and we were in a circle. A bottle appeared from somewhere and was spinning in the middle of the circle. Everyone was cheering. It landed on Nathan…and instead of spinning it, he just crawled across to me – his eyes locked on mine the entire time – on his hands and knees and just kissed me.
It was INCREDIBLE.
One of the SEXIEST things I have EVER experienced in my whole life.
I felt as if my skin was on fire – but it was DELICIOUS.
Nathan’s lips were different to Matt’s. Nathan’s whole being was different. This boy carried himself with confidence. Nathan was really good looking (tall, muscly, blonde, brown eyes, a gorgeous smile and a dimple in his cheek) and he knew it so Nathan moved and acted with purpose. Unlike Matt, Nathan spoke clearly and loudly and seemed to know what he wanted. He was a natural leader. Naturally popular. Nathan was funny, sweet, quick-witted – perfect, really.
He walked me home that night and we stood awkwardly at my front door for what felt like hours, talking. He took me in his arms (no boy had ever had the confidence to do that before) and kissed me again. Deeply. It was amazing.
But what of Matt?
The next day, I rang Matt and tearfully confessed my confusing attraction to the new guy. Matt was annoyed rather than hurt. I was close to Matt’s Mom (Jacquie is just wonderful) and she talked to me a few days later, saying she suspected someone had caught Matt’s eye too, and not to take things too hard.
So things should really have ended there.
Except our families were close friends and a few months later, we were picking up a disheveled Matt at Darwin before we drove on to Katherine to 1) drop him home 2) visit with his family.
So of course, it was on again. Nathan had gone back to Boarding school, Chantelle (the girl who caught Matt’s heart) had no interest in him…so we drew together like familiar, powerful magnets.
Then broke up again because we drove each other crazy.
Fast forward 10 years and I was 21…Matt was 23. He wrote me a letter. I knew his handwriting on the envelope and before I’d opened it, I was planning what we’d call our first child, I was instantly back in love with him. The phone calls started – hours of planning our wedding, our first home, what we’d call our kids – we’d have one boy and one girl. We’d live in a small country town and grow old together, forever in love.
I was so sold on Matthew that I agreed to move out to Darwin to be with him. I dropped out of Uni and flew 5 hours to Darwin to be with Matt. I packed up my whole life to be with this guy. But when I got there, I noticed the longing looks exchanged between him and a girl there who looked a little like me but had a bit of extra height – and extra weight (I quite enjoyed that I was slim and sexy AF while she was very chubby, not gonna lie). She had a baby boy to someone else (out of wedlock which in Christian circles back then was a HUGE scandal) and I remember Matt cradling her baby boy fondly in his arms and smiling across at that girl. My heart just broke at the way they looked at each other – as if only they knew a special secret. Matt used to look at me like that.
When most of the Youth headed outside for a BBQ, I sat halfway down on the staircase and threaded my fingers through the railing, resting my head on them and wondering how I was going to win Matt back from this mysterious dark girl who had stolen his heart. Why hadn’t he told me about her sooner?
Matt interlinked his fingers with mine, standing on the other side of the staircase.
I looked at him. “Kiss me” I pleaded silently in my head. “Make me feel like I’m yours and that travelling out here is going to be worth it”
It was like Matt read my mind. He smiled and blushed, looking down at the floor “I can’t, Janet. I really want to kiss you but…not here, ok? Everyone will see it…and…umm…Calida won’t like it”.
So that was her name. The girl with the baby.
“You’re going to marry her” I said, my heart breaking into a million peices.
“Don’t be silly” Matt said.
But I knew. I knew it in the marrow of my bones.
So I packed my bags and with my heart shattered, I flew back home and re-enrolled at Uni. Matt was really angry about it and refused to talk to me. Having him reject me when HE was the one in love with someone else broke something in me mentally.
I spent the year stalking him – without the internet – so stalking became 40 phone calls a day to his house.
