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Episode 17: Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen.

Previously: “Don’t..let go. Please.”

I woke up the next morning with a grief hangover. After only seconds, it all rushed back to me. My mom telling Cassidy to let me go, to let me be happy. Cassidy telling me it’s what he fears he has to do. I told him not to let me go. Ever. We got off the phone because hours of sobbing had left me half asleep and muttering about putting pears in the microwave.

I honestly did not know if I’d ever hear from him again. I worried that the previous night had been a dream. I was so afraid he had told me that he still loved me and wanted me back. I was even more afraid that he hadn’t. I was so bleary-eyed with a splitting headache that I wondered if it had all been a dream. That he had never called me on my birthday and I was happy in my New Jersey, Software Sales Rep parallel universe with D. I also wondered if we had never broken up and if we lived together, happily, in our San Francisco B&B Owners parallel universe. The truth was somewhere in the middle.

I woke up and went to work, because that’s what I always did. That was my normal. My consistency. My emails with D started early that morning. He was reassuring and strong. I told him everything that had happened but not so much how I felt. He was very clear-headed, a particular gift of his, and he said that we were obviously at an impasse and that our own relationship would not survive or thrive if I didn’t go to see Cassidy to see if anything was still there. He said it would either kill us or make us stronger, and that he preferred the latter. I think I still did too. I told him that things with Cassidy were very uncertain and that I didn’t think I’d hear from him again after my mom had chased him away with a pitchfork the night before. (Kidding, Mom! Love you…) It all seemed like a dream. Either a really bad one or a good one. I couldn’t tell.

D said that I didn’t have to have any notions in my head before seeing Cassidy, as well as no plans to cut him out of my head or put him back together. “You just have to honor how you feel.” We had watched “The Notebook” a few days earlier and brought it up. I was clearly Allie but we couldn’t tell who was Noah. Our conversation was cut short because D’s dad wasn’t feeling well and he had to go to him. I finally heard from Cassidy only an hour or so before closing time at the office:

“Daylight came like a slap to the face this morning. I…try…I try not to email you. Around this time of the day though I crack. I think I am weak and bad. Are you ok? Just promise me you remember what we talked about. You fell asleep on the phone last night and it was the sweetest thing ever.”

His morning sounded…astonishingly like mine had. He felt badly and wondered if he could, or must, step back from me. He felt a bit like a bad person. To be honest, I never did. Horribly torn and heartbroken, sure. But never like a bad person:

“We are not bad people. You only get one life, or…as far as we know, you do.”

D thought Cassidy was a man in pain who had made some mistakes and was now finding his way out of them. Cassidy thought D was obviously a strong man who was willing to let me go to see if I’d come back to him. To find a resolution. Cassidy said, “I know what it means to love you.

Labor Day weekend started just a day later. I was supposed to go on a roadtrip with my mom and sister to visit my uncle in Cleveland. It was called off last minute because he wasn’t feeling well. I confess..I looked at last minute deals to San Francisco after I heard my trip was canceled. They were ridiculously priced and we decided we would know when and if the time was right to confront each other. I went home to my parent’s house to rest. Cassidy sent me his first picture in two years while I was at my mom’s computer listening to Clapton and Petty. He was at the beach in San Francisco on a hot day. I had no idea what he looked like then. Before Facebook! My mom came up behind me after he had sent it because I couldn’t stop staring and kept it open on her screen. I had no idea if she approved or not. She didn’t say much – I drooled.

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He also sent me a song file from the “Concert for George” concert that Eric Clapton had helped put on after George Harrison died. “Something.” Paul McCartney starts out sort of lighter-hearted on his ukulele. It’s the 1:33 mark or so that kills me. Everything changes. The beauty and sadness. Eric Clapton takes it home, in a way only he could do:

I asked Cassidy, “Wow! What do you think it was like doing THAT song, when that’s the song that Harrison wrote for Patti Boyd, the same woman Clapton wrote ‘Layla’ for?”

