Crushes (man, how unexciting am I)

This is my favorite post in the series, and actually had names embedded in the HTML comments. J-, you’re on here too, and I don’t think you ever really left, to be honest.


I moved to a different elementary school fairly early on and achieved some of my most visible academic achievements there (“Student is a joy to have in class,” comment code #12, I think). I remember thinking that my second grade teacher was dazzlingly beautiful and pitied the kids in the other second grade for having such a drab teacher. A few years later I had a series of crushes, and I didn’t really know what was going on until about the third or fourth one — before, I just found that I couldn’t look that person in the face before having to turn away, dazzled by glory and beauty and wisdom and the great headiness of keeping an open secret. I decided that the world and I could get along, the way things were going. I wouldn’t feel that way again until my third year of college.

I tried to write “titillating”, but you try spelling that at four am. I’ll apologize to Mr. Updike when I can, but after just having spent the last six months reading off and on about how Harry Angstrom is doing, I couldn’t resist throwing something about him in.

His heart had felt numb and swollen above the sidewalk squares like one of those zeppelins you used to see in the sky, the squares of cement like city blocks far below his childish floating heart.

–John Updike, Rabbit at Rest

I first noticed that I had a crush on her when I couldn’t bear to look her in the eye. After that, it pretty much became a trademark of mine to be shy and withdrawn for the next, ah, ten years or so.

So who was first? By all accounts, it’s probably none of your business. At any rate, by now you’ve probably noticed some scrupulous avoidance of names and places, and I’m not about to start now. It’s not that I don’t expose enough dirt about myself; I just don’t feel it’s appropriate to run around with my penis hanging out of my pants. Then again, you might interpret whatever I put here as being part of a kiss-and-tell, except for the obvious pathetic reason that the crushes that I’d had were mostly one-sided or at most reciprocated with a lukewarm acquaintance. That aside, let’s begin.

It’s been said that no one forgets their first experience in anything, whether it be driving or drinking (hopefully not simultaneously) or assorted other activities. With me and my crushes, it was more like I didn’t realize what was going on for a couple of years, so the name (and probably identity) of the first escapes me. I was a fairly fickle child, and my attentions would swing wildly from my father’s friend’s daughter (who was twenty years older than me) to the person I’d met in the doctor’s waiting room (and whom I’d poured out all that I knew about my family in five minutes or less or knowing her) to the girl playing Bach on the piano with dazzling touch and verve and eyes. I didn’t actually realize what it was until after a short education with Judy Blume books.

At that point, I was standing mesmerized, stuffing a raw slice of potato (it tasted like sand, I think) into my mouth. The potato had been so transformed by the angel who’d just demonstrated the “Magical Kitchen Gadget” that I hardly noticed the taste or texture of the tuber. I still remember with starchy-mouthed clarity the thought running through my mind “crush … crush … crush”, which in all cases is a fairly nondescript word for such a fabulous thing. By that time, I was heavily into arms and armor of medieval times (brought on no doubt by an early dose of Dungeons and Dragons as well as tales of King Arthur) and I thought it was just about the closest thing you could come — this admiring from afar — to anything from wearing your lady’s scarf to the burning passion of Tristran and Iseult. I like to think that these crushes are relatively harmless, but given the spate of movies both recent and not so depicting various obsessive relationships (for example, The Crush), I’m inclined to think that either society/media has distorted my view of things, or that we’re all really going to hell.

Aside: for some odd reason, I realize now that I’ve had crushes almost exclusively on older (if you can call a span of days to at most a couple of years older) women. Part of the reason is the fact that I somehow found myself in sixth grade in the middle of my fifth grade year and so had been surrounded by all of these wonderfully older “mature” girls during my own period of maturation. Part of the reason, no doubt, is because I enjoy tilting at windmills, and this seemed to be the closest that I could get to it.

I didn’t behave normally a lot of the time. Those faithful readers of mine already know this by now. My own philosophy seemed to run along the lines of “if you like her, run away” mainly because I was scared to admit to such a crush. After all, it’s one thing to march up to someone in kindergarten, and bellow, “Well, if you love ice cream, why don’t you marry it!” and to go up and tell the (crushed) object of your affections your desires. It took me better than ten years to actually tell another human that I loved them, but I guess that I must have said it in a million different non-verbal ways before then. I’m a clumsy person. It doesn’t just apply to breaking all of the glass in the house (maybe an exaggeration) or breaking displays in department stores (not really much of an exaggeration), but also to the way that I handle my own emotions. Juggle … juggle … oops. At any rate, if you’ll listen, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from my own experiences (and what I still have yet to learn, no doubt).

