Tag Archives: unrequited

It Begins to be Over

6 Mar

IMG_6506Go like clockwork, day in, day out, and you erase the ill tendencies. Days and days, or maybe just seven, was all it took to end. Forget what you told yourself was your permanent condition and abide by the logic that you can’t really miss someone who was never there. Yes, a week ago you fell under the spell again, but look what seven days of real grounding can do.

You are getting everything you want. And that is terrifying. But you can’t keep thwarting it, keep breaking your own heart to prevent some unknown retribution for true happiness. You can actually be this person, this good person. You did, after all, do all the work, and if doing so brought this happiness, then you can stop worrying about getting hit by a bus. The good is under your control, and this bad, this imagined end result that will be done to you, that is old damage demanding attention. Only your little kid self was yelled at and shamed for being golden. Now you can let yourself be that, through and through.


Worth Being Won

27 Feb

Couer_BriseLiterature always feels the most sorry for women like me. Years of their lives lost on a love never to be requited. Narratives are built to leave these women alone in rooms with cobwebs, or sitting helplessly by while the man they love struggles with whether or not he is gay. There is a very slight tone of mockery, and heaps of sympathy for one so lost as to perpetually let love for another remain unfulfilled.

Earlier tonight I was on script and said, “I have a sickness, and it takes the form of him.” (Classic daddy issues, never good enough to gain his love, yadda yadda.) But after a few more hours wandering my 700 square feet of hardwood floor over the earth, I was telling my kitchen cabinets, “It is the great romance of my lifetime, loving this man and his sons.” I would say that on my deathbed. (I watch too many really silly, not at all violent, pseudo-dramatic murder mysteries.)

It’s really not that tragic to love and not be loved in return. Certainly my own true New York Friend would attest that Unrequited is a genius for keeping us in the first flush of love for ten years. Maybe I don’t mind being held in suspension. Clearly I’ve chosen this simulacrum of affection over any truth that will flicker and fade.

Because I actually know what was written for me, and it doesn’t involve a fulfilling love. Or at least, not any more of those. I was so lucky to have so many. Maybe it’s okay if I let my mind manifest the script in which I know I’m already riding along. Sitting on a bus, looking out the window, I’m connecting my isolated self to each of the crazy, old eccentric ladies walking by on the sidewalk, usually pulling laundry carts full of random bags. I psychically high-five them. Yes, hey hey, you were loved and lost. Then you loved and lost and decided never to pick it up again. You started believing in some impossible unattainable love, or forever mourned the loss of a great one, to occupy that part of your mind, and then gradually filled in all the empty bits of your life with despair-deflecting activities and routines.

At worst, the patterns slip and your apartment gets messy and people see your lunacy in unkempt hair. But if you can keep it tidy, like my own loneliest mother did, then no one has to know the hollow echo of so many chambers of life left unfilled. Laundry done again and again, meals made and eaten, dishes washed. Motions are to be gone through, and they provide built-in comfort through the reward of endorphin release when each box is ticked.

Everybody on the outside reassures me that my story has a different ending, and that I’m beautiful and, oh, I’ll find someone. But what if I’m Jane Austen minus some novels. What if I’m noble and brave and just decide that the best love on offer for me is an impossible love. Would I really be so much better if I hadn’t ever met this person and we locked in to an eagle-talon-clinging platonic tumble through space? Would I be in a functional romantic relationship? Or would I be in a terrible situation with someone who added little color to my life while I erased his, until we both faded to a pair of patterns clicking along a set track.

I know there is a third option there, an in-between, but I don’t think in-betweenness suits me. You really have to make me laugh and think hard, as often as possible. That’s not in between. I think I’ll take the amplitude of hearing from Unrequited and feeling some happiness that he’ll visit New York, and later sink a bit in wonder about the guy he mentioned who lives here now.

Will I be supporting him in a big, new life? Will that be what finally releases us from this strange death grip of pseudo-romantic love? Thereby completing our terms using each other for whatever healing distraction or suspended animation we needed to repair deepest damage. Because the older I get, the more I know it’s damage that holds me here. And I may be the most enlightened, meditating, self-aware version of myself, but I can’t for the life of me see one tiny sliver of a path that will coincide with another.

I resent the fact that the Beatles are in my head right now. But it proves my mind has a sense of humor even when it’s spinning the oldest piano reel of my disconsolate viewpoint.