And he replied that he loved the way my mind worked.

I also heard from Ruth. Cassidy had finally told her that we were back in touch. She had never told him about my relationship with her. Or my relationship with D. She had never told me about Cassidy’s failed relationship. It was so hard for her at times, but it was what she had to do. I respected that so intensely. Why get in the middle? I always think that if it were me, it would be like sitting in the middle of an incredible cliffhanger of a movie, everyone in anguish despite an obvious solution and endpoint, that only you can see. And you can’t tell a filmmaker how to end their movie, or a writer how to end their book. You have to be silent and watch it all play out as it should. We talked a lot about the pressure on her. I told her that I was confused and that, “I don’t think I ever really stopped waiting for his call, and that has been something to realize.”

I booked a flight to San Francisco that same day. My reservations were for mid October. It seemed far off, but with plenty of time to think. We were going to go to Yosemite together, since we can’t do anything normally. What better place to confront old demons and see what develops anew, than in a place you’ve always dreamed about visiting? He booked a cabin called the Lupin. As in Remus Lupin from Harry Potter. Two years later, we were shocked to discover that we had both gotten very into HP during our time apart. I even told him that I called him “Voldermort.” He thought it was funny and well-deserved.

However, I no longer called him “Voldemort” and I changed his name in my phone to “Cassidy.”

My trip to Yellowstone with D was still on. We were supposed to leave a few days after Labor Day weekend. We had deep doubts about this trip, and I’m certain D had deeper doubts than I had. Most of the trip was probably non-refundable, but mainly, we knew everything could be about to change so soon. This was our sacred trip together. We decided to honor it. Two days or so before we were to leave, D got an email about our returning flight home. We were originally supposed to fly from Salt Lake City to somewhere like Chicago, and then home. Makes sense, right? Chicago is on the way back east. Well United Airlines had somehow changed our layover..to San Francisco. Salt Lake City to San Francisco to New Jersey. It made no geographical sense. At all. I think D thought it was funny. I think I had to think so too.

On the day of the flight change email, I got surprising news. Cassidy was taking a business trip into NYC in late September. Other than a meeting or two, he’d be around into the last weekend of the month. He asked if I would consider meeting him in New York, back at JFK Airport. He said he’d have a surprise for me for the night of September 30th. I accepted. October in Yosemite was already booked, but I guess it was nice to see each other on closer, familiar territory before then to see if the California trip should even happen. Or else we were feeling pretty confident we’d somehow need both trips..

The night before I left for Yellowstone, Cassidy sent me a picture that melted my heart:

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It felt like home to me. I said:

“I’m going to miss you, you know. And I don’t know how. Or what right I have to say that. To anyone. But that’s because I’m me. I should come with warning signs.”

Yellowstone was…heartbreaking and haunting. In so many ways. Cassidy’s ghost followed us everywhere. We’d hear songs that D knew reminded me of Cassidy and asked, “Should I laugh or cry?” We flew into Salt Lake City and then drove to Yellowstone. Along the way we heard Eric Clapton. A lot. And at one point D turned to a new radio station somewhere in Iowa and the DJ said, “Hey, this is Cassidy.” We laughed, actually. We drove into the west entrance of Yellowstone somewhere at dusk. We stopped short pretty instantly at an anime-looking male elk standing majestically over our car. It was like that for a long time until it got completely dark. Then all we saw was the glowing eyes of wild animals beyond our wildest imaginations. I would not recommend driving through Yellowstone at night in the on-season. You have to go 35 miles an hour to avoid running into the kinds of animals you don’t want to run into..grizzly bears, moose, elk, bison, wolves. This ain’t rabbits and squirrels. Grand Teton and Jackson, WY were the highlights. Moose, moose stores, food and mountains. Things were definitely tense between us at times and we had some seriously sad meals at restaurants where we didn’t talk to each other at all. I was..mostly good. I tried not to call or write or think about Cassidy. The last part was hardest.

