13 September, 2013
In a post long ago I said I would write about a certain lady "later". I'm thinking now may be the right time for it. I met her a long, long time ago when I was a maintenance supervisor (read: janitor) at the daycare center. I think it was the first company Christmas party when I, unknowingly, fell face first into the most complicated relationship I've ever experienced. Until the night of that party I only knew her in passing. Just one of the staff. Nothing more, nothing less. That Christmas party (which was just after the start of the new year, btw) started out different than I had expected. First off, I was in my early twenties and didn't know my head from my ass. I had just broken up with the previous girlfriend (my fault, "foot in mouth" situation) and didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go to this party alone so, like any young man, I invited one of my best friends. He also happened to be my partner in alcohol in those days. He was fresh out of the Army, I was clueless, neither of us had a woman and we both had a love affair with alcohol and bars. God, I really hate when I divert from my intended topic but, I have to. My friend, I'll call him "Pokey" had a twin brother, "Gumby" and also two younger brothers. I initially met Gumby and Pokey then met the rest of the family, we all "clicked" and here we are at present day. Shenanigans, women, marriages, kids... You know the story. Anyway, back to the original route of this post. Since I didn't have a "date" for the company X-mas party, I thought "Heck, I'll just invite Pokey." If I hadn't gone to the party, I would have been at the bar with him anyway. Going to the party we'll get some free dinner, a couple of free drinks, meet a shit-load of people who have no idea that we were about to turn their world upside down... Great fun. I found out later that since I showed up with a guy, they all (I worked with ALL WOMEN) thought we were gay. I still think it's hilarious. Both Pokey and I are straight but, at that time, were also both very bad with women. It's probably why we spent so much time together. Anyhow, after the formal dinner the staff ended up at a local (local for them) bar. Ahhh, we felt more in our element. After dumping a few drinks into me I opened up and was chatting with coworkers I would have not otherwise chatted with. I played some pool (I'm the worst you've ever seen), then moved on. To the dart board. I was fairly good at throwin' darts. I was also smoking like a chimney (you could actually smoke in bars back then.) My Sister was there, having been the person mostly responsible for my employment at that daycare center, and I think she was probably taken aback by her baby brother's behavior. There's a thirteen year difference between us. Sister was gone to college before I entered my formative years. Our relationship has always been more of a parent-child thing than a Sister-Brother thing. Worked out well because she's largely responsible for raising me. Mom had two other boys (both older than me) to deal with. I adore my Sister. Anyway, this party was the first time we had both been in an "adult" situation at the same time. I felt weird drinking like a fish and smoking like a chimney in front of my Sister and I think she felt weird seeing me as a grown man. I was noticing these things as I was playing cricket (darts, not the ball game) with Pokey and "her". "She" and I were on the same team and after she had thrown, she passed my darts back to me. This is where the whole thing started. As she passed my darts to me, she held onto my hand just long enough to make me think something was not as it should be. Game over, she and I were sitting at the bar and she just opened right up to me. She told me all about her relationship troubles, about her life in general... Normal situation for me. I'm one of those guys that women find "safe" and feel secure enough around to unload their woes upon me. It happened to me so often that I started tuning her out. Besides, she was married. I was having a good time and then I found myself, again, as some gal's confidant. Lovely. Then she shot me "the look." I can't describe it, but I can still picture it as if it was yesterday. She told me more with that look than she could have with thousands of words. Weird, but I took it in stride. Pokey and I went back to our town and hit "our" bars. I didn't think anything more about that weird situation. Until the following Monday, that is. She had left a card in my mail box at work. The first of many, many letters between us. In this card (I still have it) she explained that what she said was told to me in confidence because she thought I was someone she could trust. I really had to work to even remember what she had told me at the bar. In a nutshell, she married because she thought she had to. Not necessarily because she wanted to. The rescuer in me kicked in and it led to years of lots of turmoil, but also lots of good things. We were an on and off couple, she divorced, had issues with being alone (I won't go into that ball of wax) and, as I was planning my escape from the daycare center, she bought a house with her ex-husband. Made it really easy for me to leave her behind. She eventually realized living with her ex-husband was a bad idea and she moved out. The last I had talked