You see, honestly, as my teachers and practitioners tell me, love is about how you are together. Not about some list of things in common. But what if the best I am together is with this person who elevates every thing. I cannot feel low in our suspension. We look ever upward for some gesture we can make for others or one another. We hold doors, we make jokes, we return people’s dropped slips of paper, we make up silly narratives for bad pieces of architecture, we carry bags up stairs for strangers, and we never stop adding to the moment while being in it. There isn’t a story like ours. One where I am so clearly a better, more open and generous person for knowing him. And where we honestly have constructed the best humorous devices and philosophical enquirers of this epoch.

I need him. And I would never say that he needs me. But I know in my heart that this gentleman sees the world differently when he’s saving bits to share with me. Sure, I’m a fool, and I am that literary figure who waits and hopes for what she is told to be impossible time and time again. But Tame Impala says it: People change. And hopefully you have a chance in this lifetime to hear that song with your Unrequited while riding in a tiny Fiat Cinquecento over the limestone hills of southern France, only the dashboard light to keep  you company when the engine gets overwhelmed and you have to pull over and hope the car will find the spirit to move on.

And on that dark winter night hillside, you laugh and are calm together, because you operate on this very placid level and you love the story while you’re in it. You’ve both seen things shatter and you’ve both done a bit of that breaking, and now you just want to love every chance you get, no matter what form it takes. Because maybe, just maybe, your script hasn’t been written, and you’re fumbling through the greatest love story of all time. Too many times, you don’t recognize a good love story until you’ve crossed some preordained threshold, or it’s all over. So maybe hang on to whatever this is that’s unfolding around you, because it feels like an intimacy you haven’t known before, and you can’t predict the ending. Or every time you think it’s really over, the engine kicks back on and the music starts and you find you really can lean on this person for gradually more and more things. Maybe it is just a lifelong, beautiful friendship. That tortures you with its perfection never to be fulfilled.

So, maybe you see why I’m stuck. Until someone is bold enough to take the very slight risk of guessing my affection for them (I show it pretty clearly, and you’d have to be a moron or simply a modern-age, “infinite choices are available to me so why should I bother with this intellectually thrilling but sub-par on the attractiveness scale selection” love-resistor not to feel it), and asks me to follow through on a mutual feeling, then I’ll just maintain the status quo. Because I used to be a little too willing to try other narratives that might bring the feeling of this trophy heart… and too often I pushed them most of the way there myself before I realized it’s not the real thing. So, alright, no pushing. I’ll just wait patiently to see what arrives, and in the meantime keep my trophy heart in its glass case, where it’s well cared for and gets a good amount of laughs. 

A Stitch in Time

26 Feb

patchwork_quiltAll these years of wanting the same thing.

Because there we were, perched on a sagging cot that served as a makeshift sofa in the tiny flat he chose in the 18th arrondissement. Dusk-blue light tinted darker the denim I was sewing near the window, and a little bit of kitchen incandescence filtered around the shape of his profile to my right. Thus framed, my travel sewing kit needle guided thread through pocket and trim, back and forth, zig-zagging with the conversation around a quilt of previous patch jobs.

This darling pair of trousers, the long legs flopping over stumpy femurs bent beneath me, bore the sewing of our tailor in Utah and the stitchwork of our denim knight’s mother. We had all tried to hold together the edges of pockets he himself had tried to reseal with cut-outs of iron-on fabric patches.

I felt tremendously important as I sewed between all that shared handiwork. I knew our tailor would see my haphazard field repair and wonder who could be so erratic, and with dark blue thread on white cotton pocket, too. But the truth is, I had every intention of making a mark. And the sewing gave me a good place to fix my attention when I continued a point I’d made just a bit previously over a late lunch in the south of Pigalle.

“You know, I meant what I said. And I guess you know because I said it years ago. But I do still love you.”

A low level of gravely assent lumbered from his side of the cot.

“And I guess I am probably still quite obsessed with you. But I do keep it in check.”

Then I emitted one of my newly perfected pauses, to let someone else think and speak, instead of speaking for them to fill the gap. Pushed the pause out there, let it sit while I sewed.

There was some stretching and extension of long limbs, long so long I measured the distance from hip to knee when first we boarded the plane to Barcelona, and touching the bone at each joint, I held and said, “Do you realize that the length of your femur is the same as my entire torso?” Admittedly, I have a freakishly long torso, but I did want to point out how I sympathized with the discomfort that would be inevitable on the long flight from New York.