Cassidy and I did something really dumb, almost. Since he lives so close to San Francisco Airport and I had told him about our layover on the way back to Newark, we almost saw each other. D was really upset with both of us and I get that. It was his time, his trip. I was so upset that he was mad that I took two motion sickness pills to sleep all the way to Newark. I was such a mess and so glad we hadn’t all seen each other at the same time.

D and I were in limbo after the trip. He hoped it would still work out between us. In some ways, I did too. In some ways, I thought maybe he’d be the endpoint, somehow. We spent a lot of time talking about the what ifs. He told me it would be like a weekend off. He said I could kiss Cassidy if I thought that would help me know something for sure. The whole idea of even seeing Cassidy and not kicking him in the nuts or crying, or both, was foremost on my mind. So the idea of any kind of physical intimacy didn’t even enter my brain. I’m not that type of person. I couldn’t live with the guilt of cheating.

A week before his NYC trip, I sent Cassidy the lyrics to Zero 7’s “Destiny.” He went home and downloaded the song and couldn’t speak right away. It just seemed so “us.” (This will be important later)

“The journey’s long
And it feels so bad
I’m thinking back to the last day we had.
Old moon fades into the new
Soon I know I’ll be back with you
I’m nearly with you
I’m nearly with you

When I’m weak I draw strength from you
And when you’re lost I know how to change your mood
And when I’m down you breathe life over me
Even though we’re miles apart we are each other’s destiny

On a clear day
I’ll fly home to you
I’m bending time getting back to you
Old moon fades into the new
Soon I know I’ll be back with you
I’m nearly with you
I’m nearly with you

When I’m weak I draw strength from you
And when you’re lost I know how to change your mood
And when I’m down you breathe life over me
Even though we’re miles apart we are each other’s destiny

When I’m weak I draw strength from you
And when you’re lost I know how to change your mood
And when I’m down you breathe life over me
Even though we’re miles apart we are each other’s destiny

I’ll fly, I’ll fly home
I’ll fly home and I’ll fly home”

My mom and I didn’t talk a lot during the month of September. She was feeling overwhelmed hearing from me, Cassidy and D, sometimes all at once. She felt too close to a story that was not her own and wanted to give me the space to explore by heart. I needed the space to explore by heart. My sister filled her in on my Yellowstone trip and that I was going to see Cassidy at the end of September, with D’s blessing. A week to the day before I was going to see Cassidy, she sent me what is probably the best email that has ever existed:

“I have a huge photo of you and Lindsay on a carousel taken the April before Dad died. You gaze at me and there is no Ellis and Richard struggling in the background only a small building lump in my throat to a diaphanous figure looming just outside of my peripheral vision. Like Meredith, you have a past with an abandonment. (editor’s note: “Grey’s Anatomy” references) Of course Dad didn’t leave on purpose, we hope, but to a small child, the handsome prince walks away from her castle and her life will be forever impacted by the loss. She will grow strong and deep but may come to a crossroad where there are two princes and a small heart that wants to burst in two, three, four million pieces.

D and Lindsay have both approached me in the last few days with one request, to show my support for you, my beautiful daughter. Well, nunu, you have my support, my love..so much of my love that my heart is also in a million pieces at your pain. And yes, D is correct, none of this is your fault. The radio gods taunt us, my iTune gods are urging me to write to you but karma, cosmology, and the conspiring universe have a lot more to do with this all.

My issues are certainly that we people project our opinions so much on each other that we treat other peoples’ lives as if we are watching a movie and think we know how the movie should unfold. We feel we are letting our audiences down if we choose the way they do not want us to choose. Life is not like one of those novels where multiple endings coexist. As much as we can’t understand now, life will go on, unfold for the spiritual growth of us all and one day we will look back and remember the pain but no longer suffer because of it. Things have a habit of working out. There were days in the mid eighties for me where I did not want to be alive, could not live without your dad. I had a choice of going on and raising you two with joy or numbing myself with some compulsive activity to shut the world out. I chose survival and you will too. You will be with the one you cannot live without and you will know it.

