Previously: Many changes in my life that helped me to heal and feel…almost normal. Maybe a new normal was on the horizon. Cassidy told me he was happy now, and that happy did not include me, so I changed my own life. A new, sunnier, happier home, a group of wonderful friends, gaining a beautiful relationship with Cassidy’s mom and her husband. Fall brought with it change and happiness. Winter was starting to bring strange new feelings as well..
Before my trip to California, I had many thoughts to mull over. I had developed my film from the weekend at Ruth and Ernie’s house and I sent them a package of the the best prints.I eagerly anticipated their reaction – not only because I loved them a lot, but because I was just starting to get into animal photography more. My time with expressive Eva the Doberman had given me back a long-dormant passion. It was one of the most therapeutic experiences I’ve ever had with photography.
I had many mixed emotions about the trip. Even though San Diego is nowhere near San Francisco, it was still California – a place I hadn’t been back to, obviously, and I wondered for long if I ever would. It started to occur to me that as far as I’d get in life, I might never be able to go back to my beloved San Francisco, at least not for years. I would always be searching for him – every street corner, every familiar tourist spot and restaurant. Every shock of dirty blonde hair and sunglasses. My heart would race seeing someone like that in New Jersey…how would I do in California?
When my mom had been younger, she had been in love with a guy from California. She ultimately chose my father in Jersey. This seemed symbolic to me. The guy she had also loved, but lost, was very ill and lived in San Diego now. I was planning to visit and meet him during my trip but he was too sick and didn’t have much time. We never did meet before it was too late. I thought that symbolic too. In a broken hearted way.
And then there was the new D. His piano playing, patience and gentle nature were starting to make me wonder. A lot.
A few days before my trip, I had a haunting dream:
I was looking through photos of dark church weddings. They were very intense and old, with strange lighting shining through on Popes and preachers and wedding kisses. The sun could only shine in slightly. I had taken some of the photos, though they were from ancient times. I was thinking about photography, and eventually I was standing in the same setting as the photos.
I was at a wedding and realized it was my mother and birth father’s wedding. My father was very much alive in the dream.
I was the photographer.
I was almost lucid dreaming, but chose to see what the dream would bring me. My father seized a moment and kissed my mother during the wrong time of the wedding. Before the end. He said he was in a hurry.
Suddenly, he turned into a skeleton, and every photo I took was framed with his bones.
A little bit haunted, always. My mental and emotional health was decent and stable. However, my dreams of the time told tales of lost love. And new love.
San Diego was a dream. It was 65 degrees in December, driving down highways with the windows open, always on the search for a better breakfast. Walking out to piers and seeing sharks. Walking along beaches where it’s hard to decipher surfers from dolphins. We drove from San Diego to Sedona, Arizona, just because we…wanted to…and we climbed and sat atop the “magical” vortexes of energy for hours. Sitting there in the cool desert air, I felt peace. In this strange road trip between rare baby pandas of the San Diego Zoo, and red rock canyons in Arizona, I had a lot of mental clarity, which I hadn’t expected. On our last night or so, we watched the sun set on a dog beach and a dog tried to pee on R. It still makes me laugh to this day. One of my favorite photos of all time represented that evening:
I thought a lot about new D. I couldn’t wait to get home to him; to a chance with him. He had no idea of this, of course. How could he? I had been flaky and flustered for over a month, had a complete mental reversal that he had no idea about, and then decided to go out on a limb and ask him out…before taking a week-long trip with another guy. In my head, I knew where I was, though. The trip was not romantic. D was the first guy to really catch my eye in..a very long time. Despite every other flirtation and date and email courtship, D was who I thought about on the long, dark road back to San Diego and on the long, dark red-eye back to Jersey.
It was his turn to pull back a little before I got home. I don’t think it was anything intentional – he just had a very full life. We didn’t see each other right away. I went to yet another company holiday party, but what a difference from last year’s depression and last minute trip to Vermont the day after the party. I was glowing during this party. See?:
I felt like I had gained a lot of my power back.
