Previously: After nearly years of not seeing each other, and a year to the day of any contact at all, I had a missed call from Cassidy on my phone.
“Contact is all that it takes
To change your life, to lose your place in time” — Van Halen
I’m not a patient person. It’s not just that I don’t like waiting, it’s like I don’t believe in waiting. Last month when the Ultrasound Technician politely asked me if I was interested in knowing the sex of my baby, I paused for a minute and said, “Yes.” I didn’t pause because I was thinking about it. I paused because I was trying not to say, “Oh, f*#k yes! Immediately!”
I believe in opening Christmas and birthday gifts when you receive them in the mail, and not on Christmas and your birthday.
I received a voice mail from Cassidy on my birthday, July 25th, after no contact at all for a year. After nearly two years of not a glimpse of his face. What I will never understand as an impatient person, is how I left it unheard rather than listening to it. I planned to leave it for days. Months. Years. I’m not someone who would rip up a letter or delete a voice mail, but I was not interested in recreating my previous birthday’s sadness. I did not want to hear his indifferent, robot voice. I was 110% sure I knew why he was calling. He was calling to wish me a “Happy Birthday” because he had forgotten my birthday, or forgotten to acknowledge my birthday, the year before. I had no interest in listening to a cold, courtesy “Happy Birthday.”
As an impatient person, I still could have waited forever to avoid that.
So I ignored my phone for what I thought was a long time. I finished up work at 8:00 pm and went to my boyfriend’s house for a birthday dinner and dessert. He was really wiped out. I hadn’t expected that. While I thought I was going through a lot in life, he was going through more. It involved a live-in healer for his dad, and a new holistic treatment. He was attending to his father, or mother, or the healer, later that night. I was sitting alone waiting for his sister and the healer’s girlfriend to hang out with me. I was alone in the den. Alone. For the love of God, don’t touch that…phone..
I listened. And up until I very recently upgraded to an iPhone, I kept that voice mail near me at all times. I guess it was not what I expected. It was not what he expected, clearly. It started verbatim with:
“Ahhh…that one sentence with your voice. Just blew me away. Blew me away.”
He was flabbergasted and nervous..about me? He then went on to say who it was, as if I didn’t know, and then to wish me that “Happy Birthday” I so deserved. His voice was warm and human. He said he was going to call again and if I didn’t want that, which was well within my rights (his words), then I should text or email him not to call me. He gave me a date and time when he was going to call. Two days later. A Thursday night. At 9:00 pm.
Tears were streaming down my eyes by the time the voice mail ended. My boyfriend’s sister and the healer’s girlfriend came into the den and asked what was wrong. I was honest. I stuttered out that my ex, the BIG ex, (yes I said that) had just called me and what he had to say was not what I was expecting to hear. I told them it was ok, I was ok, just in shock. I wiped away my tears. D came downstairs and looked bewildered to see me crying. I honestly don’t know what I told him. The truth, probably. I think I went home soon after. I didn’t even make it past his driveway to my car to call my mom and sister. They didn’t answer. I left overly loud, manic-sounding voice mails. I was laughing like an insane person. “I’m ok but..guess who called me. Yes, that’s right. Yup. Him. I’m fine. It’s ok. I’m fine. Really. Might not even take his call again. Whatever. Totally fine. Yup, that’s me. Happy Birthday to me. Love you. Bye.” I even forwarded the voice mail to them. My sister admitted later she had cried upon receiving it. I drove home to really loud music. I don’t know what I did later that night.
I know what I didn’t do. I didn’t email or text Cassidy to tell him NOT to call.
The next day at work, I played the voice mail for my friend April for some interpretation. We walked out to the cul-de-sac and I handed her the phone. She looked a bit confused, but not impressed. It wasn’t very clear on the message what he wanted to talk to me about. She had her doubts, for sure, that it was anything more than a “Happy Birthday.” My mom and I went back and forth with emails all day. She had a lot of wisdom:
“There are many unknowns in our lives. When you do talk with him, if you do, you will realize what sort of phone call he is planning on.