I have been afraid that if we spoke, my own issues of my past with two men would only upset us both or you may think I was trying to influence you either way which I would not. This is not celluloid, our lives are real, full, three dimensional, holographic. The only projected requirement for my movie, pun intended, is that when your wedding day comes, and it will, that you are deliriously happy.

Loving you always,

I was so strengthened by her email. It’s not that I need my parent’s approval to do everything, but I had never NOT had it enough to know what it’s like not to have it. This was her way of telling me that I had it, I always had it, and that I deserved it. I shared it with Cassidy who said, “I do have visions of my wedding. Dancing…smiling faces everywhere….rock and roll…my dad dancing like the goofball he is…my mom probably crying a lot. Friends, friends…so many friends. And not a shred of doubt in my mind.”

His ex had not wanted a wedding, ever. She didn’t like romance. He also said:

“You always were, and to this day remain the biggest thing in my life. It is not something I ever lost. What I lost was myself. And that will never happen again no matter what happens.”

The week dragged on. There was some back and forth about where I would sleep. Cassidy thought I’d stay in the hotel with him, however chastely, but I still wasn’t sure how things would go. Would I punch him? Scream? Run away? I wanted an out, but I knew I couldn’t take it if I wanted to fully see our feelings out. After NYC, we wanted to go somewhere “safe.” We decided on going to Conway, MA to see Ruth and Ernie. Of course. We thought they’d be some of the only people on earth to understand our weirdness, and respect it. We had never all four shared the same space..

D was silent during the last few days before Cassidy was coming. Most people were silent, I think, to give me and my brain some breathing room. My sister said, “I’ll stand by you, always. No matter what you decide.” I did get a casual email from my mom the day of his trip about something unrelated. I knew she knew it was enough. She gave me support in her own way. She ended her email with, “Have fun.” That’s not her usual end greeting.

I wrote to Cassidy before he boarded the plane: “I never thought I’d see you again, and yet, there you will be. After everything. I imagine the initial hello will be quite cinematic.”

My head and heart were pounding in rhythm. It was a Thursday. I was taking Friday off. Three day weekend of uncertainty. I don’t remember a single second of that day before night came. He had a long layover or two and would arrive at night. Again. On a Thursday night. Again. At JFK Airport. Again. I dressed in my best, “Aren’t you sorry you broke my heart?” clothes and shoes. I was so nervous I had to go to the bathroom somewhere near Coney Island. I looked at my passenger seat, again, as I had done over two years ago, and thought about him filling the space. Again. With even less unknowns. No wait, with even more unknowns than last time.

As I pulled into the JFK exit, a feeling of calm set over me. “This”, I thought. “This is living. And hurting, sure. But this is living. Not everyone does things like this.”

And maybe for a reason!

Very soon into the exit, I saw cop cars EVERYWHERE. And ambulances. Fire trucks. His flight had landed. He sent me a text that his plane was at the gate but they weren’t letting anyone off the plane. They told the passengers there was something wrong with the gate opening. The passengers believed that. They were just sitting there for a long time. Restless.

I parked and tried to go into the terminal. I was instantly stopped by cops. What they didn’t tell the passengers on the plane, they could tell the loved ones picking up those passengers.

“Airport bomb scare. You can’t go in. Wait here and we’ll tell you what to do soon.”

I waited. He waited. “Why won’t they fix the damn gate yet? I’m dying!

He didn’t know! Bomb scare! I waited..and waited some more. Outside in the night, in a confused swarm of people. Waited for our loved ones. Uncertain, breathless, waiting.

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  1. Sigh, I am loving your story, Tamara! I am anxiously awaiting the next installment. Thank your for sharing your beautiful writing with us! Donna in Colorado

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