Continued from Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six, and Episode Seven. We do not regret to inform you that there will be no mid-season hiatus. We are rollin’ on full force, for your enjoyment.
Previously: Moose and otters and whales, oh my! How hearing the end piano exit of “Layla” has forever ruined/made my life, and will always send me straight down to my knees. A cracked, sunburned face. The slightest ominous feeling that two sensitive, smart people get when things are so, so, so good, but are aware they are up against some tough opposition. And still we plowed on with our “Summer of Love.” And we liked it.
So as you can imagine, getting back to Jersey and getting back to work was hard for a number of reasons:
1. No Cassidy
2. No whales
3. No California
I was tasting little bits of life and freedom that I had never tasted before. I had spent my childhood dreaming about California, because I had watched one (or 100) too many episodes of “Full House” and “Beverly Hills: 90210” and sue me if I put it in my little head that beaches, mountains, sunshine and sea mammals were cool enough to want in your life. Previously, my weekends had been spent at local Jersey bars and bowling alleys. (yes, really) Currently, my weekends were fulfilling life dreams in New England and California, two places I swore up and down I’d one day live in. (SPOILER)
Going back to a corporate office was hard enough, but you have to remember that I looked like “The Thing” and my sunburned/cracked face was enough to scare young children. I did go to a doctor and luckily the windburn was worse and I did no permanent damage. He did give me an anti-inflammatory and suggested I use hemorrhoid cream on it..
The day after I got back to Jersey, Cassidy got his first cell phone. This was a joyous occasion because it meant more contact, and not just contact when a handsome, active 32-year-old man just happened to be home. I know he stayed home a lot just to be “near” me and I’m forever grateful for that.
Two days after I got back, things got a little weird. I got an email from my long-term ex which was quite beautiful. I honestly don’t remember how I reacted to it, though. Enough to save it and read it time after time. And Cassidy wound up hearing from his long-term ex. They were together for five years and the break-up was brutal. She was not the ex before me. She was not even the ex before the ex before me. They are both lovely girls. This one..I’m not as sure. He was cagey about the details when it was unfolding the previous night but finally laid forth his story to me – about how he saw her and they had a very emotional three hour, teary, apology-filled reunion in a cafe.
As Cassidy said, it was all very curious. Their previous love story is not mine to tell but it ended abruptly and with zero contact, zero of that…you know…ex lingering. There was obviously a lot of emotion, anger, love, the whole package buried deeply where neither thought it would ever resurface. I don’t believe I felt very threatened or jealous at all at the time. I was too confident for that. Maybe I should have a bit, but it’s often not in my nature.
Silly all of us for thinking that.
Silly me for thinking my own ex was not a factor.
Stupid, silly souls.
Cassidy once said that I used our distance as a crutch to not get quite as intimate as I could get. He was right, I think, and I only see that now. For years I blamed our exes for getting between us. Or I blamed us for letting our exes get between us. Now I realize our exes were only our excuses for the way we felt about our physical distance. And the physical distance was only an excuse for the ever-widening emotional distance. It was more complex than I realized.
More flirty and playful emails followed, as well as many others when we were frustrated with our situation and with each other. My birthday passed and he sent me a big box full of my favorite things – chocolates, Starburst, Lucky Charms cereal, CranCherry juice from California since I still couldn’t find it in Jersey. He planned a big, three week trip to the east coast at that time to see his family in western Mass and Cape Cod. And to see Phish. And to see me and my family.
Right after my birthday I picked him up at the airport and we drove together to Blairstown to spend some time with my family. My parents first met us outside the car in the driveway. My mom instantly commented on how blue his eyes were and he looked shy and cute to meet her. My dad took my suitcase for me. Instantly my older sister mouthed, “He’s hot!” to me after meeting him inside. I know it might sound petty but it really, really matters to me what my sisters think. We had plans with my mom the next day to go to a wolf preserve near my parent’s house. You know how moose and whales are to me? That’s how wolves are to Cassidy. It was the perfect trifecta, all barely within the confines of July. There were 23 or so wolves and we loved seeing them all. It was quite a hike to get from the parking lot to the preserve and we missed the bus going back after the tour. I think it must have been divine intervention because just as soon as we started to hike the long way back downhill, all 23 wolves howled at once. It was the most eerie and inspiring sound and we didn’t mind even a second of the muddy walk back to my car. After that quick trip, I went back to New Brunswick and Cassidy went to stay with his mom. His younger cousins were visiting and that kept him very busy during that time.