The limbs settled and seat shifted. “I do. And I feel the same way. And I would do just about anything for you.”

He said more and more, and I kept stitching. I’d sealed the gap that was setting coins free to roll down his skyscraper legs to the pavement below, and now my needle was going back and forth, worrying the thread against a worn connection that would break quite soon, too. This was preventative maintenance, and I made my future-seeing strokes quite evident against the white cotton.

This is where I thought of you first. This is where I put extra care in attendance to our future.

I wouldn’t touch the subject again other than in teasing, until some six days later we were stood in customs at JFK and I tucked a hand down the edge of the reinforced pocket and turned up the inner edge to show him the darning. “See, I did a little bit extra, too, so it won’t tear again right away.”

Then lifted my gaze and artificially adhered it to some far off bit of intrigue, and felt how still he was beside me.

And I Would Do Just About Anything For You

4 Jan

  On a day when so much progress was made with someone who could actually be someone, and somehow I also got so much work done, just like a real and functioning human, the thing that has made me cry as I go to sleep is this:

“It’s my birthday on Thursd–”

“I know.”

The most important person knows and I don’t even have to finish. The strangely strangulating tears come now because I know how much he truly holds me dear, and now we both know that it won’t change a thing. 

I know, too. 

And I hold in my hand the book he sent me for Christmas, and I pull the pile of blankets up over my hooded-sweatshirt self while outside the temperature drops to the billions of degrees below freezing it was the day I was born, and I choke like one of those movie weepers. Because this birthday was already the worst by a factor of eighty (picked the wrong holiday season to quit SSRIs, hah-cha-cha-chaaa). And now it’s just brutally even more distant from anyone who knows. It’s the most self-indulgent form of loneliness that a person can have in a city of eight million, but it’s distinctly my own. Or maybe it’s someone else’s, too. So I’ll write about it, and hope it gives them somewhere to put this weird angst, too. 

Music to Have Feelings By

28 Dec

My most favorite Hallmark Channel holiday movie this year!

There have been at least 107 Christmas trees in my living room since October. Or maybe even more. It’s hard to get an estimate, because some of them are the same tree twice or thrice or… multiple times. Cuz, like, I love to watch holiday movies, okay? And they’re definitely NOT of the cinematic classic variety. They’re absolutely the most low-budget, thrillingly flawed Hallmark Channel productions imaginable.

But don’t be mistaken, I don’t have an actual tree in my living room. Because I don’t celebrate Christmas. Well, at least, not at the moment.

(That’s called a cliffhanger, movie fans.)

Here, let me cue some slow but sweet instrumental music to set the tone for my heartbreaking and yet hopeful story…

I am a girl who loves love. All forms and expressions of love are welcome here. And I’ll tell ya, some of the best, most upbeat, least conflicted love stories are found in holiday movies. In these delightful romps through the full spectrum of new love, old love, found love, lost love and imaginary love, amidst the clumsy continuity errors, extremely fake New York City sets and inexplicable Canadian accents (almost all Hallmark movies are evidently filmed north of the border), if there happens to fall a tense moment, it’s only a super brief one. Maybe for approximately ten minutes, our heroine believes that her love interest might not be the man she imagined. But that’s quickly forgotten in a hail of other love subplots involving unexpected revelations from family members, emerging affection from new friends and/or the children of the hero in question, and maybe some appropriately cuddly moments with domesticated animals, too.

So, I guess I’m admitting that the reason I watched even more holiday movies than usual this year (after I ran out of free streaming movies, I actually BOUGHT several Hallmark productions on Amazon Prime), is because I needed to keep cataloging all the best moments of seeing family and friends and finding love even when it seems impossible. I used the movies as instruction manuals in addition to their very successful provision of tinselly distraction.

You see, this was the year I paused Christmas before I start it again the way I like to see it best. It’s only the second time I’ve celebrated the holiday without my mother, and in the first year, I made a valiant effort to go to a friend’s house and celebrate with her. But this year I owned the truth of how much I miss the one true Christmas lover in my family. I stayed home, I declined plans, and instead I went to lunch and saw the new Quentin Tarantino film with some of my Jewish friends.

