The sun was coming out, instantly warming the ambient air and I felt more & more tired. So I simply lay down on the bench and looked up at the tree. I fished the camera out of my fleece jacket pocket and snapped the picture. I closed my eyes and wondered if, just in the course of letting my mind range and wander, I had managed inadvertently to stumble onto the answer.
No wonder it's impossible, now as then, I think he's married to the same woman he was engaged to at the time. We weren't so serious anyway. I was very attracted to him but he was very enigmatic. Actually I felt tormented. He was very much like Former Paramour.
I look up a couple of passing references to R in my 2008 August Project, a letter-writing journey in which I had mined old college journals for traces of Former Paramour (J). In Spring 1980, several years after J and I had broken up (and not, I now suppose, long after R and I broke up), I wrote of R and J in virtually the same breath, intertwined; they seemed to me each a "driven, tragic figure... consumed by ideal love that could not be transposed to reality: to me, to affection, to action."
Belle to J, 7 August 2008
I am thinking about another entry from my journal, dated April 17, 1985. Yet another guy [P] was sending me totally mixed signals (that relationship went nowhere), and I wrote:***
“Give it up or let me go. My own ego would be involved if I figured out a way to have this continue. That is, it would be as though I believed that deep down he really wants me and it’s only a question of time. It’s a mistake I’ve made before – with R, and with J (in the later years in fact, sometimes I still find myself believing that about J). So I have to mortify my ego.”
I went through years of frustrating dating, college and after, through much of the 1980s, until I met D in spring 1986. At that point I was literally saying to girlfriends, I just want a man who doesn't drive me crazy. Someone who I won't obsess over, who'll actually show up, stick around, be there.
D was that and more, at the time and for many years after.
Belle to J, 7 August 2008
Good morning. I’m sitting on a rustic bench at Olana... The bench I’m sitting on is under a beautiful, gnarly Japanese pine, and after I compose and set down a line I look up at the branches and wait for what comes next.***
I had a series of relationships after you, and before D...Here’s a passage that probably relates to that prank letter I sent to you in Chicago. (I guess also I wasn’t quite over another guy [R], quite the calculating tormentor, with whom I’d had a liaison for a time.)
And what the hell have I gotten myself into now, with J? I can’t believe the retarded consequences. Short story. I live in short stories. I can’t believe it. Dorothy Parker stories. Glum and sarcastic. And now I’m hungry. Fuck R Fuck R Fuck R. I sure do pick ‘em – J, and R – two peas in the proverbial pod. Oh hell...At almost age 49 (surely mature by now!), I am surprised at how accurately my youthful self summed you up and assessed our predicament.
Spring 1980: “And J? What of him, who had played such a large part in my past and even present? Laws of cause and effect. He affected me the most. I lost my virginity to him, beautifully. Another driven, tragic figure, yet different [from R]. Also consumed by ideal love that could not be transposed to reality: to me, to affection, to action.
I see the impossibility yet again, now as then. It's okay. I won't obsess, not really, not this time around. I wonder if I have it right. He's made a great life for himself it seems, has made a difference, continues to make a difference. That's fantastic.
I'll keep looking - for someone who's actually there, who's there for me, who doesn't drive me crazy.
If my hunch is right - then all fond memories and good wishes - truly -
I look up at the branches and wait for what comes next.