This is the start of a week of annual hell for me. It usually starts with little things in August, like the way the sun is at a certain angle, or the way a sky looks on a perfect say. A particular shade of blue. Then comes the disruption of a low flying airliner if they shift air traffic (not normally over our town at all) and I get subjected to a lot of planes. Sometimes I get more sensitive to sounds than I normally am already, but loud noises will make me crawl out of my skin. And then the depression starts in earnest around the first of September. Then I know I have 11 more days of a gradual feeling of extreme unease, that is sometimes met with complete calm on the 11th or panic. It’s either serenity or terror. It’s varied wildly over the past 10 years.
The best and most rewarding one of these horrid anniversaries was finally speaking with my first love on this particular day. We had gotten in contact through Facebook, and we had been writing for a few months. We kind of left things hanging the last time we saw each other in 1988, very unresolved. There were things on her end that needed closure as well as mine. But that particular September 11th was the first one that my wife wasn’t home; she had to be in work. She ALWAYS took off on the 11th, except for this one very rainy day. And in the morning of that dark and rainy day, the phone rang, and it was my friend…very unexpected and calling me to see how I was feeling.
We talked for close to two hours that day (because if you think things get going and don’t stop once I start chatting away, you should see what happens when the two of us talk or were in the same room when we were at college together, LOL). We played catch up on how our lives went, a lot of “what ifs”, some closure, and a whole lot about our kids. Boy, could we talk about our kids and how much we loved them, what they were doing in school or music lessons. Inevitably, we still write or talk about the kids mostly, but once in a while another “what if” creeps in and we talk about that a little more. We always talk about where we are now, and perhaps lend support when needed, or encouragement, but that day was the first time we had spoken in well over twenty years. And it was something I desperately needed. Not that either one of us had any designs on meeting up somewhere or anything like that (no matter how good or bad our lives are we are both very moral people)…that was never the case at all. Even in any letter we wrote previous (or subsequent) to this. But to finally hear her voice after twenty years made my heart skip a notch or two, I will be honest about that. You never ever forget the first person outside your family or friends that you first fell in love with on your own. The first person you truly and honestly could make a conscious and adult decision (even at age 19 in my case) that something inside that is you relates to something inside of someone else on a higher level. I don’t think there is a person alive today who can say otherwise. (I know the exact moment too: we were in the campus bar having a bar hanging out and Steven Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” came on the stereo. I still can’t listen to that song without thinking about her). And I can still hear the embodiment of all that she was and all that she is in that voice…and it’s such a unique voice that as a writer I am lost for words to describe its beauty.
She’s probably reading this now, and I cannot even begin to tell her how much that first phone call meant. We were back in each other’s lives, on the periphery, very much as friends (always, always as good friends!)…but in our own little worlds once more. And on a day when my wife wasn’t there (and me being blissfully ignorant about the extent- but very much aware- of the damage I had caused in my marriage at the time), there was someone on the line who was there when I needed her more than at any time I ever did in my life. And not only that, got a chance to answer some questions and ask a few and get some answers of my own
And a day that is usually reserved for sadness became one of great joy and beauty.
On a day where I was usually in a funk (and the weather wasn’t helping matters on that particular 11th), I got a chance to close some gaps in my life, and close a few in hers. And moreover, I got to get back in touch with her as a friend, but always operating on a level outside of friend that is definitely not a lover, but a friend that is more than a friend; a kindred soul who walked with me in my youth and most influential years of my life for a time; someone who shared souls with me. Now, we’re in each other’s lives again, and I am incredibly appreciative to the Universe, Gods, or whatever for seeing that fit to happen. I don’t quite think I have ever told her how much that alone has meant to me. I think she knows it though. She has to…we were always two of a kind…off in conversation that only we understood and no one else listening could even fathom if they eavesdropped. (Too bad; they might have learned a thing or two). If we spoke more these days as opposed to writing, it would still be the same. But on that particular day that is when we were allowed to be on the same trail once again, not necessarily together and not necessarily apart.
And for a few hours, I was allowed to become who I was as a youth before my soul became corrupted by Corporate America and any hopes of a spiritual or academic path vanished (and what I was like before September 11th but older and hopefully a bit wiser). I was allowed to walk this path with her once again. Two old friends playing twenty years of catch up in two hours, gradually asking questions that needed answers as things went on, and one moment of forgiveness on my part that wasn’t even necessary. I could never ever hold a grudge against her; she is one of the few people in my life outside of my daughters that I can say that about. But the question I had asked had the answer just as I expected and I was relieved at that. Two young and scared kids totally into something that was always intense no matter how many times we were in or out of our lives over an eight-year period. It was like nothing before or since for either of us; beautiful and frightening at the same time. It was always inexplicable magic; phenomena and the two of us. The Universe moved for us, always…it was as if we were destined to be together and apart at the same time…and that is exactly what happened for a very long time. Together and apart, but never alone because we always knew that as long as the other was out there somewhere in this crazy world that magic was not a thing of dreams, but real. And we can both testify to that.
We’ve talked several times since that first phone call. Our kids are always a prime subject as I previously said; we’re both extremely protective and aware of our role in shaping their young souls into something unique that perhaps they will find the key on their own (which is how it is supposed to be done) and unlock their own magic. And they too will find what we had for one brief and shining moment in time with each other…pure and undying love and understanding. It’s something that is completely, totally, and without question a sharing of their soul with another human being that they choose.
And while we did not choose each other for marriage and lost contact for a long time, we attained a level of understanding of another few in this world can ever obtain or imagine. We certainly found what clicked with our current partners, as they are the mother or father or our respective children. We have very different lives, but we have very similar ones (usually as chief cook, psychologist, and chauffeur to the kids). Her husband works a good job, as does my wife; and we’re the keepers of the fort, she has a part time job and I’m on Disability and writing a novel, and more importantly we are both the shaper of souls. I think we took from each other what was necessary to become a parent and then realize that can be and should be shared with our kids somehow when the time was right. I usually find myself doing it and not telling them so (because they would never listen to me, LOL)…but I do indeed tell them magic is real and that all things are possible…
…even talking with the first love of your life on what is always the worst day of the year for you and getting closure, support, and a new start on how our lives are now and how we remain friends on a LOT of levels these days…but always, always, always, on that special level we had (and still have) but in much more experienced place right now. We are where we are for a reason; but I am so grateful she is back in my life in any fashion because she is one of the most incredible, wonderful, and beautiful souls I have ever encountered on this unforgiving world.
She is also a great person to fall asleep on the subway with…we got a lovely tour of Pelham Bay Park that night/early morning, LOL. It’s also the moment that changed our lives and moved us in the direction we are at now; the places we are at in our lives. Like it or not, things might have been a bit different if we had listened to Petula Clark’ and not sleep in the subway. But I know she wouldn’t change a thing nor would I…because it is where we belong at this place and at this moment in time.
And we are still allowed to be in each other’s lives, and that is one of the most positive and beautiful things in my life, and this time I hope we never leave each other again. Thank you old friend for all the fond memories you evoke in me, your guidance and friendship, and allowing me to remember what I was like and who I really am.
And thank you for a phone call that saved me on a day where I was so very lost, but I found you once again.
How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
‘Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!’
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov’d not speed being made from thee.
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.
-William Shakespeare Sonnet 50