Paul Simon was right

I met an old lover in a pizza parlor and  I was glad to see him again. We talked about old days and sundries over a few beers and it was very pleasant. As we talked, I studied his face. It’s been many years since we had been together and he’s quite gray and a little wide in the forehead. Even his eyebrows have greyed. On the whole, he looked a bit unkempt and stubbly. He was still thin but his body was soft. If I did not have an overwhelmingly affectionate regard for him, I’d say he looked quite scruffy. But his smile was as sweet as ever and his laugh, familiar.  His general demeanour has become more serious and somewhat somber. Even when I made some crack, he gave it some consideration before acknowledging it was a joke.

He has done well and is a well regarded author. I heard him speak the other day. He had a very pleasing style that sounds simultaneously authoritative and self-effacing with a gentle humour. I don’t remember him being so casually eloquent or quite so fluid and seamless in his word and phrase selection.  When we talked about his recent accolades, he confessed to a sense of surrealism about it all.  While we were talking, I felt a growing sense of almost relief that the things about him that had once attracted me were still fundamentally there. However, it did intensify my pervading feeling of ordinariness by comparison.

In the past few years, I’ve met a few of my exes. To me, they each seem to have left a mark on the world – “made it” in some fashion or other and not just in their own minds. And to a man, each one caused a deepening of a sense of  mediocrity and a kind of failure in me. As though I alone failed to grasp at the chance that was extended our way. As if to say that it this sense of inadequacy I was trying to compensate for by dating them. To imply that in order for them to be outstanding, I had to provide the ordinary foil. Ugh.

Rationally, I realize that success comes in many formulas. Comparisons, though inevitable, rarely acknowledge the value of what you actually have and instead, discount and dismiss.  I have much that is precious and treasured. My skills and expertise are in areas that seem so domestic and everyday. They give me a lot of  satisfaction. But, I wish they were somehow more glamorous and unusual. I wish I didn’t hear a hint of patronage when hearing these listed.  I wish I were envied and admired instead. I wish I didn’t feel so average.

We parted with a hug and a promise to meet in a while.  Fleetingly, I thought about the last time we’d lain together weaving fantastical futures untethered by reality. It was uncomplicated. When I drove off, it was with a sense of heaviness that took me a few days to shake off.

Still unexceptional after all those years.

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An Uncomfortable Infatuation

Our phone conversations are stilted. I never quite know what tone to adopt. I want to say how happy it makes me to get the call but that would be laying myself open to a lukewarm reaction. Instead, I’m cheerful and pleasant as though I’m talking to Mrs.G next door.  Used to be that we’d talk on the phone all the time.

When we are in company, it’s warm and neutrally friendly. Once in a while, our gazes clash and  slide past each other.  When he’s talking, I sometimes just look at him.  He has  gained a lot of weight and his fine boned, narrow face looks a bit fleshy. But his mouth is as finely chiseled as ever. Watching it affords me pleasure and lets my imagination wander. I wonder if he ever looks at me and wonders.

When we are occasionally alone, the air seems more relaxed with the wariness out of the way.  I really want to say “Can we dispense with the talking for today and just make out?”  There is a certain urgency to my thoughts. I mean, if not now, when?  When I’m ready to turn in my chips, there is really no currency in the earlier morality of my actions – or lack thereof.  So, why not when I’m younger? I don’t think there is much ambiguity about my preoccupation.  There are days I can’t stop thinking about what he thinks about me and whether he thinks about me.

Then, there is sex. Or perhaps, just making out. I so want it. I want to snog till we can’t breathe. I want him to kiss me silly. Till the sheer intensity makes time stand still.  We’ve always kissed well in the past. This time, perhaps, with abandon.

If all this ends up in sex, so much the better. But I worry about my body with all its lumps and bumps. Self-image is a craven creature when it comes up against middle-age and celluloid. Will he be supremely confident about his body which is now soft and probably lumpy too? It’s all a trifle beside the point and not actually relevant. But it makes me anxious just the same. Then, what if the sex is not fun? Having imagined it for so long, it’s bound not to live up to it. Perhaps the fantasy is better.

Once in a while, I catch a glimpse of the young man who stole my heart many years ago.  When I do, my breath catches. I don’t think it’s supposed to.

Seduction of Sound with Marissa & Norah

Without realizing it, you slow down and exhale. As the dreamy feeling seeps in, you feel oddly lethargic yet hyper-aware. The melody strokes you with its light touch, as her voice awakens desire. Not the burning, frantic and greedy kind. More of a languorous and floaty variety where your limbs rise to embrace or fall boneless. As the music enter your throat, your head falls back and your mind drifts away.

