The thing that’s struck me time and again as I’ve wandered through my own life story over the last couple years is that I seem to be in love with the past. I don’t mean that in the way that I’m a historian and I love to endlessly learn about the past. I mean that I’m in love with where I used to be. It’s why I think it was both inevitable and astute that I latched on to the story of me and Her to try to figure out so much of where I’d been.
When I moved down to Dallas I had a brief uptick in thinking about Her. The voice that tries to scream about Her in my head was also the one doing its best to keep my plans on track to go back to Chicago last weekend.
The reason for this is simple, really. I focused what little ability I have to be nostalgic in to a specific set of memories that revolve around her. She fits in to a sort of idealized version of a past that’s no longer accessible, in much the way that she once fit in to an idealized idea of the future that I knew was impossible to achieve.
On one level that’s terrible. It locked me in a sort of stasis loop. When I start to break out of it the occasional random external stimulus seems to throw me right back in.
On another level, though, it’s brilliant. If I do say so myself…
See, I learn very slowly the things that matter most in life. When it comes to facts, figures, and philosophy I pick up on tidbits and theories extremely quickly. When it comes to life and love I generally need to learn a lesson three or four times to get it, assuming I ever do. If something goes wrong I have a bad habit of attempting to withdraw from the world, learn as much as I can, then step back out of my cocoon.
And this works just fine for me. I’m quite good at being alone. I like being alone, perhaps too much. Often I’ll find myself in a place that’s full of noise and light and color and people and movement and life and think it’s fantastic. Then I’ll go home and get in to my bed alone and be perfectly fine with that.
At some point in the night I’ll wonder if there’s not something more I should want. By the time the sun rises, though, that question has usually disappeared. When that happens I suppose that I could go through my entire life exactly as I am today without ever knowing the difference.
But every once in a while something happens. There’s a moment, an epiphany, if you will. In that instance I realize that all of those things I’m usually content to consign to sleepy two AM thoughts actually matter, actually make life worth living.
It happened most recently with a girl in red at a Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers show. Nothing came of that instance, but it served as a signpost. It served as a reminder.
There was a time I wandered around Millennium Park, aware of nothing except my thoughts of Her.
That moment was the one I was always trying to re-capture, even after I knew that all the things I wanted would never happen. After that, well, after that came a string of first dates that never become second encounters. After that came a series of forced and awkward encounters. I began to wonder if I would ever meet anyone who made me feel like I did that first few weeks with her again. I began to wonder if I would ever let myself.
Oddly, I think it’s good that nothing came of the chance meeting with the girl in red. I think I just needed that moment to jolt me out of my past, shock my system, let me know it’s entirely possible to move forward. Remind me to keep looking.
Because this, I think, is where the brilliance of the whole thing kicks in. Even as I was attempting to remember all of the time spent with her in sepia tones, I could not get out of acknowledging one simple fact:
That relationship, such as it was, was nearly a year and a half worth of complete and total suck. Period. Full stop.
My main problem in figuring that out is that I was always focused on trying to fix it, make it so it didn’t have to be that way. Try as I might, though, I could never, ever silence the quiet, nagging suspicion that there could be no repairs, that there shouldn’t have been any attempts at repair. Some things simply cannot and should not be fixed.
But I wanted to hold on because I didn’t know what else to do. I then wanted to go back because I didn’t know what else to do.
The solution to that problem is so simple and obvious that I had to learn it on the fourth try after wasting an awful lot of years of my life.
Stop thinking about Chicago. Stop thinking about her.
Go to Fort Worth. I might run in to a girl in red.
Or I might not.
But, at the very least, I’ll be out doing stuff, opening myself to possibilities. And the more possibilities there are, the less time there is to think about what never was.