Going the Distance

I think, sometimes, I am having a long-distance relationship with myself. 

I’ve been home all week this week; slept in my own bed for ten days straight–something that hasn’t happened since March.  It feels strange and disorienting.  I’m living alone, too, so it’s weird to get acquainted with the routine of not having anyone else in my space; not having to tell anyone else to leave me the hell alone.  To not have to work out my issues with intimacy on anyone else–to have all the time and space in the world to be a complete frigid bitch, as my ex-husband likes to say.

I jest.  Though he really did/does call me a frigid bitch.  Jury is still out on whether he was jesting.

I really am having a long-distance relationship here, though.  I fly in from parts unknown–the California coast; Washington; Copenhagen; the Caribbean; New England–and I spend a day at a time, maybe two days, taking care of things.  I make appointments for haircuts and dinners and manicures.  Sometimes a massage.  I take myself out; I make dates with friends.  I do those things that people do when they are seeing someone special.  But I am seeing myself. 

And then, I’m off again.

So it was a bit of an anti-climax being home.  No glamour.  A sink full of dishes to be done and no garbage disposal (a dismaying fact I learned after I’d already scraped a pile of oatmeal into the sink); laundry to be folded; and those annoying things to be purchased that everyone who has just moved needs to buy and wonders, “How they hell don’t I have these things?  I could swear I had them in my old place!”

I did, however, manage to go out with an old friend, with whom I have a shared closet full of skeletons and for whom I have a veritable container ship full of jumbled feelings: my high school sweetheart who ultimately decided he was gay.  There was nothing easy about that relationship; the legacy of it seems like it should be simple and should have been resolved–like I could have, and indeed should have, turned it into an anecdote of teen love gone terribly awry.

I suppose there is a kind of honesty in first love that is never recreated, can never be recaptured, and everyone wants to share it or experience with someone who is just…the person of his or her dreams.  This man was not the man I ever expected to first love or to experience such strong feelings about.  He was (and is…) this crazy, awkward redhaired musician; frenetic; passionate; dominant. 

I didn’t, and still don’t, like most things about him.  But he was the first person I ever met that I felt like I knew by heart and one cannot deny that feeling.

Our relationship over the years has been marred by having to survive traumas–together and apart–and the wounds had been inflicted by some very heavy personal things.  Forgiveness has been a choice, but one I am glad to have made.  I could not have survived the last 18 months without having chosen that path; without thinking, feeling that I could maybe be able to love that way again.  Which sounds so dramatic.  But true.

So it was our anniversary of many, many years on December 13.

“Happy Anniversary, baby,” he said.

“I’m getting divorced,” I said.  Which is what I say to everyone, these days.  Because it has been months and months and I haven’t told a soul, so I suppose, this far into the process, it’s time to start fessing up.

We went to see a terrible, terrible play in celebration, at a well-known off-Broadway theatre.  Said theatre is doing a reading of his show early next year.

“The girl is good,” I said, concilliatory, commenting on the female lead in the show.

“This is terrible,” he said, “They can’t sing.  Very…cinematic, though.  Like it was meant for film.”  He waved his hand.  Sterotypically. 

“Yes,” I said, “Too many scene changes.”

I had to take a conference call before the show ended.  It was something I never would have done under other circumstances, but this is my life and the play was awful.  I stood outside in the freezing New York night on the phone with places far away, listened and talked, the sounds of the city street in front of and behind me.

I love this place.  I love what I do.  I love the chaos and buzz and double-booking.

I finished the call as the show ended.

“How did the call go?” he asked.

“Poorly.  How did the show end?”


I stared at him.  Neither of us had changed in a decade and a half, really, at the heart of things.  And I said so.

“Except for the fact that I spent two years in Africa and I’m African now; and you keep forgetting you’re not Chinese.”

“Oh yeah, there’s that.”

The African-white-redhaired-Jew from California and the blonde-Chinese-WASP-from-Pennsylvania stood in silence, frozen on the corner of 7th Ave for a moment.  It was a moment foretold.  If someone had asked 14 years earlier what we would have been doing at that very moment, we might have said we’d be standing on a street corner on a New York City night, coming out of a play together; that he’d be writing shows and having them read off-Broadway, working with the best theatre talent in the city; that I’d be an attorney.

No one could have predicted, though, the steps leading up to that moment.  But the moment had already been written.  Like the cinematic streetcorner kisses under the maple tree in my parents’ front yard; me wearing his letter jacket over leggings.  Like the cold wind blowing in off the Hudson River and the kiss on the cheek getting out of the taxi.

We parted ways–he was headed home then to the airport to pick up his boyfriend coming in from Los Angeles.  They were doing the long-distance thing.  And I was headed home to continue to get reacquainted with my life, after three-quarters of a year of doing the long-distance thing myself.

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