Her hair is Harlow gold
Her lips sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She’s got Bette Davis eyes

–Kim Carnes, Bette Davis Eyes

It only took a week or two before I was completely smitten with another, of course. When you’re eleven, these sorts of things happen; it happened to Tom Sawyer (Amy Lawrence who?), after all — Chapter VII. Shortly after I transferred to the sixth grade, I remembered my former teacher warning me about getting too ahead of myself — I think that she meant in regards to work — but I took her advice to heart, perhaps literally.

I remember asking her younger brother to annoy her, on my behalf; it didn’t seem like such a bad idea at the time, and was probably about the only way that I’d be able to make any sort of meaningful contact with her, given that the only reaction that she raised from me in public was a deep hot blush. I remember running into her once during that first summer that I knew that I could get through school and saying hello to her, moving on by with color rising to my face and fumbling stumbling steps. I remember her eyes, or lack thereof, because she blinked at the moment that the photographer took the class portrait, the only blink, and the only one’s whose eyes really mattered. I remember the thrills of joy (“pleasure” sounds, uh, obscene) running up my spine whenever I was near her, when really the only praise I could elicit from her was, “Oh, Mike’s a perfectionist,” which meant well, I hope. I remember long evenings spent staring at her picture, whether in the yearbook or the beautiful closed-eyes shot, and thinking that seeing the picture meant that she was also looking at me, or my picture, and slowly irreversibly the same thing was happening to her, and that any minute, she’d fly to her phone and hastily stab out my number, and … I remember being lucky that the workload of a twelve year old is fairly light.

Most of all, I remember that she knew, and much to her credit, she did nothing about it. After all, if I wasn’t bold enough to do anything about it, there really should have been nothing she should do for me. I realize that even then the whole idea of equality between the sexes meant that she could have done something about it. I’m glad that she didn’t. I learned humility, that I wasn’t the irresistible fellow I fancied myself to be. I learned just how young I really was, and how much further I had to ride before I could place myself among the lucky successful, the suave, the keen, the desirable, rather than this imp-like corduroy-wearing body I’d saddled myself with.

Oh, Mickey, what a pity you don’t understand
You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand

–Toni Basil, Mickey

After having paid some dues the first two years in junior high (I’m only now rediscovering the joys of corduroy), I arrived in the ninth grade full of confidence — I was in the student government, I was playing in the marching band, and best of all, I knew (or I thought that I knew) that someone liked me. After a couple of years of pining, the shoes were finally on different feet.

I met her years earlier, in the sixth grade. She advised me to ignore the jabs of a classmate — we were watching a documentary on Chinese children and being the only Chinese person in class (hell, being one of the few minorities in the school — according to the 1990 US Census, the town that I grew up in was 91.4% “White”, 1.2% “Black”, 1.3% “American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut”, 5.1% “Asian or Pacific Islander”, and 1.0% “Other” — census categories, not my own), I was obviously the same as the kids shown in the film, whether they were cavorting, studying, or just carousing in a vaguely embarassing manner. Part of being young entitles you to make mistakes, I guess; it was my mistake to feel embarassed, and she gently pointed out to me that I had no such need.

It’s hard not to like someone who likes you. I was tremendously flattered that she — a bright witty pretty girl — found at least something attractive in me. Up to that point, I’d always considered myself more Quasimodo than Charming. Again, she corrected my mistake, but it wasn’t the only one that I made with her. She gave me a flower; I dropped it when she wasn’t looking. She rode next to me on the bus trip across the state to a band competition; I engaged in conversation with my friends sitting in adjacent seats. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t overjoyed when I asked her to dance at the small graduation-like party the school held for those departing the junior high. I asked her again; again, she accepted, but only with reluctance. Again, she taught me: through visible melancholy, she told me what a rough ride through one’s emotions could do. I was too excited with myself to notice. I didn’t take the lesson to heart until much later when my own vision of my irresistibility was shattered over the course of a nerve-wrackingly long weekend. I still regret that I never had the chance to apologize.

Oh, she deals in witchcraft and one kiss and I’m zapped.
Oh, how can heaven hold a place for me, when a girl like you has cast a spell on me?
… the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

–Space, Female of the Species

So, of course, like the fickle child that I was (am), I found myself falling for a blonde-haired vision the very next year. Was I irresistible to her? No; overbearing. Was I indispensable? No; unwanted. Was I even the least bit desirable? Probably not, but that didn’t stop me from thinking that I was, or at least trying to show that I was.