I talked to him a lot on email whenever he could steal a minute away from the kids. We’d skate around at the idea of saying, “I love you” but could never quite say it. It’s not even that we doubted it; we just didn’t want our first time saying it to be on email or the phone. So we didn’t. The hints were everywhere, though. It was like that dreadful “Seinfeld” finale in which Jerry or Elaine said to to the other…”I love U…nited Airlines.” It was just like that. We met in Mystic, CT on a Friday night in early August. My car got side-swiped by the George Washington bridge and that same night, Cassidy got a speeding ticket in Mystic and we were both a little edgy. It was a wonderful night, though. He had set up flowers in the hotel room and it was just such an added bonus to see each other on family-stolen time. It was ultra-romantic. It was a tryst with none of the illegal or cheating stuff. We had a great brunch the next morning and went back to family plans we both had for later that day. He was on the east coast for another week or so and a few nights before he was due to fly back home, he had gotten us tickets to a Phish show in Camden, NJ. It had meant a lot to him for me to see them play what was thought of as their second to last venue. Ever. This was way before they got back together. No one knew that would happen yet.
Our emails were frustrating when he was on the east coast, even more frustrating than when he was in California, which made no sense. My mom sent an email with her thoughts when I was starting to get bummed:
“MY thoughts on Cassidy…I have never seen you so happy, beautiful, and radiant. He is the best thing since sliced bread and you are too! You make a wonderful couple and I miss having you two here. It was great spending time with the two of you and knowing you two had time alone together. We ALL love him and Marisa will too. MY thoughts on life….magic happens!”
I must have needed to hear that during these few weeks. I felt a weird collision of worlds. He was here but I was used to him there. We wanted to see each other but kept running into speed bumps within our own friends and family. Many times I wanted him to burst into my office, as I had always, always wanted, and just take me the @#$% out of there and out of New Jersey. He didn’t. So I worked, day after day, and we spoke and we talked about the Phish show we were going to.
Soon it was the night before the show and he showed up in New Brunswick. Later that night we were talking about many things and I brought up my ex and how I still felt unresolved about him. It was burning inside of me all of the time then and I felt like I had to be honest. Cassidy replied something to the effect of, “Yeah, I always knew this was inevitable and that this might be a problem we cannot work out. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
So I blurted out, “But I love you!”
He said, “I love you too, Tamara.” He said it just like that, in the softest voice.
I had never been the first person to say “I love you” before. It freaked me out a lot. It always reminded me of a Regina Spektor song called “Samson.” I had met her in NYC a year or two earlier and people had begged her to play the song for them. Hearing it live was the first time I ever heard it:
“I loved you first, I loved you first
Beneath the stars came fallin’ on our heads
But they’re just old light, they’re just old light
Your hair was long when we first met”
I woke up the next morning feeling like the previous night was just a dream. I had to go to work but I was coming back around 3 so we could get on the road to Camden. We had to stop somewhere and park and then take a train to the actual venue. We saw people he knew everywhere. On the train, on the streets, before the show, during the show, after the show.
As I wrote to a friend the next day:
“get this…Cassidy has lived on the west coast for 11 years..i have lived in NJ my whole life. I see NO ONE I know at the concert…he sees…about 40 people. He’s like magic. We were walking across a dark field and people kept shouting his name and running forward going, “cassidy!!!!”
His freakin’ ex girlfriend was there!
His friends were great. One said to me, “Cassidy’s one of our favorites.”
I didn’t know really any of the Phish songs at that point but I did have a good time. As we were walking back to the train in the darkness after the show, he carried me on his back. I leaned against him and heard people shouting his name every which way. I loved being carried by him. I felt like I was high above the world on his back, and like he was carrying me away from everything – the loud hippies, the smell of smoke, the distance between us…
He left that same night, in the middle of the night. From my apartment he was meeting friends to start the journey to the last (or so they thought) Phish shows in Coventry, Vermont. I don’t remember the goodbye. The next morning, he had left me a poem from the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” about falling into a hole throughout life and then finally trying a new street.
An empty bed and a puzzling poem..