Monday, July 10, 2006

Chicago story

So, folks, here's the long-awaited second half of the Chicago story. It's really long, and somewhat personal and self-indulgent in nature - you can stop reading if you want - and therefore, I'm sure it will not live up to your lofty expectations. But, here goes:

While I was in Chicago, I spent some time visiting with my ex-fiancé.

The backstory is that he was my high school boyfriend. We began dating when I was seventeen, and he proposed to me on my eighteenth birthday, while we were watching the Florida-Florida State game. We broke up right around my twenty-first birthday – because I was in law school at Florida and he was up in Chicago – and then over the next several years, we made some halfhearted attempts at getting back together. Ultimately, they always failed because we were never physically or emotionally in the same place at the same time. The last brief reconciliation was right before my twenty-fifth birthday, when he was back in Florida, but I had just moved up to D.C. After that, we stayed in touch intermittently, but at some point, the conversations became less and less frequent. I think the last time we actually spoke was in 2003, but I could be wrong about that.

The other equally important facts are that he and I were always polar opposites in just about everything. I'm a liberal, he's a conservative – he wore a Rush Limbaugh t-shirt back when we were in high school, when the only Rush that I knew of was the Canadian Progressive Rock band. He's tall (6'4" or 6'5") and blonde, I'm short (5'1" or so) and brunette. He drove a Mercedes when we were still in high school; rather than buying me a car, my parents told me to find boys to drive me around. He's an only child, I'm one of three. He's Christian, I'm an agnostic Jew. He likes classic rock and oldies, I like alternative and 80's dance music. He played basketball, and until then, I generally disliked basketball. He's polite and respectful, I'm an anti-authoritarian smart-ass.

Anyway, during the month before I went to Chicago, he had frequently been appearing in my dreams. The typical scenario was that he was married – or getting married – to a Russian girl, and I was desperately trying to talk to him, but she wouldn't let me. It was pretty weird, especially since I don't really think of him that often anymore. Except when certain random songs are on the radio . . . .

90 miles outside Chicago
Can't stop driving
I don't know why
So many questions
I need an answer
Two years later
You're still on my mind

Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart?
Who holds the stars up in the sky?
Is true love just once in a lifetime?
Did the captain of the Titanic cry?

Someday we'll know if love can move a mountain
Someday we'll know why the sky is blue
Someday we'll know why I wasn't meant for you. . . .

I decided to go to Chicago to see my brother last-minute. Admittedly, I knew that my ex was living in Chicago, and for a moment, I thought that I should call him, but immediately talked myself out of it. Then, over the next several days, everyone who knew the story started asking me if I was going to see him. So, of course, the idea was firmly in my head. But calling seemed somewhat peculiar, so, instead, a couple of days before my trip, I sent him an e-mail. Then I proceeded to kick myself. (Nicole also gave me a telephonic ass-whupping about it.)

Of course, he e-mailed me back right away. And then called me. We had a nice, businesslike conversation, and in a fit of abundant stupidity, I mentioned that I was going to Chicago for the weekend. He told me he'd like to see me. We determined that we'd speak when I got into town.

Honestly, I wasn't on the ground long enough to have done anything when I checked my voicemail and saw that he had called. Since I had opened the can of worms, I felt obliged to call him back. He met us out at a bar that evening. Since we were with other people, we really didn't do much except talk about work. He had to work in the morning, so he left before us. After he left, my wonderful, supportive brother (who never really liked him) said, "Whew. You dodged a bullet!"

I thought it was over, but no, the ex called me the next afternoon, wanting to see me that evening. I was going downtown with my brother to see the fireworks, so I told him I'd see what our plan was. My brother – smart boy – indicated in no uncertain terms that he did not want to be a party to the weirdness, and that he would get me to wherever I needed to go, but wouldn't hang around. So, after the fireworks were over, I hopped on the subway and went to meet the ex. Again.

We went to a couple of bars, had a couple drinks. But still, all the conversation was superficial. At one point, he left to settle up the tab, and some boys came over to talk to me. They asked me where "my man" had gone, and I laughed and said, "Not my man." They left when he got back to the table.

He invited me to his apartment for some drinks, but I declined. Instead, we walked around downtown Chicago for a little while, and then sat out by the lake, watching some kids play volleyball. We sat and talked for a couple hours. He does have a Russian girlfriend, and I found out that they're living together – actually, they had recently bought a condo together. (This, of course, means that they will get married.) I did not, however, tell him about my dream. Instead, I talked a little about existential philosophy – Kierkegaard, actually – and told him a little bit about my trip to Israel a couple years ago, but I somehow managed to never really say anything of significance. In the middle of it all, my brother sent me a text message, "RUOK?" to which I responded "Yup."

My ex asked me what I was doing the next day, and I told him I had to get to the airport early, which was not entirely true -- my flight was at 5. He offered to drive me back to my brother's house, and at first I declined. He was somewhat insistent, so eventually, I acquiesced. In the car, he flipped through the radio stations until he stopped on a Nirvana song. I said, "I didn't think you liked that." He said, "Not really. But I know you do." It was kind of poignant and sweet and sad.

He pulled up in front of my brother's house, and I said a quick goodbye. I got out of the car knowing that, in all likelihood, it will be the last time I ever see him.

So, this experience really disturbed me. Not that I'm still in love with him, or anything of the sort, but because I think for the first time, I'm fully cognizant of the way that your life changes based on the choices you make – no matter how small you think they are at the time. It also made me aware of how different I am at thirty than at eighteen – and not entirely in a good way. I used to be open to the universe and to possibilities, and perhaps to falling in love with someone whose entire life is different from mine. That's not really true anymore.

And even though I generally don't pay any attention to my horoscope, over the past several days, when I've gone to check my e-mail, it has been things like "Remember the one that got away? Suddenly, they want another chance." and "When someone from your past makes an appearance in your life today (either directly or through a story a mutual friend tells you), try not to react too emotionally." How crazy is that?


Anonymous said...

It’s been a long while since I’ve read something that poignant on the www, Dara. I don’t think you become less open to possibilities at 30 than at 19. I do believe, though, that as you become more centered (not to be confused with self-centered). You can have moments when you’re in complete balance, and then mysterious things happen, little doors of perception open. Some people call it synchronicity. Usually, some shit happens to throw you off balance again and the doors close. So savor those moments of balance for what they are, and never ever believe your horoscope!

dara said...

Mad, I generally don't believe in horoscopes. But, man, have they been on the mark! And with the somewhat predictive dreams, the whole experience has been very otherworldly. (Synchronicity is a good descriptive word, but it makes me start to sing Police songs.)

Thanks for telling me it was poignant. I was hesitant about writing it -- and then about posting it -- because it seemed too self-indulgent.