In response to that choice, even without any soundtrack music to tell me how to feel, I can actually hear my mom sighing a woeful “ohhhhhh,” in her Minnesota accent. Yes, it sounds so sad, the inevitable life-changing happy ending could write itself. And in fact, it did. (Cue upbeat, hopeful music.)

My ideal version of Christmas is just an amplified version of how I endeavor to live all year long. I love seeing friends and connecting with family as often as possible. I try to move with joy and compassion in my heart, and from the depths of the most average (or below average) day, I try to smile at fellow sidewalk travelers and subway riders even when it’s 100 degrees outside and we don’t have any Christmas music to tell us to cheer up. I really try to be that Hallmark movie girl, even though I’m secretly also feeling like an extremely whiny girl who doesn’t believe her own script.

So. Here we are in the last six minutes. (My mom and I loved watching Hallmark movies, and we analyzed the scripts constantly, loving the guarantee of an endorphin rush during those final six minutes of the movie, when everything seems like it couldn’t get worse and then it all comes together for the payoff.) Holiday cheer arrived in my house in a whole bunch of scripted and unscripted ways this Christmas, all of which I cherished. And I have to say that my mother would be very happy to see how well I am doing.

But the endorphin rush came tonight. When my one true love, my Unrequited always-gonna-be-a-friend friend, sent me a photo of his two sons each holding a copy of the “Pocket Pema Chödrön” book that I carried with me on our trip to Spain and France last month. (Yes! I went to Europe with him! And he also sent me a really great book for Christmas!) He borrowed the Pema book from me while we traveled from one scenic locale to the next, and I knew it made an impression on him. But tonight, to see those two boys, whom I have known for ten years, grinning in front of the Christmas tree and holding their book for a photo they knew was being sent to me… that was enough to make me utter my own Minnesota-accented “Ohhhhhhhhh”—but in the “sooooo cuuuute” way.

I am loved. And I love. So the magic of the season worked after all, even if I didn’t go through the old familiar motions this year. I am going to keep building new annual traditions that are founded in my everyday heart. If by loving without expectation I receive those amazing six minutes of happy ending, then I’m going to keep watching!

More Awake Than Alarmed

23 Dec

IMG_1218From beneath a thick swath of duvet encased in gray houndstooth flannel, face blissfully pressed into the unabiding affection of my stack of pillows, I heard Frank Sinatra murmuring and I jolted awake. Except I didn’t move and my eyes didn’t open. I actually, for the first time in my life, felt my heart pound into sudden alertness before I felt any other sensation of waking. There, at the center of my chest, with a force unknown in this year of pillow-ensconced, alarm-less sleeping, I felt activated. It was exciting. Invigorating.

Good readers, I have rediscovered the alarm clock. It’s a thing people use, it’s a sound they dread, but I am here to say that it actually triggers a very human response, and here’s some advocacy for artificially prompting that action.

I heard a bit on NPR yesterday about our internal clock, and how it slips into another time zone as we age. The report about the fallibility of our “clock genes” was slightly jarring, though the promise of more naps didn’t sound too bad. But the most important, connection-leaping, time-to-learn-a-big-new-thing moment for me was in these lines:

“When you woke up this morning, the timekeeping genes told a gland in your brain to give a jolt of the stress hormone cortisol to wake up. Tonight, they’ll tell a gland to spit out melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy.”

Light bulbs! Alarm bells! Gongs! Other loud sounds, like my 24-setting burr grinder tearing through locally roasted single-origin coffee beans!

I was denying myself a cortisol shot every morning. Or at least I was sort of like, dampening it, by not activating that ol’ gene clock with an assist from the outer world. It used to be the sunrise and then it was roosters crowing, then it became alarm bells, and eventually it became my own carefully chosen, not-too-jarring song selection on my iPhone. All of these were external prompts to help exaggerate an internal one.

Then came my freelance era, an era steeped in resentfulness toward “working for the man” my whole life and doused in gallons of depressive responses carried down through generations of my Scandinavian and Irish ancestors. We alllllll hate waking up. Except on weekends, when we jump out of bed and do lots of things for ourselves all day. So it was that every weekday morning, beneath the pull of my own childish resistance to getting out of bed, I could hear the ancient tides of seas compelling my Viking ancestors to get a move on, and in response feel them pulling whatever flimsy animal skin cover back over themselves and deciding to pillage another day.