Lady Fate wanted you and D to meet when you were fully ready to embrace love, life, and and living in the present.”
My parents were still a little (a lot) steamed at Cassidy. I was their baby, after all. I told her I felt like I had been invaded by a parasite I didn’t know I still had..
On the night he was going to call I was at a going away party at a bar for a co-worker I really liked. We played all sorts of silly games. My eye was always on the clock. I had it all figured out – he was going to call me as scheduled and I was going to leave the party to talk to him. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t call at 9:00 pm like he said he would.
He didn’t call at 9:00 pm.
It was more like 9:07 pm. I rushed a goodbye hug to the hostess and left the party. I was trying to act calm and casual. My heart was racing like a freight train and I figured everyone must have heard it. I got in the car and “Layla” was on the radio. I kid you not. I told him this. He blew out a breath of air and laughed. His voice sounded good. Warm and friendly. We started talking. I mostly listened. For hours. I drove around for so long, all over central Jersey. We finished the phone call with me sitting outside my townhouse complex. Just sitting in the sidewalk at some insane hour. He said he was calling to apologize. For so much. I never really said anything and listened. After awhile he asked if he could tell me what his life had been like for the past year of our silence. I accepted. He said that he had not been able to get me off of his mind since that night I called him a year earlier. He said that his relationship was unhealthy and very dysfunctional. He said he was waking up. He was going through his own program of healing. He said it was like a 12 step program, although he wasn’t really in one. It was just that he was slowly starting to open his eyes and see the path of destruction he had left behind while in that relationship. That led to calling me. Eventually. That was his only true intention – a long, overdue apology. He was wide awake now.
I mostly listened. I did not tell him about my life. I didn’t have to. I was stunned by so much of it – the truth being so different from the reality I had created in my head. His mom never said a thing! Ernie came close, only once, during that October weekend we had visited. Someone mentioned Cassidy’s girlfriend’s name and I was pretty sure that Ernie couldn’t hide a quick sneer or look of disgust. However, I thought that was in my imagination. It wasn’t.
We got off the phone after many hours, because we were both exhausted. I’m not sure we made any plans to ever talk again. Maybe we did? I honestly don’t remember and I don’t know if it mattered.
The next day or so I had a really major fight with D. With tears. It honestly had nothing to do with Cassidy since it had started days or even weeks earlier. We didn’t agree on a few things concerning his family’s healer and he said very hurtful things. I never fully recovered but I honestly don’t know that I would have any better if Cassidy hadn’t called. D was not really threatened by Cassidy then, to be honest. I don’t know that I was either. At least consciously. The way I figured, there were two ways to react to Cassidy coming back into my life, however briefly:
a. I could smile, accept his apology and move on.
b. I could totally fall apart.
I honestly thought that a. was the answer, for a REALLY long time. I logically recognized that I wasn’t necessarily smiling and moving on, but I figured I would in time.
We talked again soon, at some point I can’t remember. Could have been a day. Could have been a week. I told him about D. He was genuinely shocked. He had no idea I had a boyfriend, just like I had no idea he was breaking up with his girlfriend. How could we know? Our only connection, his mom, would never have gotten in between it all. I told him that D and I were fighting. I don’t now why I sort of started out telling him that. I was still really annoyed about the disagreement that started before my birthday. I think Cassidy asked if I needed some space, or to never hear from him again. I said, “Of course not.”
