I headed west this past weekend, to see a man I once loved, in a city where I once lived.
And in the wee hours of Sunday morning, when I was in the throes of insomnia, I watched him as he lie next to me sleeping. A 53-year-old man’s face is interesting when illuminated by a clock radio on the bedside table. The light, while muted and a greenish hue, was enough to allow me to see the contours of his face. He’s aged, but time has been kind. Even so, I remembered how he looked decades ago; he’s still handsome, but I remember his was a young, fresh face; before life had etched its tale tell presence in the form of crow’s-feet and other lines. I reached out my hand and cupped his cheek. He smiled, either because he knew I was touching him or perhaps, like a baby, it was just gas.
I spent 48 hours with him and spent a great deal of that time trying to determine where I am in this relationship. All I know, is that I still don’t know, but for some reason, it’s OK. There’s something oddly stable about feeling unstable in this relationship in particular. Odd, I know, but that feeling is very real. Perhaps I’m waiting and biding my time in an effort to earn this relationships so if and when love corrals us both, it’ll feel more deserved.
As it stands, this is a long distance relationship. We live about 400 miles apart so we can only see each other about every four to five weeks. It isn’t easy, but it’s not that hard, either. I think part of the mass acceptance of our situation is that we’re now in our early 50’s . Passion is still good and heightened, but as we’ve grayed, it has slowed and patience plays a much bigger role. The urgency of youth that once fueled the frenetic nature of the couple we once were, is no longer there. The pace is manageable; calmer and I like the way that feels.
I continued to stare at the face that’s lived in my memory for more than three decades. With my mind, I traced the years the we’ve known each other; with my eyes, I traced his laugh lines; I gently touched the jowls that weren’t there before. I noticed the gray in his goatee and around his temples–proof of his half a century sojourn on this planet. None of that matters. I have missed this man more than even I was aware. We reconnected last May and prior to that, I hadn’t laid eyes on him since the early spring of 1986. That’s 25 very long, event filled years.
We had a horrible break up. We were young and selfish and both very, very career oriented and really, unwilling to cut the other any slack to pursuit our careers. He was in his sophomore year of persuing a lifelong career with big dreams and I was going to be the next Jane Pauley and would inflict nightmares on anyone who got in my way. We both attained some success in our chosen careers, but as he climbed the ladder of fortune and fame, he did the responsible thing and got married and of course, had children.
I just spent years dating them.
And that’s one of the principle reasons I like the man this man has become. He’s not a child. I love his steadfastness. He’s very sure of himself and what he wants and doesn’t want. He divorced a year ago–not his decision–but he’s wizened quite a bit since becoming forcibly single. That’s only added to this air of certainty and polish. I must have done some improving and polishing along the way because we now seem far better suited to each other now. We’ve both grown up, personally and professionally; emotionally and mentally. The things that identified him in his career are on a back burner somewhere. He’s now a successful entrepreneur. I’m still in broadcasting, but I have no desire to be on the air anymore. I can see the end of the line where as before, my life in this crazy industry was on this road that went on forever. I like that my career is finally finite. I think this has helped enable us to be able to appreciate and respect what each other has done and all the effort and sacrifice that went into achievement.
What a difference a quarter century makes.
I say that because in 1986, I think we resented each other. His career aspirations took up too much of his time away from me; pursuing my broadcast dreams meant I had to move away from him. We locked horns.
Why was this a factor? Well, I guess the relationship was dying and mutual resentment and hostility became vestiges that the end was near. And it was. And frankly, it needed to die when it did, but time heals all wounds. In spite of it all, I’ve never forgotten this man and really, never stopped loving him. To have him back in my life is good for me. I hope it’s good for him, too. I’d like to think it’s good for both of us because it’s now happening on our terms, as adults.
All these things raced through my mind as I reached out again, this time to run my fingers through his hair. He wears his shorter now. I thought about how much of his life hasn’t included me. But I lied there wanting to believe that was for a reason; as if a part of a divine plan. There was a reason for the huge gulf of years between us. My life for the past several years haven’t been happy ones. From 1988 to early 2005, my life and a garbage disposal were right on par and while I can’t compare his existence to as household appliance, I can assume by his acrimonious divorce that the last several years couldn’t have been a walk in the park. Perhaps, we’re together now because this is the right time to be together. Had it happened two years ago or two years from now, it could never or would never have worked.
Is it perfect? No and for that I’m also grateful. I have come to revel in flaws. His paunchy gut; my ever-expanding ass and escalating chins. We like each other and when there’s mutual admiration; when you’re friends, you’re so much more forgiving. Liking someone is special and engrossing, often so much more than love can be. And perhaps that’s why we don’t give anything that we have any kind of title or label. True, he’s still nursing some wounds and I’m finally allowing the self-inflicted ones to start healing and this period of recuperation places us in a very unique situation. There’s a great deal to our relationship that’s unspoken, but understood. Glances and gentle caresses speak volumes. We don’t say “I love you”, yet we speak of a future together. We don’t call ourselves “a couple”, yet we love being together. We can only spend very little time together, but that only makes it more wonderful when we do.
Twenty-five years ago, a relationship as seemingly sporadic as this would have been the last thing I would have wanted. Today, it’s all I could ask for.
I took one last look at his man. A glorious sensation came over me. I was gazing at my past to be sure, but I also felt certain I was also looking at my future–whatever that might entail. The outcome will be what the outcome will be…..so, for the time being, everything felt wonderfully fused. There’s still such a wonderful connection between us; a most welcomed symbiosis. I have rarely felt that in my life outside of my years with this man. This made me feel satisfied. I felt that life had finally attained the status of “good”.
Life felt ‘right’.
I glanced over at the clock radio on the nightstand.
It’s still mercifully dark at 5:45 these days. That was my cue to get up and run to the bathroom and the safety of my carefully packed swaddling clothes before any light of any kind can shine on any of my more offensive body parts. Oh yes, make no mistake, we care about each other very much and we are older, more mature and so much more forgiving, but I’d rather that the relationship evolve a bit more into a more solid mass–perhaps with an actual title or label–before I allow him to catch a glimpse of the ravages of time on my naked body in an upright position…..namely my two independently undulating butt cheeks and boobs that I kick when I walk.