dan fogelberg - same auld lang syne II
On Christmas Day an old friend called to wish me a Merry Christmas. He left voice mails on both my cell phone and my land line, saying it's been too long and he'd like to get together soon for scotch and oysters. There was a time when a call from this guy would have caused my heart to pound almost out of my chest, and I have to admit, when I saw his name on the caller ID and heard his voice on my voicemail, I felt a catch in my chest, as if my heart had skipped a beat and I couldn’t quite catch my breath…and I knew with absolute certainty that if I allowed myself, I could still give in to that, could still feel “an old weakness comin’ on strong”, even after all this time. It took a moment to come back to myself, for the room to stop spinning, but then my hard-earned, carefully honed sense of self-preservation kicked in and the floor was again firm beneath my feet, and I smiled, poured myself a glass of wine, and busied myself with things to help me not think about returning his call, at least not immediately.
When I first got divorced I assumed I’d eventually marry again. I enjoy the pleasure of my own company, and am quite capable of entertaining myself; I have no fear of going out to dinner or to a concert or movie by myself, so this wasn’t a fear of being alone. I’m fiercely independent, and even while married, I always required a certain amount of time by myself for what Bettelheim (out of favor now, I know, but he was right about this), called “changing of the masks”. But getting divorced, more than ever I became aware that I longed for someone with whom to share a meal and a glass of wine, someone with whom to talk and yes, someone with whom to make love, and curl up and fall asleep. I love intimacy, and I longed for someone to know me so well he’d know the weight of my wrist on his heart in the night, as Ondaatje so eloquently writes in The English Patient. Getting divorced, I longed for someone to love.
In therapy at the time, I confessed all of this to my therapist. I remember, because I found it maddening at the time, that she smiled patiently as she assured me that even if this didn’t happen and I ended up alone, I’d be fine.
“But I’m not sure that I will!” I wailed.
“Yes,” she said firmly, “You will! You absolutely will be fine!”
It took some time, and a number of bad relationships (most of which I can now laugh about, thank goodness), before I began to believe that maybe she was right after all. Now, some 10 years after the last time I sat weeping in her office, I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm comfortable not only being alone, but knowing that I may be alone ad infinitum. And yet I have to admit, for this guy to call again, after all this time, rocked my world a bit. I know him so well (or did), maybe better than he knew himself. He's funny and bright and capable of being quite tender, but introspection was not one of his strengths, at least not when we were together. At the risk of sounding cynical, after thinking about it, I think the most likely reason for his call after all this time is that something has happened for which he requires consolation. He always came to me for consolation, and I was always pretty good at providing it. But although I'm good at providing it, I'm at a point in my life where I've come to realize that I'm not willing to be his (or anyone else's) consolation prize.
Of course, I could be wrong. That may not be the reason he called at all. I called him back on New Year's Eve, midday, when I knew the chances of reaching him would be slim. I was counting on getting his voicemail, and I was successful. I left a message saying I was happy to hear from him and that scotch and oysters sounded great. If experience is any indicator, the crisis, whatever it was, has passed and he'll be too busy to follow up.
But all of this has made me think...would I still like to have some bright, funny guy to share my life with? Yes, I would, but as my friend R always says: "better an empty flat than a bad tenant"...and so until/unless I find that guy, I'll be flying solo.