These tendencies were deep, I mean, they run all the way through all of my genetic code. But I would never deny that I’m a morning person. In fact, when I awake properly and do all the breakfasty things (ex-boyfriends know how important the breakfasty things are), I’m actually tediously chipper in the morning. Kind of scarily enthusiastic, in fact.

I’m making myself sound charmingly manic, but really the pendulum swings are fairly normal (or are they?!?). Except I’ve been effectively destroying, crushing, smushing my “clock genes” this whole year… and actually, truthfully, many, many years previous as well. I use mind over matter to shush the clock genes and suppress the cortisol boost. And then two years ago I let some doctors convince me to try some SSRI medication (“anti-anxiety,” they called it, but it’s also used to treat depression) that inhibits any fight or flight responses and soothes one into a happy consistency that makes the days easier to manage. Very helpful throughout the year of my mother’s death and the immediate aftermath of grief, yes. But NOT helpful when you’re trying to scare yourself into getting enough work done to pay the bills.

So, charming readers, friends who parse my syllables for mutual gain, I want to announce that concurrent with my retirement from SSRI status, I have rediscovered my clock genes. And this morning, for the first time in a long time (why does my internal monologue sound so often like that of the fictional Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City”? The horror! Or… the joy.), I set my alarm. And for my rousing music, I chose Frank Sinatra’s charming attempt at bossa nova, fortunately done in collaboration with Antônio Carlos Jobim: “Wave”.

It might not be extremely helpful that the first lyrics of the song are, “So close your eyes / For that’s a lovely way to be,” but… c’mon it’s gonna take me a while to actually believe I want to wake up. The rest of the song has a lovely mindfulness-based message though, so I think it’s a good choice. (More on that in my next batch of entries.)

My heart would agree that it was a good choice, because it awoke with a happy start that jolted me out of a lingering dream about Unrequited. And I felt alive, and glad to be in a world on my own, not with Unrequited, and I leapt out of bed. Now that I know that my clock genes actually collaborate with my brain on the whole stress-hormone release thing, I’m going to help that response along with a good old fashioned alarm clock. At least until I kick the habit of sleeping through the most important parts of my work day.



I Have Dreamed that Your Arms are Lovely

23 Mar

The bracelet is brass, hammered by hand with tools replicated from those of the Egyptian era. He lifted it from the velvet case in the front window while I was at the back of the shop, talking with the proprietor. I saw his rangey silhouette make its way around the dress dummy with zipper popping from vintage yellow satin, pause, adjust footstep angle, and zigzag through retail obstacles human and metal to approach me. He proffered a square band, rounded at the corners and graced with a cluster of enamel-filled smaller-scale echoes of the same shape in a multi-layered pendant that would rest above my pulse.

My jaw dropped. Where did he find it? He led me back to where the window lit a tray of other future artifacts that would all fill my best-imagined jewelry box.

Here, he indicated, resting it precisely where the square had lain, green enamel and brass cluster of adornment facing the street.

I love it, I said. All of this is gorgeous. But I could never, my wrist wouldn’t…

And he picked it up and made as if to slide it over my hand, so I proffered my right appendage limply, self-conscious about a desperate need for some serious hand creme.

And it fit. And we smiled.

Let me get it for you, he said, to my immediate refusal. No, it’s the least I can do.

So I did. I let him wrap my wrist in a vestige of our closeness in a store we may never see together again. Now the square bangs against my ulna and I sense the trace of a love that would never, not in a million years, be as real or solid as this piece of adornment. Still, I let its weight remind me that there was a real, human form which stood tall and sent brown eyes gazing down with love and left a mark on my heart and arm.

May the One You Long for Long for You

19 Jan

paperThere are three poems I carry with me, sometimes as a little bundle of folded pages worn at the seams, sometimes just one important piece at a time. I am a girl of many handbags and totes, and so each day I must reassemble which items travel with me, and even when I keep my load light, I pack at least one poem. I can always feel the carefully selected verbal talisman there, leaning against my hip through canvas or jostling around with too many glasses cases in pockets of suede.

It used to be just one poem I always carried, and so I memorized it. It’s a very long poem, too. But I know it. Still the pages are smooth as river stones now, so I carry it like some might wear a tattoo. I know it, but I need it outside myself, too.

