I have been absent for awhile and, while it is hard to imagine many loyal readers being all disappointed, I guess there may be a few out there to whom I should, at the very least, explain myself and what has happened and why I went away for a bit. I obviously did not come into sudden money and watch 300 movies in a month's time. So, here it is:
I had a friend when I was just a kid; a girlfriend of sorts; in that way of little kids. I won't say her name; that doesn't matter in the least. She was the Becky Thatcher to my Tom Sawyer. I was terrible with girls, had no use for any of them except her because she didn't seem much like a girl. She was pretty with green eyes and smelled different and better than boys, but mostly she liked what I liked, which was playing in the woods and pretending and animals and reading books (adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe, or Oliver Twist, or Encyclopedia Brown)out loud and old cars and plows that were hidden and left to rot in the woods near our homes. I'd stand outside her house in summer and just throw rocks or sticks at the telephone pole until she'd come out and ask if I wanted to play and I would just shrug. We'd play deep in the woods, down by an old pond and across the cow pastures. We'd have adventures with walkie talkies and old Army canteens that her father (a Vietnam vet) had laying around in the shed. We'd run and hide and laugh and wrestle and talk low and swear secret oaths on our backs looking up at the treetops when the sun got dim, right before supper. She kissed me once, on the lips, and I'll never forget. She was also as smart or smarter than me, which I have always liked.
We didn't just play and pursue our pre-pubescent romance. We also fought like cats and dogs. We would have some kind of row almost every day. We never fought over what games to play or what to read aloud to one another. We had too much in common for that. But we would fight all the time about who would be the leader or who would be what character in our pretend or who would read what part out loud or who would play which voice in the book we were reading.
In my first summer insomnia, I would lay awake most nights and think of her and imagine us married and living in a modest house with a big porch in the country near a rambly stream with three cats and two dogs and maybe a billy goat or a cute little Don Quixote donkey. I also wanted to be a forest ranger and she wanted to be a librarian. We all know what happens to thoughts like that.
As you can imagine, time and puberty and awkwardness took its evil toll and we got older and our ambitions split. We stopped sitting together on the school bus. She was ambitious and good at school; I was a terrible student and on my way to becoming good-for-nothing. We were filled with love and disappointment all at the same time. The love never went away, that's important. It was tatooed into my very being. It still is. I just couldn't speak it or show it. When I was sixteen, I got a job at a local restaurant shucking oysters and met this college age waitress and went home with her for a few weeks. I was a runaway, I guess. I stopped going to school. Pretty soon, that waitress dropped me cold for a guy her own age and I went back home and back to school. But the damage was done. This girl and I had a terrible fight about me wasting my life and we basically stopped speaking. I wrote it off to jealousy. She just didn't understand anything I was going through and thought that she somehow owned a piece of me. Funny, years later, I know now that she was right and that she abolutely did own a piece of me all along, a big piece.
Years and years pass; we lose touch. I am not in serious contact with anyone from where I'm from, so I don't hear anything about this girl. A few years back, she finds me through the power of happyrobot and Google and Nutshell Kingdom. I don't think she reads anymore, so maybe I'm safe in posting this. Who cares, right?
We write back and forth. She's a researcher for some pharamceutical company in RTP back in North Carolina. She was real interested in my law school, happy I was finally going to make something of myself. I didn't have the heart to tell her that it was still the same old me, that no amount of polish could save me from a certain level of disrepute and that respectability on her terms was something I could never manage in a million years. We'd write back and forth.
So I get this email a few weeks back that says she has a job offer in Beijing and should she take it? She said she could either go to China or maybe move to DC, what did I think? I couldn't speak hardly. I said it was up to her. It was very awkward. She got off the phone and I prayed she'd call back and tell me that she was going to stay and magically base her entire future on the unspoken and long lost dreams of a childhood fantasy. She didn't. I haven't heard from her since, except for the dreams that come every night where we live togther in a trailer in some National Park campground and have a black dog named Jeremiah.
In a nutshell, that's why I haven't been writing. I've been haunted and everything else sort of went out the window. Something hurt really bad when I heard she might move to China. Something in me threatened to commit internal suicide if she went away...and yet...and yet...I didn't do anything, didn't say anything. I wouldn't know what to do. Is my heart broken? How do you know? It's so funny how you react to different things and whatever it is that you call it doesn't seem to matter much. All that seems to matter is that you feel it and then whether you can speak it or not.