40 CALLS A DAY FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.
I got hospitalised in a Psych ward, it had literally driven me nuts to lose Matthew like that.
Fast forward to me in England with my first husband at 32 years old. 11 years since I’d last seen or heard from Matt. Only now…there was Facebook and my first search was Matt’s name. His handsome face was on his profile pic and my heart did a million happy back flips.
I instantly forgot that I was married. All I could think of was swimming in water holes with Matt on a dusky eve, laying on our backs and watching stars with Matt on warm summer nights, whispering promises to each other for hours on ‘wet weather’ months in the NT…and how much I still loved him.
I messaged Matt. He messaged back.
4 months later and I was flying across the world to see him.
I lost my virginity to him that fateful weekend and my obsession and love for him grew to be about 1000 times stronger.
I had to have him.
I left my husband and my ENTIRE LIFE in England to move back to Australia.
Again, we had conversations about ‘our’ future. Matt was divorcing Calida (I TOLD him he’d marry her!!! I bloody KNEW IT!!!) and wanted me back. I had wanted him my whole life.
Finally we we going to be together.
So I flew out AGAIN to see Matthew in Darwin. He collected me from the airport and we spent a week at his house. First it was rampant, crazy, no-rules, animalistic, insanely good sex. For hours. It was unending. He had so much energy and I had so much pent up lust it was an explosion and we just did it everywhere non-stop for about 2 days. Against walls, floors, in the shower, in the back of the car, doggy-style, reverse cowboy, rampant 69’ing – everything. It was heaven. Then came the fighting. The screaming. The accusations. Matt went to the loo and I checked his phone – there were about 72 messages (I’m not even kidding) from Calida “I know you’re fucking her” “I hate her, Matt” “I will find her and I will kill her”
Matt’s texts were trying to placate Calida “it’s no big deal, calm down” but he was always returning her texts, worrying for her.
And I saw the text that changed everything “You need to stop this, Calida – this stress isn’t good for the baby”
I asked – angry tears rolling down my face in waves and Matt confirmed it – looking everywhere but at me – they were having another baby together.
JD, you’re a fool.
I wanted to go home. I wanted to cut the week short and cut myself finally free of this man who was going to always make me miserable.
But oh how I wanted him, still. My loins literally ached for him. My heart HAD to have him. My body couldn’t seem to operate unless it was pressed against his. I had never felt like this before and it was killing me.
I remember sitting on the hood of his friend’s jeep, crying on the phone to my best friend Gracie and telling her about the baby…about my broken heart…about my shattered dreams.
Matt had abandoned me and gone for a ride on his dirt bike.
I had flashes of when he’d take me riding on the back. Along the beach we’d go – waves lapping at us and he’d slow the bike down, put his hand over mine and wink at me in the side mirror.
Oh Matt. Why do I love you? Why do I feel the way I do about you?
“I want to come home!” I wailed to Gracie.
“I know, honey” she comforted “But this is something you need to see out. You’ll fly home. He’ll miss you. You’ll make up, you always do. You’ll fly out again. It’s always you running to him and you never end up happy. Stay the WHOLE week and make yourself face who he really is – warts and all. Take your time to REALLY look at who this man is and ask yourself – is he REALLY the one for you? Is he?”
So I took Gracie’s sage advice. I stayed.
I moved out of Matt’s bedroom that week and slept on the bottom bunk of his son’s bunk beds while they were away for the beginning of the week at their Mom’s (Calida’s house). While Matt was at work, I didn’t wait at home for him like a love-sick puppy anymore, I went out. I went to the markets, I went to Art Galleries, I took myself to lunch, I went swimming alone. When Matt got home from work, I watched him with fresh eyes.