I half-believed in charms and various devices to convince someone that they would like you, too, if only you could find out how to do it; I spent a lot of time trying to find out how. Perhaps I’m just obsessive-compulsive. I spent weeks at a time aligning my feet with the directional “grain” that you occasionally see in floor tiles (don’t try it — it’s not worth it and the action itself is strangely addictive — I’ve caught myself looking down at my feet more than once in lab, thinking that my luck will improve if only I would walk in the “proper” tiles). I spent a very enjoyable half hour talking with this woman, trying to figure out what her middle name was, thinking that it would give me some edge — as I later found out, her middle name was actually the one that she went by. I spent a week trying to get one of her hairs, thinking that it would form some sort of invisible bond; thoughts of her coming to my door asking where the single hair was made my heart go pitter-pat. I didn’t do the obvious. I didn’t just come out and ask her whether or not she’d like to go out sometime. That was unthinkable: after all the time and energy I’d invested into getting her to like me, to have to put that sort of tenuous theory (I was naive but not stupid; of course it wouldn’t work like I thought) to the test. Besides which, I was already hopelessly crushed by her artful admission that she liked another. After all, if that wasn’t proof that hairs don’t call inaudibly to the owner, there was nothing else I could do.

I now know that it was a fickle thing to do, to transfer emotions so easily to another, thinking that I could force affections on someone else. It was also a silly thing, to think that maybe if I knew her middle name, I’d be able to weave some sort of magic about it. I guess that it’s most important to note that it’s impossible to force someone to love you (luckily, I found this out again, because I refused to learn). I hear on a somewhat frequent scale that, “Yeah, I learned to love him/her,” and I know how that can be, but to my mind, “learning” and “love” should be combined only in “learning from love.” You can hem and haw at the other, but it’s like making ropes of sand.

Too long ago, too long apart:
She couldn’t wait another day for
The captain of her heart.

–Double, The Captain of Her Heart

After a year of self-induced torment, it was simple enough, being as fickle as I was, to switch once again, this time to a smoky-eyed woman of so much grace that to merely walk by, as I did every day, was to feel as though some capricious god had swapped your bones for jelly and your joints for rocks. The hook, though, was not so much her vivdly stark blue eyes or her easy manner but that she managed to hold my fascination throughout the remainder of high school and a good chunk of college, with the tantalizing notion of what might have been. Doesn’t everyone have a story like this?

It was next to impossible to tell, but I thought it was going well. After all, didn’t I take the time to walk by her locker where she would eat lunch with her cadre of friends every day? Didn’t I try to break into that cadre more by showing what a fun fella I could be? Wasn’t that her looking at me every so often during the free reading periods? I figure that a month into this ivory-tower relationship, I was becoming a nerve-wracked mess, and there was no looking back. To even suppose that I might once again be desirable after the last year’s mishap was to kiss bliss on the lips again. Maybe it was all in my mind, and maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I spent too much time daydreaming and too much time hoping and pining in silence, and maybe I’m a fool for it all, but maybe it let me, with brittle-edged clarity, examine myself better than I knew how to. If you think you’re desirable, what qualities are the most desirable of yours? And why do you think they’re at all desirable, and what could you stand to change, and what do you want to improve? For the first time in my life, I think that I was really in love, and I don’t know that you can ever completely fall out. As far as I know, love may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of both parties, nor may it be folded, stapled, spindled, or mutilated. Love can fade in time and distance, and you can lose it along the way, but you never forget, never remember the rough spots and never forget the small unearthly delight held in your love’s gaze.

Before you start to wonder, nothing ever happened. We passed each other in the halls and said our pleasant banal hellos and cliches and moved on by, ponderous egos and facades of high school barely missing — but never colliding — in the night. I half convinced myself to take the initiative on my way to school and half talked myself out of it and lost courage from the prospect of losing face (what if she said no? what if she said yes?) and doubted myself the entire time. I composed whole letters to her in my spare time and buried them, my face burning in shame as what would have been yet another nail in the irresistible coffin got safely tucked away where no risk could go. My heart sank at the sight of would-be squires taking her around and leapt up whenever she seemed downhearted because of their solicitous company; here was a chance for me to put into reality the thoughts of chivalrous rescue. Perhaps not Maleagant, Lancelot, and Guinevere, but something similar, no? Did I ever do anything? No. Lifted not a finger, did I. I made no moves, took no chances, and generally made an ass out of myself in doing so. Yes, when she showed up at the end of the year sporting a letterman’s jacket, I thought that I was doomed. It was her own.