to her, she had just met "Mr. Wrong #2" and was starting all over again. That was the last communication I had with her for nine years. I was stuck on her and couldn't shake her from my memory. One relationship I had in the interim failed, I'm guessing, because I was still hung up on "her." Not going to go into details about that right now. I made it to about seven or eight years since last talking to "her" before I was able to let her go. When I did let go, it was in the most embarrassing way possible. In front of my Mother. I had gone to a bar near my house with a friend of mine and between the perfectly mixed drinks and the Patsy Cline on the jukebox (for once, nobody in the bar complained) the things I had bottled up came to the surface and erupted. After I was home and in bed I realized that I was stinkin' drunk and might have some problems. I panicked and called Mom. I flat out told Mom that I was seriously drunk, was scared and that I needed help. Once she had arrived I poured out every bit of anguish I had acquired since high school. My Father's death, Brother's death, three Grandparents, a Cousin... It all came out. Including me spilling my guts about "her." Mom knew all along that I was still carrying a torch for her. It was the most embarrassing moment in my life, the most vulnerable moment in my life and the most liberating moment in my life. I had finally let go of her. In the midst of that alcohol fueled breakdown, in front of my Mother, I accepted that "she" was gone, she was never coming back and I should get on with my life. I truly was a new man. I was given a great gift. A fresh start, free from the baggage I had been carrying around for so long. What a marvelous new beginning! Then I did something stupid. A year after my breakdown, I found "her" on Facebook. I just couldn't help myself. I sent here a message. We eventually met again and that old spark was still there. At least she wasn't married this time around. A few months after that initial meeting we spent a day together. We were in a state park exploring things and found ourselves deep in the woods. I stopped her and I said something like "Well, we're in about as private a spot as we'll ever be. If there's anything we should discuss, now is the time." Considering the beginning of our relationship, neither of us had anything to lose by being completely honest with each other. It's the part of our relationship that's most important to me and, probably, why I'm so attracted to her. Anyway, I was expecting to discuss the fact that what we were doing, seeing each other while she was living with another guy, was wrong and it should probably not go any further. She blindsided me. She stopped in her tracks, turned to me, looked me in the eye and said "I love you." I was speechless. We spent the rest of that day feeling a bit awkward. Things, uh, "progressed" and her boyfriend eventually found out. She cut me out of her life instantly. It hurt, but I understood why she did it. I didn't hear from her for about another year. She eventually contacted me again. She had left her man and was living on her own. She, oddly, asked if she could come and see me. I said that would be fine and she came to my house. It was awkward, but it was nice to see her again. Then she disappeared again. The next time I heard from her she was in a hospital. She had become so despondent that she had tried killing herself. I was instantly walking on eggshells around her. I found out that her last visit was her saying goodbye to me. I get the chills whenever I think about that day. We've seen each other on and off since then. One day, while riding in the car, I brought up her attempted suicide. I told her it was not like her to take the easy way out. I told her that life was a game and the only way to win was to see it through to the end. Quitting meant losing the game. Then I told her something that shocked me as much as it did her. I said "How dare you! How dare you try and leave me like that!" She's been seeing a therapist and has turned her life around. She's no longer afraid to be by herself, she's become more independent, she's my hero. And I still love her as much as the day she shot me "the look." I only see her a handful of times throughout the year and we're not an "item", but neither of us can deny we're connected at some deep level. We're not lovers, we're not soul mates (I hate that term), we're more than friends... We're Kameraden! I just realized what we have as I was typing it. What a relief. I can describe our relationship! Kameradschaft! You'll have to read up on German military history to understand. She and I, though we may not like each other all the time, share a foxhole as life charges at us. She confides in me and I in her. I've told her things I've never even hinted at with anyone else. She's told me almost everything about her life, even the dark bits that society would frown upon. We're true kameraden, and not in the dictionary's definition. The German definition of Kamerad is much different than you'll find in Merriam-Webster's grand book. Our relationship is like no other and I will never have the same closeness with another human being. It's more than friendship, it's more than love... I treasure her and will forever be grateful that we got to know each other. That's the story of "her."