He’s extremely tidy. Almost OCD with it. That was a surprise. Matt constantly washed and neatly put everything away that he used. Everything in his home had a place and he felt a lot of pride in that. We had 2 days with his boys so I got to watch Matt as a Father. He doted on both the boys. Ethan was his step-son but Matthew loved him as his own. Jonais was his full (?) son and Matt absolutely adored him. Praise God, I’m great with kids and both boys warmed to me instantly, Ethan joyously exclaiming one morning when I made pancakes that it was the “Best day of my life!” and Matt chuckling and rolling his eyes at me. That was a lovely moment.
But what I noticed was that Matt was constantly checking his phone – like, every few minutes. He seemed to desperately want to hear from someone and I knew it was Calida. I’m popular and well-loved so my phone went off every few minutes with worried friends checking on me, boys macking on me (“if Matt won’t have you, I’d LOVE to take you on a date, Janet”) and me already accepting invites to parties and get-togethers when I got home to Perth. Matt seemed to resent that and mumbled a few rude comments my way.
Matt was still in love with Calida. That was for sure.
I had to let him go.
So over that long week, I did. A little every day. A little more on the long flight home. A little more every week and month that I was back in Perth. A little more whenever Matt texted and his familiar personally-set ring/text-tone went off in my pocket – I’d answer less and less willingly. I’d rush less and less to get to my phone. I’d stop walking around with my phone in my hand and stopped falling asleep with it in my hand, too.
But longing for the same guy MY WHOLE LIFE was really hard to get past.
We stayed friends. We’d text every week “hey, you doing ok?” Mostly me supporting Matt and him complaining about his sore back. Matt re-married to a girl who he is absolutely head over heels with. Matt’s wife “Swee” looks like she could be my sister. THAT WINDS ME UP SO FREAKING MUCH. She’s Filipino like me, my height, has similar big brown eyes to me – it was like I was SO CLOSE to the dream of being Mrs Jenkins and yet somehow didn’t measure up. HOW did SHE do it, then???
They’ve had 2 more boys together. They are happy.
Matt is fat now. Fat, content and so in love. His Facebook posts are always about his “beautiful wife” and how much he loves her.
So today…after ALL this time…I asked the question I’ve wanted to ask for more than 20 years of my life.
I texted “Matt?”
and he responded almost immediately (something he does now that I try not to read anything into) “Yes Jan?” (he refuses to call me Janet – “You’ll always be Jan to me” he stubbornly insists).
And one by one, I pressed on the letters that formed the question I’ve wanted to ask for so very, very long.
And suddenly, I was 14 again, seeing Matt across the Youth hall for the first time. Kissing him at the speedway for the first time. 16 and swimming in a waterhole with him, his arms around me, feeling as light as a feather as the water swirled around us. I was 21 and sitting on those stairs, feeling his strong fingers intertwined with mine – looking down at our fingers like piano keys – dark and light and together a musical symphony that would ring out across the stars. I was 32 and laying under him as he pushed his way into my body and I felt the fullness of him while I felt his breath on my cheek and revelled at his deep, sexy breaths. I felt like I was flying, running, falling…I felt like I was on fire and made of ice. I felt like I was exploding and yet being put together – my body joined to his and our sweat mingling. I was 32 years old and flying home on a 5 hour flight where I cried the whole way because I had to let him go and I had to make sure I did it before I went home, texting Denzel “Sure, I’d love that” to his dinner invitation while wiping tears away with the back of my wrist on that plane as I pressed ‘send’.
I wouldn’t love to. I want MATT. I always have.
I rode the rise and fall of the last 30 years with that man in the 20 minutes it took him to text me back this afternoon.
Finally my phone beeped.
I took a deep breath before opening his reply.
“You didn’t do anything. It wasn’t that you weren’t enough – It was me. I was f**ked up on drugs my whole life and I didn’t know what I was doing, let alone how to love you the way you deserved. I’m so sorry. I f**ked it all up”
So that was my answer.
“It wasn’t you – it was me”
That’s all you have for me, Matt? After every time I moved my life to just stand next to you?
I don’t know.
I’m not happy with it. I feel like I deserve more.