Wednesday, May 26, 2010

“Nothing Can to Nothing Fall”
(Part I of III)


Even as it was happening, I didn’t realize we were breaking up.

This time, I missed it because I was too busy cataloguing evidence that we were “together.”

Certainly, I had acted the part. I drove once, twice, each week the two hours to his place. Once there, I shared his bed, made meals, answered his phone, painted his house. I was energetically—unrelentingly—devoted to providing what I perceived he wanted.

Certainly, I had been crazy for him, and if he’d suddenly blurted out, “Let’s get married,” my answer would have been a rushed and hearty “YES!” I would have been planning how to stuff Siberian Iris into every centerpiece before he’d had the thought to learn my middle name.

Curious, then, that I was never completely certain of where I stood…or if I was even welcome to stack up each of my vertebra into the tower of my full self. A posture of anticipative crouching typified those six months.

Easy psychology might conjecture that I hunched into the crouch after my previous six-year relationship with a man who had never wanted what I wanted, with a man who rarely made me feel prized or desired, with a man so wounded that I finally had to refuse to be his healer, lest I start dropping limbs myself. It could have been posited that the remnant damage from that relationship of my twenties—a mere nine months behind me when I launched into Hope with this new man—readied me for New Man’s confounding treatment, an approach that careened from blood-rushing attentiveness to perplexing inscrutability.

Of course, the workings of the psyche are never easy.

In truth, ending the relationship of my twenties ultimately felt right and good, like a release from middle school lunch hour—something I craved for the opportunities but, more deeply, mourned for the daily disappointments. Once the redheaded man and I had parted ways, I had turned my face, beaming, towards the future; I was both unfettered and gleeful. Within months of his moving away, I’d retrieved cached pieces of self, lost 40 pounds, reinvigorated friendships, found a new recipe for cashew chicken, gone bowling, seen movies requiring Deep Thought, shopped for new sweaters, and planned a summer trip to Ireland with several Women of My Heart.

Then again, there was also the loneliness. Without the definition of a relationship, life seemed aimless, without purpose or momentum. So, what?—I was to get up every day, eat some Raisin Bran, and—then what?—try to figure out where in the world Matt Lauer was? And I was to repeat this ritual until when? And why was I doing any of it anyhow? At least in a relationship, the yoke to Other nudged me when it was time to turn back to the barn at the end of the day.

Unyoked from my former love, I felt free to sprint across a sun-dappled meadow, yet part of me wondered if I weren’t also dashing toward the edge of a long, flat world, galloping into a pre-Columbian void of darkness.

Caught between dapple and dark, I engaged in a deliberate Creation of Meaning for my days, no simple feat in a town of 23,000 people, two-thirds of whom were over the age of 65. Mostly, Meaning Creation entailed fine-tuning my personal profile, trying out activities that might ripen me for presentation to A Different Kind of Man: A New Man. In this quest, I rented inline skates; I made a pair of snowshoes; I cooked a cauliflower pie in a hash brown crust. Each of these—undertaken solo--filled hours and gave me material for conversation.

Should anyone ask.

And that’s what loneliness is: deliberately filling the hours, warding off potential silence in the face of a welcome inquiry.

After being single for a handful of months, recovering from the six-year relationship, listening to countless hours of books on tape while walking paved paths that encircled ponds, shooing the geese when they waddled up to hiss and peck at my feet, some friends came to visit.

I didn’t realize at the time that they were on a reconnaissance mission, that they were checking the walls of my house to be sure I’d removed all pictures of Redheaded Long-Term Man before beginning to orchestrate a series of “introductions” to the single men in their lives.

Apparently, I passed their covert tests and, subsequently, began to get invitations to come visit them in their city. And so long as I was there, I was welcome to accompany them to whatever they were doing that weekend--even and especially if it involved opportunities for me to stand in the same room with single men. This I realized only after the fact, as seems to be the case with most anything that might potentially change my life.

The first guy I was tossed towards was too recently divorced to realize I was single and in the same room with him. From my side, I was too recently single and too unable to see myself as appealing.

The second guy noticed me in the room with him, registered that I was single, and found me appealing. Oblivious, I asked him a lot of questions about his previous girlfriend and counseled him as to how to get back together with her.

The third guy was hosting a dinner party, so I was one of many in the room; he was making a Thai meal from scratch, showcasing skills he’d picked up in the Peace Corps. While he was convivial, he also spent three hours sweating over the food. Most of that time saw him sitting upon a wooden construction he’d hammered together, a little wooden bench called “The Rabbit.” The purpose of The Rabbit was to allow the sitter to shred, pummel, and juice a whole coconut until it yielded enough coconut milk for the meal. Terrifically hungry by 9 p.m., I still grasped these points: there was actually very little food put out on the table for all that effort; my idea of a dinner party involves more than 2 ounces of food per guest; I was going to need a burger on the way home; sometimes it’s okay to take the shortcut called cracking open a can of coconut milk, particularly if doing so allows you to talk to the people who have come to your home; and, finally, at least the host had enjoyed a vigorous and gratifying date with The Rabbit.



The fourth guy was jokingly called a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer, for he was tall, lanky, laconic, nearly 43, never married. I met him at a ski weekend at a friend’s cabin in Wisconsin—the type of weekend for which my parched soul had been thirsting: there were people, food, talk, laughter. Because I had no notion that my participation in the weekend was actually an audition for affection, I was relaxed and easy. Beneath the joking around, though, some part of me observed that The Bachelor was charming in his quiet way; some part of me discerned that a place in his affections would also grant me continued access to this group of friends. He was a package deal.