So, when the next year rolled around, I felt fairly secure in my own undistinguished place as the one closest to being her beloved, although that was a position unacknowledged by her and no doubt only a figment of my dreams because it took only a few months for her to find a man-friend; a good one, too. Minor dreams aside, I slowly realized that even if you thought you were irresistable, love waits for no one indefinitely. Pursue it, you must, however recklessly and with abandon, because it’s so rare in this world. And with time the love has faded; still I feel plagued by small voices of what might have been, small melancholy dolorous voices that insist that I’d never have made it out of my small town had I done so, and I wonder if being where I am now was worth it or not.

No one hears his lonely sighs;
There are no blankets where he lies.
Though in his deepest dreams, the gypsy flies
With sweet Melissa.

–The Allman Brothers Band, Melissa

So would shades of the past continue to haunt me. Had I been content to let that relationship be and move on and out of town, I’d probably be best off. Instead, based on the weight of a stare that carried through two years of having the same homeroom (aided only by the happy alphabetical proximity of our last names), I asked a wonderful lady out on Valentine’s Day, 1992.

She said yes. Wonders never cease.

It took me a whole week to work up the courage to ask, and even then, I had to run after her as she walked to her car after school that Friday. This was my senior year in high school; I had been declared an excellent son-in-law prospect by my English teacher (to my complete mortification), and I wasn’t afraid of anything much relating to school. I was terrified of asking. I hovered over my books lightly, daring to steal a glance every now and again to remember what it was that had prompted me to such a foolhardy course. That soaring loopy feeling in your stomach whenever you attempt the unknown, and the sinking lead weights that come with disappointment never do seem to go away; the joy of knowing that I was at least acceptable, if not downright palatable banished all feelings (and thought, apparently) when, weeks later, she asked me when we were actually going to get around to going out. It came out during a research trip to the library for a class and she ended with “don’t worry … I’m not going to bite, at least not until we get to know each other better.” Lines like that are why I still get nervous around women.

We ended up going on a grand total of three dates. We watched Wayne’s World for our first, but what strikes me most is remembering being vaguely proud of myself for having navigated to her house in the dark, and sitting at twilight in the Beetle waiting for her to get into the car, not knowing the etiquette of opening doors and wondering, thinking, palms nervous with sweat and seeing how coolly she acted, her sachet filling the small space in the car and forcing nervous small talk from me and the imagined embraces and lonely reality. The second made me feel like a ferry service — first from my house to hers, then back to mine so that we could walk the few blocks to the high school play, a few words, a shared soda at my home, and then back to hers to drop her off. Nothing too wholly interesting, and nothing unwholesome. Good fun, this going out business, and it didn’t seem too difficult to pull off. Therefore, this whole fear of failure shouldn’t be too valid, should it? Rather predictably, things took a twist (but haven’t you come to expect that from me?).

For the last, we went to the senior prom. We never spoke to each other again. I realize now that it was probably doomed from the start — after all, we were different religions, and she already had a semi-fiance, although he was absent for a few years. I slowly began to realize the double-edged meaning of the word crush, though. The day began auspiciously enough. I had a soccer game in the morning, and we crushed the other team. Even I scored a goal, even me, the second-string JV player (which would lead in weeks later to incessant giggling as I could claim — correctly if inaccurately — that I had “scored” that day). I washed the Beetle. I put on my rented tux, picked up the corsage, and proceeded to her house. I met her father; we talked, me feeling conspicuously overdressed in plastic shoes and tails. I have to admit that from the moment I saw her that day, I was struck by a deepening feeling of inadequacy and gracelessness; after all, I hadn’t had my hair done specially nice, nor had I gotten something as interesting as the jacket and skirt she had. I was afraid again. I was afraid to touch her — you can see my hand hovering bare inches away from her waist in the pictures taken by the professional photographers. Mostly I was awestruck but more importantly, struck dumb in all senses — not just slow-witted (hmm, Jane’s Addiction really is romantic) but also mute. I tried to grin a lot and nod my head pleasantly at comments, but found that I couldn’t say anything worth my time or hers. It was boring after the first few minutes, aggravating after the first hour, and excruciating after an entire night. I ruined a perfectly good day. I have no excuses.

