Bits and pieces are lots, falling away like a crumbling bit of clay within the first few hours. Other parts remain vivid. Those will continue to remain vivid. Like showing our wedding pictures to friends and family. I remember the dress I wore. It was more like a skirt suit of cream, ivory, and gold. Quite unlike me, as a matter of fact. He wore a dark blue suit. I remember looking into his face, dark eyes so wide, and hearing clear as day, he telling me he loved me. I remember holding our baby. I remember waking up, that startling clarity of being awake, totally and completely awake, as awake as I felt just a moment before when I was asleep. Awake from a dream that was too real, remembering every moment, every color, every nuance. I remember lying in the dark at 4:23 in the morning on the third of the bed I’d carved out for myself and feeling the heat of the big body beside me. I remember lying there and waiting to go back to sleep. I remember carrying these memories with me for days now and saying nothing, waiting for them to fade.
It wasn’t the first dream I’ve had about a man. In point of fact, it wasn’t about just one man. Each scene, each moment, was a man with a different face. The first one, the face of the man lying in bed beside me. The second one, Barak Obama, which I blame on the media for plastering it everywhere. Not the first time I’ve dreamed of a celebrity (though usually they don’t talk) and probably not the last. The final one, a man with no face that I could recall. It wasn’t the first time I’ve dreamt I was pregnant, though it was the first time I actually had a baby to show for it.
I realized something the day before, as I walked alone on the trail from the house to the dining hall. I’ve stopped going to the mountains for the reason I started going. Now I go there to see him. I wouldn’t call it the wrong reason, though maybe it is, just a different reason. I wonder if this is what the Buddha would consider an unnecessary distraction on the road to enlightenment, or a good learning experience on how to be with someone without clinging. Is that what I’m doing?
He asked me once if I thought being with him prevented me from seeking other relationships. I answered no, swift and sure. After all, I wasn’t exactly playing the field before we met. I do feel something within me has changed. I feel like I’m more open to being in a relationship. I used to wonder if I gave off a vibe that just said “Don’t bother. This one’s difficult.” I am less wary now, less guarded. Yet nothing’s really come of it. We were apart nine months. And after nine months we picked up right where we had left off. This time we were only apart a few weeks.
I’m at ease with him. Like I’ve not been with any man. I can sleep in the same bed with him, which I can’t even manage with my relatives who I’ve known all my life. We can just sit together, being totally separate, him playing a video game and me reading a book, and neither one of us feels like we’re neglecting the other, but we’re pleased the other is there. I asked him the same question and he gave me the same answer.
Yes, I definitely went to the mountains for a different reason. He always asks when I’m coming back. He makes disappointed sounds when I tell him I don’t know. He makes happy sounds when I talk about maybe working for the same company in Boulder next summer. He doesn’t come to visit me. No car. Little money. Dislikes the MidWest. All good solid reasons which nonetheless leave things feeling a little lopsided. But lately he’s been talking about visiting his dad in Milwaukee sometime when I am also there to visit my thesis client.
I wonder about things. Not just nebulous possible future things. I wonder about the judgmental cultural stereotypes we are forced to operate under. I wonder why my mind resists when I try to drag up the courage to say “I love you.” Our society teaches us that there are three possible responses to that statement: the other doesn’t say it back and it hurts, the other says it back but doesn’t mean it and it hurts, the other says it back and means it. Two out of three ways to be hurt isn’t very good odds. It makes us afraid.
But you know what? They’re wrong. I told him that I loved him. He smiled. He said I’d never told him that before. He laughed and said he knew there was a reason I put up with him. The moment was good. It felt good and it made me happy. He didn’t say he loved me. I didn’t even care. I didn’t even realize until later that it didn’t bother me. It wasn’t until watching some sappy primetime drama that I realized that, according to society’s norms, it should bother me.
Well, society is stupid, but it’s strong too. I haven’t said it again and I kind of regret that. Our leave taking was hurried. He left for work an hour after I had woken from my dream, just as I was drifting off again. I stopped by later to give him a hug farewell, waving at his coworkers over his shoulder, then I walked away.
I feel like I’m always doing one of two things: waiting for that man or walking away. Of course, the waiting part isn’t unique to him. I’m a horribly punctual person and I generally feel like I’m waiting for everyone. I’ve noticed it with every friend I’ve ever had, male or female. It’s strong with him though, this impatience. As though the very idea that I’m waiting on a man somehow makes me weaker. As if it makes me into some desperate, simpering miss. I generally tell that feeling to shut the hell up or I’ll kick its damned ass through its frigging brainpan.
The other feeling, the walking way – is that just a different type of clinging? Do I stick with this relationship because I know it’s safe? Because I know I can walk away? Because I can always put him on a five-hundred mile stick if things get a little bumpy? Am I attached to being able to walk away?
It got a little bumpy summer before last. He felt crowded. I felt uncertain. He promised to come through and then blew me off three times in one day. I let him. He ignored me for a week. He once made me cry without even noticing; not that I help, the way I bottle things up inside and refuse to let anyone see, even myself. But that was early in the summer. There was nowhere to run to and we hung through. Now, I can see the changes in him. Everytime. He’s calmer, more patient, more understanding, and he pays more attention, takes less for granted, gets more excited about things, more engaged, doesn’t shut the world out. Not that I can take any credit, of course. I was gone for nine months, after all. I might be in the right place for the wrong reasons, but he’s definitely in the right place for the right reasons. Maybe sometime soon, I can be too.
I wonder where that will be?