So I had a break-up, and it took the stuffing out of me, and I cried a lot; and then I had another break-up, which really took the stuffing out of me, and boy did I cry a lot; then I hooked up with Groom (detailed story can be read here), who, by meeting me fully and loving me ridiculously, has done an admirable job of keeping me from self-sabotage and the Kleenex box, except when the series finales of The Office (BBC version) and The Shield (oh, Shane Vendrell, what you did to your family…) are on, during which Groom just hands me the entire box of tissues, rubs my shoulders, and keeps me hydrated.
Now, the coda:
Three years after being sliced open by the Norwegian Bachelor Farmer’s destructive reticence, the universe had allowed me a triumphant rebound:
I had found the person whose love completed my confidence; having tasted easy, assured adoration with Groomeo, my hunger was sated. Never again would I feel the compulsion to search for an Other. I had felt the exceptional balance that came from genuine partnership, so I was all good. If I’d never gotten to feel the sensation of soppy romantic love, I would have continued to crave that one elusive life experience, would have felt my heart had missed out on filling all of its chambers. However, now that I had been lucky enough to “get” it and with such force, my heart needed an annex;
I had given birth to our delightful Girl, then a toddling towhead who would bounce on my knee with excitement as she pointed at pictures of elephants in storybooks;
My little family and I had escaped the small town where I’d lived throughout the heartbreaks. While I’d made good friendships in that place, the town hadn’t felt like a perfect fit, and not only because any time I’d wheel my daughter out in the jogging stroller, I’d be stopped by at least ten people who would point and comment, “Sakes alive, Mabel, would you look at that thing she’s got that baby in? That’s quite a carriage, Missy!” The town also lacked a variety of green spaces, peers in our age group, and choices of activities. Plus, it smelled. Thus, when an opportunity to interview at a college in a bigger city, on the edge of a beautiful lake, cropped up, and I was subsequently offered a position there, we had packed up and sped northwards;
I had realized a new level of physical health once I ratcheted up my daily walking into very slow running. I started by running a minute at a time, increasing it to three minutes at a time, and had gotten to the point where, so long as I held my pace to a slog, I could run miles. In fact, when my long-time distance-runner husband broke his toe the week before a scheduled 10K (try this for indignity: he broke it on a piece of wicker furniture) and found himself unable to run the race, my thrifty self announced, “We’re not losing that race fee. Plus, someone’s got to uphold the family honor.” I got the race registration transferred to me and, although at that point I’d never run more than 4 miles in my life, I cranked out that 10K, turning in even splits on all six miles. It seemed, somehow, I’d learned something about endurance, pacing myself, and not bursting into tears in the middle of the race.
It was fitting, therefore, that I was running on a trail in my beautiful new city, buoyed along by thoughts of getting home to my husband and daughter, when the universe handed me closure.
I was almost an hour into my run that day, enjoying the burble of the creek that snaked parallel to the trail, when I saw a man step out of the woods about a hundred yards down. Instinctively, realizing how isolated the spot was, I slowed down and took stock. I had been running for an hour and had seen no one during that time, and then some Random Mountain Man stepped out of the forest—off of no existing trail—and he was carrying a basket.
Baskets are very good for toting around severed heads.
Needed a plan; needed a plan. So if I kept running, I’d get to him and his basket of severed heads and then what? Ask him if his arms were tired? And if he answered that they were, should I then offer to help him with his load (after all, since it seemed I was driven by a need to accumulate all possible life experiences, I could then add to my list the item of “Carried Basket of Severed Heads”), or would I simply use the advantage of my non-tired arms to bash at him when he sluggishly pulled his hacksaw out of his, um, buckskin hacksaw holster?
Or was all this frantic brain spinning—as usual—unnecessary? Because that lanky guy with a basket suddenly looked familiar. Like he was of Norwegian extraction. About 46. A bachelor.
When I realized who it was standing there, on a remote trail located six hours drive from his home, someone I hadn’t seen for three years, hadn’t seen since he’d dumped me, raw and bleeding, out the back of his moving van,
my knees got weak, my vision blurred, and my head felt all swimmy.
After six seconds of that nonsense, I shook myself straight, shrugged my shoulders, and thought, “What the hell. What a chance. Let’s see what this business is all about.”