She wasn’t just another woman;
and I couldn’t keep from comin’ on:
It’s been so long …

Oh, and it’s a hollow feelin’;
when it comes down to dealin’ friends:
It never ends.

–The Eagles, Tequila Sunrise

After that, my raging hormones were pretty much content with letting me alone over the summer, except for the occasional twinge over having bobbled my last two “relationships”. Mostly fear and the hope contained in a series of letters I wrote and received freshman year of college kept me in Friday nights, doing my chemistry homework.

It all began when I noticed that my roommate — we’d gone to high school together and had even shared a locker, so it seemed natural to room together — had the address of a woman I’d worked with and admired for many, many years. We were on the debate team together and had had a few good laughs, some good times, seen each other at seven in the morning without blinking (we had to travel some pretty fair distances for certain tournaments) and I thought that maybe we’d struck up some sort of rapport by the time we graduated. Seeing the address gave me the Cyrano-ish idea that I might be able to win love sight-unseen from afar and from one of the most intelligent women I’d had the chance to meet. We swapped words across miles and months with less-than-stunning frequency (due mostly to my own infrequent writing), but I treasured every letter as each invariably dripped with wit and wisdom and brought comforting news of a life I’d left far behind (so-and-so got married, has children, is now living with such-and-such — gossip, but gladly handled). She had relationships even during the writing, but I persevered and tried to be a safe harbor for thoughts and feelings.

She eventually transferred to Stanford, just down the road a ways from Berkeley, but we kept on exchanging letters as though still a thousand miles apart. We made various plans to meet — either in the City or at each other’s respective campus — and never followed through with them. I did talk to her once, face to face, in the years after high school, on a rainy afternoon in her room at Stanford. I don’t remember exactly what was said, except that it was bland and inoffensive and rather silly. It was Sunday afternoon and I had to run to get to the train taking me back to Berkeley after our chat. I ran. I ran away. I ran thinking that I could be the solution to her man-troubles, that I could offer myself as the source of stability in her life. I ran and failed to realize what would finally sink in years later, after talking to an unmarried female Ph.D. student, who detailed her search for “Mr. Right”. It’s difficult to form a lasting relationship with someone who insists that you dumb yourself down for them. And there I was in her room babbling something inane about T-shirts and Birkenstock sandals; you could see my perceived intelligence sinking by the second, and I wouldn’t have wanted to saddle myself with, well, the me of then. So we fell out of touch gradually as the handful of letters trickled to a stop and I ran away again and most painfully, trampling the debris of hubris and hearts littering and the clutter of loves past. I didn’t see the use of trying to pick up the contrived fragments of what had been at best an illusion of love.

This boy … wouldn’t mind the pain;
… would always feel the same,
if this boy … gets you back again.

–The Beatles, This Boy

I always seem to have a poor sense of timing. By the time I start to like someone, it’s either too late (they’ve stopped liking me because of my apparent indifference) or too early. A year after drifting away and apart, I found myself competing for the affections of another, perhaps the worst timing of all. My rival was smarter. My rival had a car. My rival was a fun guy; I was completely outclassed, and it didn’t take long for me to fall into a mopey self-pitying mess, throwing myself at my books with renewed vigor all that terrible autumn.

I remember the first time that I met her; I thought that I had a chance. Our eyes lingered over each other’s, and she seemed completely at ease with me and I with her, and she made me laugh in a way that I thought I’d forgotten in years at college. She had a massive zest for life, and it was apparent to all those around her that you’d best not be caught in her wake — she’d swamp you with her incisive mind and at the same time, rescue you with her easy manner. I was alternatingly bemused and befuddled, flattered and foolish. I boasted of my own accomplishments in staying up late (“Sleep is for the weak!”) and thought that boy, was I being impressive. After all, what was I proving? I was showing just how much of a work-obsessed person I could be; just how ignorant of other people’s feelings and thoughts I never considered. After all, if I liked this woman so much, why couldn’t I do anything about it? Was I back to the bad old days, when merely meeting such a one would weld my jaws closed and turn my tongue three feet thick? Maybe. And just like before, my inaction would cost me.