I visited my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my father and knowing someone was “right” and about pain and loss and baggage. She answered very honestly. I was talking to anyone who would listen to me those days – a random hardware vendor I had a meeting with. The lady at the check-out line. (Kidding) My bartender at a restaurant one night. (Not kidding) People seemed to all follow the same line of thinking, “Possession is 9/10 of the law.” It was not a case of a good guy/bad guy but I think we all thought it might be at first. I was starting to doubt everyone’s advice, but I can understand why people in my life were protective. My parents, trying to be diplomatic, said: “You will know what to do. It will become obvious. And it will be the right thing.” They did point out that hearing from Cassidy was stirring up feelings of our magic and the rush of our love and the airports and the moose and the wolves and the whales. However, he was only human and not a God. If we did get together, they said, we’d run into the same crap and monotony as any other couple can face. Cassidy and I had never had that..monotony and boredom. God, maybe we could have used it.
Cassidy and I talked every now and then for a few weeks. Sometimes it would drive me crazy – vague texts, mostly. I wanted more. I also wanted less. I sometimes felt as desperate as I had after we had first broken up. He still had some pull over me. I was looking at my phone all day long for a new text. He had his own issues to deal with, though. Namely his breakup and his now ex-girlfriend moving out. On the day she moved out, or the day after, I was up at the Sussex County Fair, somewhat near my parent’s house. It had been a bit of a childhood tradition for me and my parents had even taken me and Cassidy there back in 2004 where they bought honey that my mom seriously couldn’t look at for two years. I took my best friend, Nora, to the fair. As we were parking I got a bit of an “SOS” text from my sister who was already there. She said, “Oh my god. D is here!” Reception wasn’t great but I kept trying to call her. I was really surprised! Obviously things were weird between us after our argument, but he wasn’t really the type to chase me all the way up to Sussex County. Maybe he was trying to surprise me? I thought he was at some music thing for the day. I was really confused.
Until I finally found my sister. Umm..It was a different D. It was my first D. Yes, they have the same name and it’s confusing. This was D1. My long, long-term ex who I had briefly gotten back together a few times with after Cassidy and who I hadn’t seen in well over a year. Confusion was…cleared. Not only did I see D1 but he was standing next to a cage with a wolf cub. A freakin’ wolf. And you know what made everything perfect? Cassidy texted me at that moment that he and his girlfriend were 100% done. And you know what I wrote back? That I was holding a baby wolf cub in my arms. I left out the part about D1 somehow being there to witness it. My mind was blown in 1,000 directions. Two exes and a wolf. Yup.
I told D1 I had just sent Cassidy a text. He was like, “Really? You..talk to him again?“
I said, “Well..no. Yes? Maybe? It just started a few weeks ago.”
Oh, the insanity! Does that stuff..happen to normal people? No.
Soon it was mid-August and D (D2, mind you) and I had plans to go to Maine. We went and it was actually a beautiful time. I took a lot of pictures of him playing music on mountaintops. We did not see a moose together but I saw the back of one retreat quickly into the woods. We saw some parts of Maine I had never seen. It was a romantic trip, despite weirdness all around. We decided not to visit Ruth and Ernie along the way, although they had invited us. Things had suddenly gotten too crazy for me to wrap my brain around all of that. D meeting them would send me over the edge.
Cassidy and I sent random texts every now and then. I had him programmed in my phone as “Voldemort.” I didn’t quite trust him yet to change it. In late August he sent me the first email in an eternity. It was a request to see the first email I had written him the day I arrived home after the first weekend we had met in July 2004. It was called “Blue Monday.” We didn’t talk for very long on email that night – maybe ten minutes. This was his initial reaction to reading my 2004 words:
“Any chance of me being able to do work for the rest of the day is gone.
Or walk. Thanks for sending that. Two months ago my heart may not have
been able to take that. I can now.
I remember all that. God, I miss you princess.?
I was equally stunned by reading the old email and his new reaction, and said:
“There are so many things I haven’t been able to remember until now – so
many details I couldn’t handle being in the forefront of my mind. And
now I remember so much.”