Another joined the ranks last summer when I was riding the subway very, very late one night and sharing thoughts with a stranger about a poem displayed in one of those “Poetry in Motion” public service ads. I turned to him as I dangled from a handrail and said before he could take off his beat-laden headphones, “Do you know anything about orchids?” When headphones rested on hoodie and he asked me to repeat myself, he nodded no. But we had a very lovely talk about what could be known about orchids and what we needed to learn. We agreed to seek out more on the subject matter when we got home. “Google it!” he said, as I disembarked. I hope he googled it, too.

In between the ancient relic of a poem that I memorized and the relatively new one that came from beneath the streets is the most important poem ever. It is an Irish Blessing that one of my dearest yoga teachers read aloud in class four years ago. I almost didn’t make it to that class, I was tired and whiny, but like the most intrepid of yogis, I made the effort to drive to the farthest studio that was in my orbit in Utah. It turned out I was the only one who would show up that night, and it was fortunate, because I needed to unburden my heart, give voice to a big truth I’d reduced to a little trembling trifle.

My teacher and I, we were (and are) both the sort who find meaning in incidentals, coincidences, serendipity, happenstance and several other words for magic. We talked while we waited for no one else to eventually arrive, and then when she opened her bookmarked page and began to read the text she’d selected for that evening’s class, she actually began to cry, instantly. I didn’t panic, as it was not abnormal for me to witness. I tend to be in a lot of amazingly emotional exchanges with relative strangers. I’m like the Hallmark card commercial guru. Have thirty seconds to start weeping about your neglectful father? Here, have a Kleenex-brand tissue.

The poem, the Irish Blessing, is by this guy John O’Donohue (legit Irish name, check). I purposely have never looked in to who he is or what era he lives in, but I’m fairly certain he’s probably a contemporary living Irish Blessing writer, because his subject matter is a superior blend of eastern and western philosophy.

“Blessed be the longing that brought you here,” the first line says to the weary yogi who traveled from at least 15 miles north. Alright, so that made me cry, too. And the rest of it was so amazing that I copied down her yoga-abbreviated version of the text by hand on a piece of paper before I left the yoga studio that night. It was evidently so mystical an experience that I didn’t even try to google it then and there… how odd…

Anyway, the next day, I called Unrequited and was kinda like super demanding and said we had to have dinner before I left town on a two-week trip the next day. He agreed to meet me after work, and I folded up my pocket poem and carried it with me to the restaurant. Then, after the appropriate amount of small-talk, I tucked the folded paper under the edge of my plate and declared that I had something to say.

I was afraid to say it, of course, so I read the poem first:

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.


That’s pretty good, right? I finished reading, folded paper, and put it back under the edge of my plate. Then I told Unrequited that I had cleared a huge place in my heart for him, and it was a permanent place. And now that place also included his two sons. “I hold you all in my heart, I always have since I have known you, and I always will. I felt this way since the moment we met, and it’s always been there, and it will always be there, so nothing will change.”

His jaw was actually dropped when I was silent. His eyes were wide and his gaze was upward at nothing. Then he started to smile in slow-motion (just like in a Hallmark movie!), and he said, “That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.”

Of course nothing came of it then, otherwise he wouldn’t be called Unrequited, right? But for all you devoted Bunky fans out there, waiting for the best happy-romance-movie-ending ever, Unrequited and I spoke yesterday and he said he’s coming to visit me in New York.

I can hear at least one of you grumbling (WriterHero), but dude, let a girl have some poetry now and then. I’ll see Unrequited in two weeks anyway, when I get my hair done in Utah. But then he’s coming here. For me. FOR ME. And the quaint village of New York City.

So Tell Me How Long

20 May

ahoyOn more mornings than I care to admit, I awake with the vague recollection that someone was in love with me while I slept. Sometimes there’s only a slight pause, and I can picture the face of the friend or stranger who has suddenly decided that he cannot live without me. But on other occasions, such as today, I have to mosey around a bit in my recently dismissed reveries and try to identify the source of affection.

This morning’s dream was of Unrequited. And it’s probably appropriate that he disappeared from the scene right before I awoke. He is a coyote, after all, scrambling up the hillside, leaving only a tiny avalanche of pebbles and snapped twigs in the wake of paws swift and precise in their escape.

Oh, Unrequited. You’ve rehearsed this part so often, it becomes more believable every time my subconscious pulls back the curtain and trots out the familiar scene. You are finally ready to be close with me, and your entire demeanor softens around the contentment you held out of reach for so long. I am your inevitable love, and you are so happy to be home, safe. Even better, you are ready to take me into your arms and actually just be still, hold still, stay with me. A sense of calm pervades the dream, and I feel settled for the first time in my life.