More swiftly than before, I ran straight towards him, enjoying his jump when I approached him from behind and called out, “So. Do you accept hugs from sweaty people?”
He turned and, spotting me, registered the same weak-blur-swimmy feeling I’d had. I enjoyed seeing that, too.
We exchanged an awkward “aren’t we just fine with each other” hug, a few “what are the odds?” comments, and an explanation of why we were out in those woods at that moment. Turns out, he was there and carrying a basket because he was in town visiting friends and, since they were busy that evening with another commitment, had decided to go out mushroom picking.
Of course, sometimes mushroom picking is just Vixenish Universe’s way of giving people the chance for a random encounter that leaves them looking each other directly in the eye.
Having never gotten a final eye-to-eye moment with The Bachelor, part of me, for a nanosecond, considered revisiting old wounds. But damn if they weren’t healed, relegated to being nothing more than part of a previous plot. No need.
What I did get to do, standing there, was pull out a weapon called Bringing Up Personal Information. This had been the main issue when we were together: I wanted to say things out loud; he wanted to absorb them through some eighth sense. In particular, I knew that flashing around personal, romantic-type information would cause him to dodge and feint. I had no fear of a parry.
Moreover, it did rather seem we were on my turf. And that he’d be hard pressed to come up with an escape excuse. And that I could initiate the flow of personal information and probably keep up with him in my running shoes, should he bolt.
“Hey, so I’m guessing you’ve heard through the grapevine that I got married a couple years ago. He’s great. We have a daughter now; she’s 16 months.”
Decently glad for me, he made a supportive and kind response, a gush along the lines of, “That’s good.”
My next impulse was a common one: whenever I see someone alone, with no plans, and I know I’m heading home towards Tuscan White Bean Soup with Crusty Bread and a relaxed evening of hanging out, I want to invite that person to come along and join in.
I started to form an invitation in my mind (“You should come over for dinner and meet my husband and Girl!”)—only noting in passing that, while The Bachelor was tall, my husband was taller; while The Bachelor was attractive in his way, my husband was more attractive, in more important ways; while The Bachelor liked to cook, my husband invented cooking.
As I contemplated asking him over, mostly to eat and chat and only minimally to broadcast the jackpot of my new life, I followed up on the reports I had been hearing about him, which had filled me in on the fact that he was newly engaged to a friend of a friend:
“So I’ve heard you’ve been seeing Cassie for awhile…and that things are getting serious with you guys?”
Looking simultaneously discomfited and happy, he mulled over how to confirm that his hopes had landed successfully, too . “Yes. A wedding is being planned.”
Really? Really? “A wedding is being planned”?
Right there, my thoughts about inviting him to dinner screeched to a halt. In a single statement, he had reminded me of everything that had been wrong between us, had triggered some dormant indignation. Because, really? In confirming that he had met the love of his life, the woman for whom he’d been casting about for decades, and in confirming that they’d decided to get married and create something bigger together,
He used the passive voice. Further, he didn’t insert either of the involved individuals into his confirmation. Leaving himself and his fiancee out of the statement and implying, vaguely, that something was happening that he had no control over…THIS was his affirmation of a huge life choice?
I was truly and immediately exasperated. One of the twelve voices in my head piped up, “Hey, Joce? A few years ago, you knew how you wanted this guy in your life: as a partner and as a love. He didn’t want you that way. Moments ago, you were considering establishing a friendship with him. But that would be taking the consolation prize. You didn’t get him on your terms? Don’t renegotiate the terms now. You knew what you wanted. He’s just reminded you why you can be glad you didn’t get it. So be done with him. Keep his passive, elusive, slippery self away from the straightforward beauty of Groom and Girl. Be done. Move on.”
Promising that voice a big chocolate brownie later, I looked up at The Bachelor one last time, told him I was glad he’d found what he was looking for, and glanced at my watch. “I need to finish up my run before dinnertime, so must hie off now. All the best to you and Cassie—and, gollee, what a weird coincidence, meeting up like this, eh?”
With that, we parted—my choice this time–
never once looking back,
I aimed my active self, my active heart, my active voice,
towards the people who loved me.