I suffered my first few painful twinges when I learned that she would be going to a concert, chauffered by the rival and chaperoned by her roommate. And if my spirits sank when I remember her asking my friend, my rival if she could nap in his bed, my heart absolutely broken when in the course of discussion with her roommate on the vagaries of love in general, the one who slept closer to her than I ever could told me that she was so absolutely happy that two people who seemed so very right for each other had fallen together. Granted, it was not the first time such things had happened, but it all seemed so bitingly real and frighteningly possible even though I, at nineteen, had hardly enough years to accurately judge any sort of possiblities. And throughout it all, I refused to lose the faith; though I publicly wished them well, I harbored secret hopes that, just as in the movies and those sappy songs, true love would sing that the shoe didn’t fit quite right. I wished beyond rationality that my self-percieved purity of soul would overpower any starry eyes, but I have to admit that I am no saint. It finally became too difficult to call my friend my friend, and he simply became my rival from that point forward; not over this woman, desirable as she was, but rather over the handling of it and what I saw as his gloating over it.

Thus I threw myself back at my books, into the world of bending moments and momentum conservation and the nuclear shell theory. As much as I smarted from the experience, I’m sure that cutting ties to my friend, my rival as well as slowly unlearning my desire hurt more people than just me. I know I can’t change the past, but oh! I’ve got too many errands back there.

Emotion is a virtue;
For you it is the one fatal flaw,
Sitting on your throne and drinking, thinking
She’ll return your call:
Every story’s got an ending
Look out, here it comes, here it comes …

–The Bangles, Hero Takes a Fall

So, after a few months of being a mopey mess, I decided that I’d have to take drastic steps the next time it happened. After all, in all cases, I really had no one to blame but myself for my own failures; I didn’t try hard enough in the past, I guess. And of course, knowing me, I’d overcompensate again and swing too far beyond what might be construed as friendly.

While trying to track down a wandering roommate, I dropped by her door to ask if she’d seen him. We ended up talking for a few hours, aided no doubt by the late hour and a burning reluctance on my part to part ways. And we kept on talking all that semester, touching on topics maybe interesting and maybe offensive and definitely striving towards together. Aye, so I thought; at the very least, I learned finally that it’s not simply enough to think about women as being female but rather as being fundamentally human. After all, any joy that you put into a relationship springs from discovering that here, at last, is someone that you might be able to share your very real human frailties with without remorse, without expectation. The extra pair of hands to bind wounds and smooth past scars do more for me than anything ever asked of them in more private moments; knowing even that one might have the possibility of being in love again banishes all thoughts of failure from the present, joins mind and spirit in an implacably happy song, finds joys once denied in the long desert of your heart.

I was convinced that things were going well and so that I might stay in touch with her after she moved out of the house, I ended up trying to find some way to say — however indirectly — that I’d like to go out some time maybe a bit more than as friends. I hit upon the idea of making a little book of small quiet poems who could say such things much more eloquently than I ever could, and I labored for about a week to research, assemble, and deliver such a message to her work’s door, which finally resulted in me sprinting away from a small building early on a Friday, back to work myself before I was caught by either my boss or her; such things are best left without the pressure of the presence. So I waited. All the rest of that Friday and Saturday and through the bulk of Sunday I waited, with decreasingly bated breath and impending dreams of doom; still, when the phone rang on Sunday night, I held a glimmer of hope that using a stranger’s eloquence could win a heart. She was quite flattered. That I remember. She was quite flattered and sorry at the same time, sorry that she couldn’t, that she didn’t, that she shouldn’t, perhaps, but that’s just what I think at this point. She told me that she’d been late in replying because her sister had been visiting and it would have been impolitic to talk of such things in front of her; I clung to my shred of dignity and hoped that it had been because the question had given her enough pause that she took a few days to ponder it: do I feel the same? The answer was, of course, no, and only further illustrates the base humanity of all of us: can we force ourselves to be unfair and untrue to everyone else? She would have been cheating me to go through the motions without the commitment, and I somehow realized it dimly but nothing lessens the sting. No matter what, it’s always some shortcoming on my fault, not the other person’s, as I see it.

Can you ever escape the past? You can find solace in the present. Are we all already wounded? Life goes on and you will be healed; you’ll never be invulnerable, but you do learn. Stand up again and be counted among the quick; these joys may seem fleeting and still you’ll be glad that you had the privelege to be alive again. Does hope exist? Hope loves and smiles brightest on your own darkness.

Train, roll on;
on down the line.
Won’t you
please take me far … away.
Now I hear the wind blow
outside my door.
Means I’m; I’m leaving my woman
at home.

–Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tuesday’s Gone

In all truth, this whole mess has a happy ending, although you’d probably never guess it. Well, if you knew me at Berkeley, you might be able to.


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