I first heard Marissa Monte in the States on the radio. Her voice is an instrument and as she sings, the lyrics take on a seductive, languid weight and I am soon awash in pure sensation. I have resisted translating the songs. I just enjoy the way the words sound. My command of French and Spanish are not enough to decrypt Portuguese. (How do the Brazilians ever get anything done if the sound of the language makes you feel so gooey inside?)  I am quite thankful  – for I will never forget hearing snatches of a dreamy tune on the radio only to later learn the words to Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face. Between Marissa and Portuguese, even a car manual would take on an erotic quality.

Norah Jones has the same effect. Her magical, unhurried delivery instantly lets you sink into bliss. I don’t pay attention to the words and just let the sound wash over me. Is it the lazy undercurrent in her voice that starts a slow burn? Or perhaps the rhythm that resonates with a heartbeat?  What is it about the liquid melodies that suggests slow afternoons filled with stupor inducing kisses and unhurried sex?  Their music spins a cocoon with gossamer strands of yearning around you and somehow, time seems suspended.

I marvel at the power of music – that a mere arrangement of sounds can make you feel a certain way, let you retreat to a place in the past, allow you to taste again the lips of a lover or just exult in the sheer joy of the rhythm. I am grateful for the visceral response I feel to music. It is a gift.

Thank you, Marissa and Norah – my senses are yours to exploit.

On a Cloud of Light Green Chiffon

I was more than half in love with this man when I met his mother. Mind you, it was not a momentous “Meeting His Mother” occasion but more an inevitability of where our families lived. Anyway, we were at his house when she walked in – a tall, slender woman with luminous skin draped in flowing green chiffon with white polka dots. Her face was narrow with fine features and wide, observant eyes. She seemed to float in the fabric.

When we were being introduced I could feel her shrewdly and probably accurately assessing me and my relationship to her son.  It’s entirely possible she saw that I was besotted and that her son was not quite as invested.  It’s possible. Anyway, she was very gracious and kind and seemed genuinely interested in talking with me – then a mere teenager. It made me a lot less nervous and I was grateful for it. She had a ready laugh and seemed delighted to discover I was fluent in languages other than English. She teased her son about his lack of mastery. When I left it was with a distinct impression that I had passed muster – at least with her. I was glad she liked me.

My budding romance with her son ended a bit later but over the years, I would run into her on occasion. We were always happy to reconnect and she treated me with a lot of affection. Though she insisted on my calling her by a more familiar address, I never could get out of the habit of referring to her as Mrs. S.  She was a woman of many accomplishments and opinions and liked to talk about them. I know this did not sit well with other adults but it did not bother me. I enjoyed listening to her victories and vanities.

About five years ago,  I met her at a party at her son’s house. It had been a long while since the son and I had met and I was quite apprehensive. I had taken a lot of care with my appearance. It was quite satisfying to have him open the door and be genuinely startled into saying “Hi! Wow – you look great!”  When I walked in, I saw she was there and went up to meet her. Her reaction to my appearance was equally flattering and I think it actually gave me more joy. She was unadulterated in her pleasure at seeing me and was very complimentary.  Her fine face seemed  little lined and she had cut her hair short. Her clothing was deep maroon and it suited her. She looked lovely. Within a minute, we were in deep conversation and laughing together. Our connection had endured and it was quite special.

My last meeting with her was shortly after her husband had passed away. Though they had been estranged for years, the lines of strain and sorrow showed on her face. She smiled somewhat wanly and shrugged – as though to express regret for the lost years and the imposed solitude – while accepting my condolences. In the face of this complex emotion, I felt gauche and unable to respond in any meaningful way. I gave her a hug and we parted.

The past few years, whenever I visited my hometown I have meant to visit her but never got around to it. I knew that time was slipping away and that I should make the opportunity to see her. Recently, she suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma on life support  at the hospital.

Now it’s too late.  She floated away on her chiffon cloud today.

Be well, dear Mrs.S.  I will miss you.

Holding a Hand With Fleetwood Mac

I had so wanted to go with him to the concert. Like a date and all. Ridiculous, I know. It was music we’d shared in an earlier time which had a nostalgic, sweet quality to it. But, I had bought the tickets ages ago and it was too complicated to manoeuvre the various relationship landscapes. I dropped the fantasy and just looked forward to the music. For goodness sake, Christine McVie, was back with the band – what? what? As it turned out, travel schedules had me scrambling for a companion for the evening. Hoping against hope, I dashed off a note asking if he was free and interested. The stars aligned and so it was, that we went to this concert together. (Didn’t see that coming, eh?)