This dream is on repeat-one in my mind, though I refuse to call it “recurring” because reality’s circumstances have always evolved somewhat in between fictional depictions and each is a little more convincing than the last. But unlike my Cowboy premonition or my startling ability to predict the sudden arrival of love from the Unaloof Percussionist, my Unrequited fantasy has never come true. (Thus, of course, the moniker Unrequited.)

Sometimes I do have the mystical sense that this imagining will finally become tangible. Late last summer, when I was in Salt Lake City for a week to pack my things and vacate the premises, I met Unrequited’s doppelganger on a moonlit night. I’d just finished a long and luxurious dinner with a friend and wandered up a hill to where I’d parked the impressively large and charmingly dated Toyota Landcruiser that same friend generously makes available to me when I visit Utah. Then three things happened at once.

You see, this was the first time I’d made use of this vehicle, and its storied past was transforming my life rapidly. I never drive large vehicles, and the first time I piloted this vessel, I was actually giggling maniacally. It is so liberating to move through space with too much metal around you. Especially when the metal is nicknamed “Stinky” (which he distinctly is not, and yes, it is a he, not a she, as is more common for vehicles and boats). And more especially when Stinky is home to an advanced cultural tradition. Whenever anyone borrows him, they add an audiocassette to his treasure trove of past-tense musical memories. In short, Stinky makes you feel powerful and nostalgic all at the same time, making him quite possibly the best boyfriend ever.

Anyway, I climbed up the hill, heaved myself elegantly into the driver’s seat using Stinky’s chivalrous running board step and courteous doorframe handle, and slid across the leather seat in my summer dress. I looked up and saw the full moon making poetic declarations through the trees and above the postcard-perfect shadows of mountains beyond. Damn you, Utah, I thought, and turned the key.

Earlier that day I finally got off my NPR high horse and gave in to Stinky’s DJ experience. I pressed “Tape” on the stereo and once again began giggling maniacally (Stinky really makes you behave like you are in the early phases of love). This time the laughter was triggered by the sudden arrival of the voice of Morrissey, moaning some lyrics to what I could only assume was music from The Smiths. I have always hated The Smiths, much to my Writer Hero friend’s chagrin, and I figured this was the universe telling me to a.) drive a large car and feel some crazy-ass power, and b.) own the fact that The Smiths were made for me.

Okay, so, I got in, saw the moon, turned the key, and the tape continued playing the strange cacophonous introduction to a song I’d never heard before. I paused, transfixed, until Morrissey’s voice arrived with some advice as to where things were going. Then he broke my heart and reconstructed my soul in a matter of seconds.

“Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me,” he intoned, pointing at me alone there on a dark hill. Then he sang exactly the scenario I was enduring at that moment and continue to endure today: “No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / Last night I felt real arms around me / No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / So tell me how long, before the last one / And tell me how long before the right one / This story is old, I know, but it goes on.”

mantraNeedless to say, the song became my mantra, and I eventually regained the ability to use an audiocassette player, figuring out how to rewind just to the beginning of the track, so I could hear the same song over and over and over again for the entire eight days I was in Utah last August. This song held me up, comforted me. I was raw at that time, my mother was in the hospital in Texas, and I was drastically changing my life in a mode of escape and return to some version of home.

Then, eight months later, Stinky and I were reunited when I visited the Unaloof Percussionist. That same audiocassette was in the tape player, still cued up to my heartbreak. Only it felt completely different with Unaloof next to me.

Now, fast-forward one more month, and guess what, I’ll be returning to Salt Lake City, borrowing Stinky, and pressing play on that audiocassette. And guess what? I’ll be with Unaloof, but he has expressed his urgent need to never love me or be serious about me, making himself into another form of Unrequited.

And now we come to the denouement of my dream sequence. I will press play, sing along with my heartbreak, and go to dinner with Unrequited. And he finally, finally will hold my hand across the table, and say, “You like the arugula salad here, right? And we always get the ricotta dumplings.” And I will gaze into his eyes and find a new contentment in our old rituals as they finally, actually mean something.

It’s not impossible. All my other dreams have come true. And Stinky clearly is a mystical creature who brings you the answers and grants you the power to live with them, even when they don’t turn out the way you planned.

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