I went out to dinner on Valentine’s Day with my friend PG. As I’ve previously mentioned, I share custody of him with eee, who met him on a volcano in Guatemala. They’ve been the best of friends ever since, and speak frequently — but can count on one hand the number of times they’ve met up face-to-face.
I, on the other hand, speak to PG occasionally, but have lost track of how often I see him, because it’s usually every couple of weeks.
Life is funny that way.
Why do you suddenly love London? PG had called and asked last Sunday, taking the hint from some comments I’d made last weekend. I could hear the Central Park day in his voice — he was in New York when I arrived in London. I could hear the gentle suspicion, too — he stopped just short of asking whether I’d met someone. (Another dear friend had also ribbed me: Ok, what’s his name?)
It was always the case with me — I had always been a bit boycrazy. I loved having a partner; someone with whom to run errands and to whom I could read my writing aloud so I could catch the typos and grammatical errors. And someone to yell at. (Holy hell, I love to yell.)
But as to the question: Firstly, was I so transparent? And secondly, there wasn’t anyone. Not even the prospect.
I had always been That Girl. The little girl who had had pretend weddings so often that her mother made her a wedding dress out of an old pair of lace curtains. The girl who, until the weekend of the car accident last April, had had partners — consecutively and without meaningful gaps — since November, 1995 (I finally pinpointed the correct date.)
No wonder everyone found it a bit shocking that my happiness, satisfaction over the weekend was due to a lovely few days with good friends!
PG made his way home from NY, and he and I tried to make plans for the week. Both my scheduling and his worked out to be a bit nighmarish, so we finally resolved to go out on Valentine’s Day.
Early in Pacific-time on Valentine’s Day, a friend had posted a link to an article about my high school sweetheart — the first person to break my heart. We were together for years when we were young, then he came out as a gay man. Over time, people have tried to minimise this by saying: You turned him gay. That was obviously not true and it wasn’t ever funny for anyone to say — not when I was a teenager, and not now.
On Valentine’s Day years ago, I was in Sacramento for a conference and this first love sent flowers to my hotel. The note on the bouquet said, I know you hate flowers, but I love you. He was also the type who once brought me a relatively hard-to-find copy of Miles of Aisles on vinyl. In some ways, he knew me at my heart-center — in a way I didn’t then know myself.
On our first date, years before that, we’d gone to the mall for Chinese food. The food court speakers had been playing The Circle Game, and the fortune in my fortune cookie had said: Trust him, but keep your eyes open.
Indeed. Maybe that was love: new dreams, maybe better dreams, and plenty, before the last revolving year is through. And: Trust him, but keep your eyes open. Maybe that’s all there was to get: a lot of dreams, a bit of trust, and a healthy dose of realism.
Anyway, the link my friend had posted was to an article about the grant my first love and his partner had just won for their musical. I was proud, in words that I didn’t think anyone could possibly understand. How does one tell the story about first loves, and broken hearts, and fortune cookies, and getting it, and being gotten?
But this wasn’t California in the ’90s — it was Valentine’s Day 2012 in London, and I was set to have dinner with PG. Our dinner plans prompted eee to tease us a little, which elicited the following response from PG:
As we ate, we talked about our adventures; our hopes; our dreams. Where we were and where we were going. We discussed the ways in which I try to control things. We were essentially having a discussion about entropy: randomness; chaos; loss of information and the escape of heat from the system — my efforts to control and avoid it; his efforts to enjoy a wild ride the on wave of chaos.
At the end of the night, he said: You’re a beautiful wonderful piece of debris caught up in a vortex of chaos. He said it purposefully, as if he were trying to convince me of the beauty of the things beyond my control. And I was fighting physics; I was trying to permanently reduce disorder.
We parted ways with a hug and a kiss, and I was left in a puddle of reflection.
It felt like control had slipped away from me. I had had no control over whether a car blew through that intersection at 85th and Lex last April. I couldn’t make my hands work anymore if my body didn’t want them to. For that matter, I couldn’t have forced my ex-husband to have listened to me, and I certainly couldn’t have cajoled his family into loving me. Furthermore, I had no way to stop the British from explaining ad fucking nauseam that “zed” is “zee” in American. Finally, I definitely hadn’t turned anyone gay.
That some things hadn’t worked out for me was maybe just a product of chaos. I was going to have to learn to accept that.
There’s some trite old wisdom about self-acceptance being the key to having meaningful relationships with others (oft represented in fortune cookies as Our first and last love is self-love, which sounds unnecessarily filthy). Did all of my desire to control come from a lack of getting myself?
As I went to bed that night, I put Joni Mitchell on the stereo and let her sing me to sleep. It occurred to me, suddenly, as I drifted off to sleep that had been crap at physics when I was in school. Any knowledge I’d ever had of heat and work and friction had long been forgotten, and I’d carried on in perpetual motion. I was just about out when I remembered that my physics teacher had been an Englishman. He’d always taken great pains to distinguish “zed” from “zee.”
There were a lot of things to get. To control. And not control. Dreams to dream. The alphabet was probably the least of my worries.