It’s weird to realize that you actually really loved someone. Not that crushing infatuation or obsession, or really wanting to be with someone so you don’t have to be alone. But looking back and knowing for certain that what you were feeling was actually love. And now he’s married and having a baby and that love is permanently unattainable. It doesn’t really make you any more sad than you were already, but it’s surprising.
Small things spark a momentary thought of him and then the thoughts plunge deep. And it’s so strange to suddenly be trudging through a morass of an emotion that you don’t ever visit on a normal basis. He’s not a person you think of every day. He’s not someone you carry your torch out onto the moors for.
When you think of him it is with a unique sadness, something that aches the way an old injury aches. Or the way old people must feel their arthritis – all those years crawling into their bones. And you don’t want him there, in your bones. He doesn’t belong there. He didn’t love you back. Why does he get to set up camp in your marrow and roast marshmallows whenever he feels like it!?
And that’s how you know it’s love, I think. That certainty that there is nothing you can do to get rid of him. Because you have done everything that one does to take care of one’s heart when it gets broken. Break ties, move on, move away, date other people, trust the passage of time, let someone else love you. But he is resisting that. Or this version of him is.
You hate the swirls that he sends you into because you hate that you can’t control them. As we age and become wiser – that is the thing I most love about myself – we learn to control what hurts us. And here’s this thing that won’t be tamed. A rogue bucking memory.
And you know. What you should do. Is call him up. Have dinner with his wife. Don’t mention anything of the past where you were so close that you were starting to know his next gesture. Don’t do that. Just be there. Drink the tea she makes. And then go back. Meet the baby. Be there a lot. With kindness. Make him exist only in the present, in a house you don’t know, with a woman you don’t know. Find the stranger. Because that’s what he is. Or you would not be here now. Writing this. You would be singing that old spiritual while he plays guitar, your hands resting on your belly.
I feel like Emily in Our Town.
I am sitting at my parents’ cluttered kitchen table. The flowers from two weeks ago wilt in the vase, vitamins and boxes of tissues are strewn across the dirty tablecloth. The kitchen stove is coated in years of cooking goo, the walls are crammed with messy collages of children and grandchildren.
And I love it all. All this mess that I was raised in. All this chaos. All the never enough room and the too many people and the why can’t we all just relax!?
I want to hold on to all of this, slip it like rings onto each finger, clank it around with me all day. When I’m not here, it’s just a place where I’m from that doesn’t suit me anymore. When I am here, I never want to leave this spot. This spot exactly – the big dormer window full of cushions, tucked next to the smells of the kitchen and the chaotic front porch.
I call the airline to add two more days. Two more days of ducking all my adult responsibility so I can nest here, eat my mother’s weird dinners and my father’s hot chocolate and be ten again. But it is 600 dollars. And then I wish I was the kind of success that always had a spare 600 dollars. Because I would pay it.
Every minute seems wasted right now as I sit alone up late after everyone has gone to bed. The word “treasure” is trite and stupid, but when I am here in this after dark silence, I understand it. Understand how someone first said, “love. that is a treasure. value it.’
And then it sounds stupid again. But I know what I mean. This is diaphanous. This home. These people. Fleeting already into memory. Hold on to it Emily says, it’s over so soon.
Tonight there is a full moon rising over Topanga Canyon. It’s the same moon that Tennyson was looking at when he said that it was a “ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy sea.” I watch it from my livingroom couch where I am grading student essays and listening to Acoustic Cafe – my favorite program from my home NPR station. The fact that I am listening to it just as if I were driving the Virginia roads, pointed home through wintering trees, still amazes me. Technology.
Tonight I am alone. I was alone last night. But both these nights are just part of who I am now. I have left behind a desperate need to not be single. Elizabeth McCracken writes in her memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, that before she met her husband she was a spinster, not single, because that would imply that she was trying not to be, but a confirmed spinster with her own community and life.
I love that. Love that. Being single takes energy. Spinsterhood just IS. Me, in the world. As I want it.
So, farewell OK Cupid. You are full of meaningless encounters with men who date as an activity. That is of so little interest to me that I am bored just thinking about your hideous pink pseudo-alchemy icon. Or, as one of my favorite actor friends put something today: “it makes me want to throw up on my own face.”
Recent spinster recipes:
Creamy Polenta with spring onions, fresh tomatoes, and smoked gouda
Green Thai Curry
Curried Squash and Tofu