Thus, a squeal escaped my lips a few days after the cabin weekend when I opened my email to find a message from him. True to his form, there were few words, simply a brief “I believe I’m smitten.”

Reading those words still qualifies as one of the most heart-poundingly-satisfying moments of my life. I checked quickly over my shoulder to see if a television camera hovered there, recording my reaction as part of that week’s episode of The Jocelyn Chronicles, an episode entitled “Life: There’s Payoff After All.” Unfortunately, all I spotted was a withered house plant, its own parched self crying out for a little attention.

I replied to that email with excitement only loosely harnessed. Fairly quickly, we arranged an actual date, and when we shared asparagus off the same plate during that meeting, I was further convinced of our potential.

He also tempered the residual backlash from Redhaired Man of My Twenties. Still reacting to that previous relationship, I saw The Bachelor satisfying my desire to have children, for he felt his own clock ticking and was more than ready for fatherhood. We wanted the same things. We liked each other. What more did there need to be?

Naturally, The Bachelor had dated before me. One of his ex-girlfriends was part of the “cabin weekend” group. She and The Bachelor seemed fine friends, which spoke well of his character, I thought. Later, I did hear that, after he had broken up with her, she had not participated in the “friend weekends” for quite some time, absenting herself for a few years. He had also brought an unfortunate woman to one of the cabin weekends; she was quickly tagged with the name La Nerviosa due to her evident feelings of unrest, anxiety, and confusion throughout the weekend. The rest of the cabin group was taken aback by her questions about why The Bachelor seemed to distance himself from her presence; they were incredulous that she cried; they still told stories of how La Nerviosa, after that cabin weekend, followed The Bachelor around plaintively, unable to make sense of what was going on between them.

Chortling at the “craziness” of La Nerviosa is one of my greatest regrets.

It would take ten months for me to be rendered La Segunda Nerviosa.

13 comments:

unmitigated me said...

"Should anyone ask."

I believe I am smitten, too, and I will tell you why. This quote reminds me of my favorite passage ever in the English language (it being the one with which I am most familiar): From the novel, Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley-

"Each Uncle would still gladly play a game of baseball, should anyone ask, though no one has asked for years. They kept their tiny, relic gloves properly oiled, however, as if such invitations were not only commonplace, but imminent."

You're welcome.

secret agent woman said...

I can't help but wonder what prompted these reminiscences. And also think that this would have sent the last guy I was involved with right over the edge - ack, talk of previous dates!

Jane said...

I am fascinated. Please keep going.

furiousBall said...

Can you just get to the part where you got the bionic ear?

Becky Cazares said...

It's true. Unattached singlehood is not for the faint of heart. The main ingredient must be to enjoy your own company. For its own sake, not for the potentiality of conversation about it. I distinctly remember the day I made the decision to give up my cherished solitude for couplehood. One isn't better than the other, it's just the flavoring that is different to make each palatable.

Jeni said...

It's taken me years -well sure, my entire life, all 65 years of it -to get to the point where I am today relatively comfortable in my own skin, appreciating whatever talents I do possess and trying to use them somewhat effectively and to do it alone to boot! There are times when my mind wanders and tells me a companion might be nice to have but then it also brings memories of some of the crappiest of crappy relationships I had between the ages of 19 and 55 and I think maybe I'm my own best companion after all -no need to explain myself and my quirks to someone else to see if they can be accepted or if they will again be rejected. My companions today tend to be two small children, with their own really wild and wacky -at times -little quirks (mostly a product of autism they each have) and when they aren't around, I busy myself with things I enjoy -needle work, crochet, books now and again too -and helping out with various groups within my church and all of that does make me much more content than I have ever been before in my life. Funny how things change us though, isn't it?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I am a firm believer in the benefits of older Norwegian Bachelors. I snagged an older German Bachelor and it was a good deal.
"Smitten." Great word.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Okay, I'm hooked. When do we get to hear the next part of the story?!!

monica said...

I'm in for the rest of the story. Can't wait until the happy ending when Groom sweeps you away, onto his white horse and you ride together into the sunset, happily ever after. With Girl and Paco up in the sky, looking forward to being born! ahhh...

choochoo said...

very good story! Waiting for the rest :D

Deborah said...

I have a secret smile...and you know why. Leaving this hanging as you did is nothing short of brilliant.

Jocelyn, Jocelyn, I was hanging on every word. (Not exaggerating, not trying to one-up previous comments.)
As I sat down to this, having poured a cup of straight-up coffee at 10 minutes to midnight, my hands began to rub themselves together with glee all of their own accord. (I am not inventing this) You are such a fine writer, and your skill at building a story is something I hope to learn from. And the patina on your words is the intelligence and insight you bring to this.

This is also a window into your soul, and I am very intrigued indeed to discover such things about you. You're very, very good at revealing yourself in a way that does not reek of an excess of self-involvement. And the regular doses of self-deprecating humour are perfectly placed. I can hardly wait for the next installment, and despite the flattering, admiring comments here, am convinced that I am your biggest fan.

Thank you for a most gratifying (but not too much!) end to my day.

Jen said...

I've had nothing but bad experiences with over 40 and never married.

lime said...

good gravy, that final sentence does make me wonder...