I received a fortune in a cookie a few weeks ago that made absolutely no sense to me at the time, but that I felt I should hang on to:
I stuck it in a folder on my desk, and didn’t think much of it. Then I went on to have an extraordinarily weird couple of weeks. One of the peaks of weird occurred last Saturday, with me going to a play with my high school sweetheart, MG.
He was in town for an event, and had messaged me earlier in the day to see if I wanted to go to a play. Our relationship, which began 17 years ago, has been complex and complicated over the years – I won’t go into all the details, because to a certain extent they are dark and messy. But I am a woman who refuses to have bitterness in her life, and I think it was extremely important to the both of us to move forward.
When we were young, we shared a first kiss under the maple tree in my parents’ front yard, next to his Chevy, with me wearing his varsity jacket, and the November night rattling through the last of the leaves above us. If you know us, you know that this is the most improbably All-American setting to have as the backdrop for a relationship that has spanned nearly 20 years. But it was authentic ; it actually happened. And we went on to serve as each other’s muses; we collaborated romantically and creatively, until we didn’t.
Maybe that’s what’s so important about relationships that go on even through dark and horrible things; relationships that come back from the brink: they begin in improbable ways. And only under the most unlikely of circumstances can people eventually sit across the table from each other and speak unspeakable truths.
Also, you have to want it.
After the play we went back to my apartment and talked for hours. We talked about life, and love, and what our plans were. We talked about people we used to know. We laughed a lot. And each moment made me conscious of how authentic first loves were; how they endured; how they manifested in so many other ways as life went on.
And then it made me think about the things that were temporary.
He left around midnight, and we exchanged our I love you‘s and well wishes, and after he left, I went down the rabbit hole again of meditating on the car accident, and how it had been a year, and what would the future hold? Would I ever get over it?
For some reason, this meditation somehow shot me off down memory lane — recalling and contrasting moments and relationships, as if that would provide some kind of explanation as to Why I Hadn’t Moved On From The Car Accident From Last April.
And in my rapid-fire free association, I suddenly recalled a night from 16 years ago that MG and I had gone to Winter Formal — I was in a black gown and he was in some horrible suit. My reddish blonde hair was in a french twist, and his curly was all over the place. I wore bright red lipstick and it was my first time wearing such a grown-up shade. And he told me how beautiful I was. I had written about it; I had written about the dress, and the pout, and each detail, like it was the only time anyone would ever make me feel that way.
I rarely wear red lipstick as an adult, except at my Christmas party each year. But for some reason, on that Saturday night, I had slathered on the crimson. Perhaps it had been an unconscious choice.
It had been so long since I felt like myself! But out of the wreckage, I had emerged last Saturday, well-coiffed and scarlet-lipped, again on the arm of the man who had first told me I was in-that-way-beautiful. Though it was a black blazer this time, not a gown. And the setting was Hell’s Kitchen — not the Los Angeles suburbs.
The things that made me myself were still in there and I didn’t know it. The girl in the gown who had no doubt at all about her self-worth and her potential — she was still inside. The girl who got kissed under the maple tree; who knew she’d get hurt and loved without fear anyway — she still existed. I spent the last year rattled and afraid because of a hit and run driver, and a significant other who had no regard for anyone but himself. I lost myself in the fear; I was shattered by my lack of control over the whole situation.
And as I wiped off the lipstick and washed my face, it all made sense. It had been a year since the car accident. Good things must stand, what is temporary has to be temporary. I couldn’t let it last longer than a year.