A few days after the holiday party, I went on my first date with D. It was two days before Christmas. I felt very sick that morning at work, like I was getting a cold, and I quickly downed Airborne. In no way was I letting myself get sick! It worked like a charm, and perhaps hasn’t since, but it worked when it needed to. Our first date was…how do I even say it…pretty spectacular. This story is called “How I Met Your Father” and not “How I Met The Guy Before Your Father.” That is another story, with a much more beautiful name than I just gave it. That doesn’t mean some details don’t matter. And so, what’s important is that other than goofiness, I found in him a patience and maturity, as well as a belief in magic. I got so flustered on the date that I locked us out of my townhouse and had to wake up my NOT amused little sister around 1:00 am. We talked until at least 3:00 am. I was in a happy, sleepless, adrenaline-fueled daze the next day and I could not stop smiling. I went to a Hanukkah party at my cousin’s house and filled in my family. They were smiling too since they hadn’t seen me like that in over a year.
I honestly never thought I’d feel that way again. It came out of left field.
I think we fell in love from the start. If not on our first or second date, then on our third date – New Year’s Eve – in which we went to a party with my parents at their neighbor’s house. We kissed at midnight on their front porch, while snow fell and the “adults” (baby boomer generation) all got goofy and slap-happy and were running around us shooting off potato guns. He said to me, “You’re amazing,” and finally, I could believe those words again.
From that day forth, I was in a committed relationship. In some ways it was my first “adult” relationship. Sure I had had serious relationships, but my only stable and lasting one was when I was 18 and still very much a child. Cassidy was…well…we never got a chance to have an adult relationship, despite desperately wanting one. I guess you could say he was the guy I’d call “the one that got away.” And I’d probably wonder about him for life. However, my new relationship was happy. There were no games, no jealousy, no noticing other guys or talking about them just to get at D. No anxiety. Only strength and purity of heart. It was a challenging relationship, only in that he and his family had some health issues I had never been in contact with. I adapted quickly, and it never felt challenging. It was a world of beautiful music and love.
Three days after New Year’s, I finally had the guts to read some of my old emails with Cassidy. It may have seemed a stupid move, but only a week or so into a suddenly serious relationship, I had to see the effect they’d have on me. And I was ok. I was still fascinated by songs about loss and saying goodbye, or not having the chance to say goodbye. It was a feeling I’ve had many times, as if I’m watching strong emotions but only in a movie. They affect me and make me feel hollowed out in pain, but I don’t feel them as strongly. So those songs would stop me in my tracks but they wouldn’t destroy me. Songs like:
“Don’t Cry” – Seal (this is probably the top one)
“The Long And Winding Road” – The Beatles
“Ghost” – Indigo Girls
“No More I Love You’s” – Annie Lennox
“You Had Time” – Ani DiFranco
“Black” – Pearl Jam
I was actually haunted and obsessed with that feeling of lost love, maybe because my own loss was feeling filled up again.
And I was happy. I guess you could say there wasn’t much drama to write about. Even now when I look at old letters to and from D, it was like that one year of hardship produced a brand new person. My new voice was lucid and clear, pure in its intentions. I told him my feelings always, strong and true. I can’t say we didn’t have our problems because we had our fights. I guess it’s just that sometimes you have to take the long way to get somewhere. My heart was open. I couldn’t wait to see and devour the world with an open heart. It was like anything was possible, always. Months melted by and I wasn’t going anywhere. Winter into spring. Still at my same software job. In the files I had found an email my old co-worker had written to a customer and it made me laugh for hours:
“Tamara needs to get out of here the most though. It’s like when they trap one of those wild tigers and expect them to live in captivity. It’s just sad and pitiful.”
In May I had a strange dream, out of nowhere. I was on vacation somewhere with a very dirty beach. I was running down a circular tower and I knocked over elderly people on my way down. Horrifying, but I didn’t stop. I ran through houses and classrooms, some familiar and some new. I didn’t stop until I reached a crowd of people at a benefit concert. A man with long hair and a blue sweatsuit grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Hey, Jean Jacket.” It was Cassidy. He told me he had never loved me and I told him it was a lie and that as soon as his denial was over, he’d be in so much pain that he’d be wishing for physical pain to distract him from it. And after I said that, I felt physical pain – in my arms and legs. In my bones. He ran away from me instead of helping, shedding clothes and weight as he ran, eventually a skeleton in the wind.
