August 2, 1999. Monday (Civic Holiday)
Killing me softly
Love sought is good,
but given unsought is better.
-William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, III:1
It's here. Dazed, confused, it may not be in the right order and it may not have been the right day, but think of it like Tequila... Hold your breath and it will soon be over. A word of warning... Today you take a step inside my thoughts. This is not my usual entry and for once, I am letting down my censorship and allowing you to see me as I think. Please, do not presume to understand, and most importantly, don't assume that the words you read are the words I wrote for they are spoken to each of us with a different tone.
Ok, first things first, no gory details OK? Let me have my dignity at least...
I guess you could say that it was everything I thought it would be, both the bad and the good. My reactions to the situations have nothing to do with Jess herself, since our bond has been built from the inside out, but at the same time, there is a part of me that says if it were the true love that life is constantly screaming at me exists, I wouldn't be about to write all of this. Jess was just as I thought she would be. There was certainly no disappointment, but the instant that I stepped from the Jeep at my destination, the first thing that crossed my mind was not what I had envisioned:
"What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here" -Creep
The song had been playing several times during the day, and I had heard
it, I just wasn't listening, but as I opened the truck door, the lyrics blared
out at me and I stood face to face with myself and every conceivable question about my
I was a long way from home and I knew that it was a long way too far. I hadn't even heard the tremors of what was about to hit me and once I sat down, shaking hands with her Mum and Carlos I knew I had made an error in judgement (Hmmm, yes, again.) The error was not coming here, after all there is nothing wrong with a couple of days vacation in the US when you are too used to being tied to the couch at home, and nothing wrong with wanting to meet someone with whom you have developed a strong emotional bond, but the waves that washed over me had the coldness of a deep black sea. The error was in thinking that it was alright to let the notion that we would "See what happens" invade us to the point that it allowed hope to seep in. The thoughts that surrounded me now as I sat outside the Starbucks were developing into feelings of betrayal and false expectation. It was a sinking feeling that told me I had brought this on myself and that I was going to have some explaining to do.
Funnily enough, the feeling actually hit me as I stepped out of the Jeep
in front of Starbucks on that hot, humid night in Albany. I am attempting to prove to you
and to myself that it wasn't anything to do with the person who stepped out to hug me and
introduced me to her companions. It wasn't. I have been down the long distance
relationship path before and I think that the curiosity of meeting this
"personality" overrode the danger I was entertaining. But my resolve came back
with abandon with every step I took towards the gravel patio of the coffee shop.
I don't know if I would say it was a mistake to come, because I am very happy I had the chance to meet Jess and her family, but I think it was a mistake to come with certain doors left open.
It's not that I am not capable, it is that I am unwilling. Maybe it is partly my age (not to mention the fact that Jess was in grade 7 when I was graduating University) or maybe it is the fact that I have had this experience more than once and have never seen a fruitful result. I am not sure.
I am sitting here on Saturday, feet under the covers, scribbling on scraps of paper. MTV's "Real World" is on the box (We don't get MTV or Real World in Canada, so this is a trip for me!) and the "Road Rules 1/2 WAY There Marathon" from Cuba (and we all know how much I love and miss Cuba) and I am starting to feel a little distanced from everything. It is the feeling that you get when you are surrounded by others and yet you manage to feel completely alone. Partially it is a familiar feeling I get every time I find myself between the sheets of some indeterminate US motel King Size and the glaring differences between my second home, Toronto, and this Mecca of the Western Hemisphere. It is overwhelming every time I come, and no matter how many times I get here, I never cease to be amazed at the saturation of the culture. In Canada, the culture is submerged, it is hard to define what makes anything Canadian, but here, the culture (good or bad) oozes from every store window, every radio station and is pumped out into the streets with alarming intensity by the non-stop, 24 hour geyser known as Cable TV.
So what of the rest of the weekend? Should I be the one to initiate the conversation and thereby drive a stake through the heart of whatever hope I know sits in the back of Jess' mind. It would be the right thing to do, however it is also presumptuous of me to assume I know what is going on inside her head. It may be better to allow us both to enjoy our time here even though I have already internally sabotaged myself with this baby guilt trip. I am tired, it was a very late night and my tolerance for myself and my bizarre choices is waning. I really need to go to sleep now. I should have come with restrictions upon my actions, but right now I am a fully automatic Uzi in the hands of a Stock Trader who has a hammer and thinks everything is a nail...
We had the conversation. Over low fat quesadillas at the mall I attempted to voice my frustration at myself and at least in part explain that far from being a mistake, my being there under those conditions was not the brightest thing I have ever done. I could tell that I had stepped on some toes, and we walked back to the Jeep with only a couple of words to say. I knew what the situation was, I was far from being in control of it, but I knew where it was heading. I just hoped that Jess realized it was an internal conflict that I had brought with me to fight on her battleground. Hardly fair to do, but the catalyst for this particular kick in the ass was the 8 hour drive itself.
I was coming to the point (and I know this much about myself) where I would start to dig deeper and move back to a safe distance and examine the trends of my life, lament on the bizarre twists with which I had provided myself and resolve that this would be the last time I would allow myself to get myself into a situation where there seemed to be no reasonable and neutral course of action. This would be followed by larger and more sweeping changes I would plan to make to my life including the full throttle pursuit of all available women in the city of Toronto. It would be backed up with plans of changing my approach to life, living each day like it was a party to be crashed and making the most of my youth and charm (which it seems I have in abundance - thank you Jess ;) to live some kind of hedonistic orgy of pleasure to make up for the implied need to find excitement elsewhere. I knew it was coming, and I knew when it did, I would feel even worse.
Sunday and the ensuing battle
The feelings haunted me, mixed with a healthy dose of paranoia about the fact that "things" were being moved from my house once again without my being there. I was torn in too many directions. I knew that I didn't regret going, that my meeting Jess was indeed as satisfying to my curiosity as I had imagined. I was happy with the knowledge that finally, I "knew" Jess... There were still nagging voices in my head shouting at me about responsibility, accountability, the need for conservatism in my actions, the berating comments about being in Albany in the first place. It was getting to me. The doubts from the day before had started to take on specific significance and I was choking on the excuses I had made to come. I was also painfully aware that Jess would think there were other reasons. I couldn't exactly explain that if Jennifer Lopez had greeted me, I would have had the same doubts. It was becoming more and more simplified to the point that as I backed out of the driveway my brain was screaming "12 years and 500 miles is a bridge no one can cross".
I am sure that there are people reading this and thinking "NOW he realizes this?" I am positive that if I had been getting regular feedback, that I would have been told in no uncertain terms that what I was doing was nothing short of insanity. Of course, my resolve had crumbled and I was already hightailing it back down I90 West towards the border, my tail between my legs. Like a child being chastised by his father for his carelessness, I was cowering under the weight of common sense. It seems unfair to talk so much about myself when I spent such a long time with Jess, however there were 3 of us there... Me, Jess and my overbearing conscience which ridiculed me at every turn.
I learned a great deal this weekend. At least, I thought I did. However, as I look back on my life, I think that the lesson I am supposed to learn from this still evades me. The reason being that I can still understand why I did what I did and can still make an argument for it. That in itself speaks volumes. Jess asked me why I loved the movie "What Dreams May Come" so much and my answer was simply "I believe it is true". I am still in essence a man who would do anything for love, but I am also a man who has come to learn his limitations and effectively how to prevent himself from hurting other people with his crazy ideas. There is a world of difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. I think that when all the chips are down, that is what I will have learned this weekend.
'Tis strange what a man may do, and a woman yet think him an angel. -William Makepeace Thackeray, Henry Esmond, Ch. 7