Our workdays ended at the same time since I worked on California time. We finished up for the day:
Him: “No doubt. Reading something like that instantly rearranges my whole
context. I’m going to leave work in 18 minutes and spend the rest of
the night picking up the hall that tornado just tossed around. Thank
you Tamara. For then. For now. We were brave back then…
Man. can’t seem to move.”
Me: “I know. This is really weird. I wish the me of a year ago could see the
me of right now, because she wouldn’t believe it to be true.”
Him: “I can’t allow myself to think about the me a year ago…because it leads
me into thinking what could have been. I can’t go there. It’s more
important to think about the now.
But I really do understand what you are saying. I wish the me a year
ago could have saved your life. I owed you. Still do.”
We emailed again after that, more regularly. We started talking about lucid dreaming a lot. I guess we wanted some solution to be together, even though we couldn’t really be together. I told him about the dream I had during our long silence about my father having a heart attack but not dying this time, and instead turning into Cassidy. You have to know that Cassidy was always very respectful of me having a boyfriend. It was like we had so much to say, but nothing to say either. Nothing that would come out right. Nothing that should be said, either probably. His reaction to me telling him that intense dream still makes me cry:
“It fills my heart with happiness to know that I had such an amazing love in my life.
It fills my heart with incredible sadness to know that for the most incredibly stupid reasons I walked away from that.
It makes me ashamed for the way I acted, and how much I hurt you.
I am hopeful that I will have that in my life again.
I am scared that I won’t.
I am sad when I think its all in the past.
There’s a little jealousy.
It makes me want to get on a plane to you (not tonight, not now, but really 10 minutes ago) and look in your eyes and touch your face and drive anywhere with you.
It makes me want to get busy living.
It makes me grateful for you.
I’ll leave it at 10 for now.”
That was the beginning of the spiraling crash, I am sure. His words held me suspended in awe, frustration, sadness, beauty, love. I wanted to reach my hand through my computer screen and hold his hand. Historically, our emails were always powerful. They were how we fell in love, after all. They were all we had once. But they were different now. So different.
We sounded like..adults. Not horny, star-crossed lovers. Well..maybe that too. But better.
I never kept anything from D. In late August, two weeks before our scheduled Yellowstone trip I told him that I felt as horribly sad as I had years earlier when Cassidy and I had broken up. Maybe even worse. Definitely worse. I was going to lose him again, wasn’t I? And I didn’t think I could survive that. And if not, I was going to lose D. And I didn’t think I could survive that. One bad night after work, I went to D’s house, as usual. I heard “Don’t Cry” by Seal in the car. I couldn’t hold it in and by the time I got to the front door, I started crying hysterically in D’s mom’s arms. She was bewildered and she never asked me to talk about it but I’m sure she understood more than she let on. D came downstairs, also looking bewildered. I think that’s when he realized that this was bigger than anyone had thought.
Cassidy called my mom. He wanted to apologize and reconnect. I’m not sure I knew beforehand but they both relayed back to me the crushing conversation that had taken place. Years after the fact, she tells me now that she had done it to protect me, but also to let him know that he had to fight for me if he wanted me. This time, no fear was acceptable. They cried together on the phone. She told him I was happy and to leave me alone. To let me go. “Let her go,” she said. That was when he finally admitted that his initial apology had turned into more feelings. His intentions were still that I be happy. But he thought maybe he could make me happy. He told my mom:
“I can make her happy. I can give her the most wonderful life. I know this…now.”
“You might be too late. Too late.” She replied.
Cassidy called me soon after hanging up with my mom. He told me about their conversation. He told me that he loved me and that he wanted me back. He told me all he wanted was to make me happy but that he had to let me go, he thought. He worried my mom was right. We were both sobbing – heart-wrenching, audible sobs. I cried for every second of the two years I had spent away from him. I cried because I still don’t know what to do. I cried because I did know what to do, but that was not going to be easy. I crumpled to the floor wailing. “Don’t…don’t..don’t.“
“Don’t what?” He asked.
“Don’t…let me go..please. Just don’t.”