Ruth’s birthday was in May. We were still close, of course, but I hadn’t told her about D yet. We didn’t talk all that much – just enough to say we were in each other’s hearts. She asked me to update her on my life and I took a couple of weeks to do so. I told her that my brother was getting married in July. I told her that I had taken my close friend Nora into Boston and back to..Bethel, Maine. We stayed in the Inn that held the fireworks that burst over me and Cassidy when we first drove into town. We did not see any moose there so we gave up and saw them behind a fence at a wildlife refuge. Finally, I told Ruth that I had met someone. Someone special. I used a lot of care in my words and told her how we met. And said:
“I really wanted you to know, because you asked about my life, and I know I can tell you everything in it. I can’t believe it was nine months ago that we met you, but although I was pretty emotionally far along by then, I know I was talking a lot about love and doubt, and that I was still in so much pain and unsure of what my life would bring. Consider this a happy update.”
Other updates in my life were that D and I were traveling to Maine later in the summer and thought we might stop by to meet Ruth and Ernie. We were also planning a huge trip to Yellowstone National Park, which was a huge dream. We booked our flight, car and hotel in late June, for a mid September trip. Early July, and the two year anniversary of meeting Cassidy passed by in a blur. For one, it was D’s father’s birthday, if you can believe that. For another, my brother’s wedding was a week after that, on Scarlet’s now birthday – July 9th.
One night we decided to see Superman Returns together on a date. We had both been dying to see it for ages, and we both felt that we related to the story line, although for different reasons. Superman reminded me of D at first. I think with all he was going through in his life, he probably felt the same. In the film, Superman had left Lois Lane, and the world, without so much as a goodbye. Incredibly angered, she built a career on writing about why the world doesn’t need him. In the movie, it is now years later and she is engaged when he comes back to earth, and into her life, on a plane she happened to be on. She cannot deny her feelings for him throughout the movie, but ultimately winds up with the guy she’s engaged to. As we were walking out of the movie, D seemed really spooked by the plot. I don’t think he liked how the love triangle in the film turned out, with all three of them getting screwed. He made me promise that if something like that ever happened to us, that if someone I loved more than him was in or came back into my life, that I would be honest with him. He didn’t want to be second best. He didn’t want me to be with him if I loved someone else more.
I definitely agreed to the promise, while laughing and shaking my head. I thought he was being ridiculous. I think? I brushed it off soon after the conversation. I forgot it for awhile.
My 26th birthday came up and D threw me a beautiful party two days before my actual birthday. My friends and family came and it was honestly amazing. In every way. I felt so blessed and happy. I looked around the room at everyone I loved, who loved me, and there was a permanent grin on my face for hours. It actually hurt. The party went way into the late night and I thought it might be one of my best birthdays ever. It had such an innocence. A calm before a storm.
I had to go to work on my actual birthday. The night before I had had a lucid dream that I had to go to a wedding and D’s father, who was chronically ill in real life, was driving me to the wedding. He was gaining weight and health before our eyes. He dropped me off at an airport hotel lobby, which was holding the wedding. I somehow got confused and boarded a plane to California instead.
I wrote that to my mom and D in the afternoon. I spent my day receiving fun emails and treats. I went outside around 4 or 5:00 pm to take a sun break with a friend. I stayed outside far longer than I should have. When I got back to my desk, my phone was blinking with a missed call. I looked at it briefly. It was a 415 number. I got distracted by an email a second later. Suddenly my stomach dropped. A…415 number? 415 is San Francisco. I had long since deleted Cassidy from my phone. It was an important step I had taken, oh, exactly a year earlier. To the day. The last time I talked to him. No, this couldn’t be. I looked again at the seven digits that followed the 415. I have a photographic memory. It was…his number.
There was..a voice mail. I didn’t listen to it. I ignored it. Physically. I went on with my day. I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether to listen to it or not. I decided maybe I would, after my birthday. I didn’t want a second ruined birthday. He had taken the magic out of my 25th birthday. Not my 26th birthday.
Oh no. I wouldn’t let him do that to me..