Just the idea of being there together made me so happy. We slowly climbed the stairs to the venue surrounded by jokes about medical marijuana, paramedics and oxygen tanks from the polite, not-young-but-not-old crowd. We were definitely on the young side. In my head, I pretended that the circumstances were different. I laid my cheek against his back very lightly. He looked over his shoulder and said “You don’t know how good that feels. You don’t know”. I think at that moment I was 17 again. A lightning shot of thrill zipped through my body had me smiling stupidly and feeling light-headed. It was incomparable.

Once in the stadium, the songs from the “Rumours” album transported us.  The first few songs in the concert flooded my entire body and flushed out emotions from the time I first heard them. I could almost hear the sound of the needle touching down on vinyl before the music poured out. I was starry-eyed and  awestruck to be experiencing that sound live. It did not disappoint. After a bit, I relaxed into my seat and let the music wash over us. I could hear him singing with the band. Impulsively, I held out my hand and he took it though we never made eye-contact. It was oddly cozy right there in the middle of thousands of people.

He must have been uncomfortable about the PDA because he never made the first move to touch me. I thought about this and concluded,that in this decidedly anonymous venue, I was going to give in to my impulse. In such a vibrant acoustic setting, why not grab the chance? So, a few times during the evening, I held out my hand and he always took it. But it was clear that usually I was holding his hand though occasionally his fingers caressed mine. I did not care – it made me happy. I did not care if he thought I was needy for wanting the contact. I did not care if he thought it was rash to put my head on his shoulder for a minute or two. I did not care if he though I wanted him to touch me. I did.

We left the concert agreeing that after a while you stopped looking at the band performing in front of you and just enjoyed the sensation of the performance.  Our commonplace conversation was infused with awareness tinged with the usual undertones of regret.  It was a lovely evening and I hope we’ll be able to repeat it. With or without  Fleetwood Mac.

Year of the Ex-Men

Never mind that this year belongs to the Sheep. The cosmos is busy regurgitating old flames and flings and liberally strewing them in my present. If there is a message in all this, the Force had better print it out in 36 point font and read it out loud. Enunciating every last word.

I’m quite ambivalent on how to handle the latest situation. Here’s the skinny:

  1. It was definitely a fling
  2. A long time ago
  3. For a very short time
  4. Ended amicably with no regrets or expectations
  5. No contact since
  6. Back in touch by pure chance

We’re going to meet in about a week or so for a drink. My first instinct is to paste on a polite face and have an uncomfortable and stilted conversation and be done with it. I’m already tying myself into knots over one Ex-Man, why even bother with another?

On the other hand, I thought he was a nice guy then and we were friends. So, why not be true to that and try to have a real connection? After all, he is someone who touched my life (and then some…haha!). I have a good world now and as far as I know, he does too. I’m not looking to renew this friendship or carry it forward but I would like for him to think that there is still a little bit of the girl he knew then.

There is something cozily familiar in talking with an old lover. (Not all of them – mind, not all of them. Definitely not). In recounting your life since you parted from each other, you can have a sense of abandon and just be honest. It’s as though the stories of joy, success, hurt and failure have a better chance of receiving a sympathetic reception from someone who once liked you.

At the very least, you don’t really have to care too much about being judged by them – so, why the stage effects? At best, they leave thinking that there was a good reason why you two were once involved. And even better, if they were the ones who ended it, they might even feel a faint twinge of regret!

My challenge will be to gauge his take on our meeting before deciding on my persona.

Could be a very quick gin & tonic or a nice evening with an old friend.

Hidden in plain sight

Why write? Why dredge up private stories and feelings from decades past and tie them down in words? Why catalog wistful desires and dreams and risk hurting those most dear?  Why bother crystallizing endorphin rushes into coherent thought?

When a love from of the dim and distant past seeps into nooks of the present, it makes for an uneasy yet irresistible fit. It’s sort of like discovering a bikini from your svelte college days and trying it on knowing fully well that you should leave well enough alone since you can’t unsee this vision! There is an intense, perverse, addictive enjoyment with hearty slice of fantasy and you drift down paths untaken.

Of late, wishful thinking has increasingly occupied my mind. I felt I was going to burst if I did not give voice to it. But how? I could barely admit to myself I was entertaining these infidel desires let alone come clean about them. Worse, my imagined scenarios of bliss and re-written history started to make me dissatisfied with my reality which was far from unpleasant.

It was as though the thoughts spinning in my head were running out of room and were trying to burst out into my real life. Does that make sense? I have the most intense need to air them out and allow sunlight to do its thing.

By releasing them to everyone and no one, my thoughts and stories seem to have become somehow tethered. Unhooked to any actual detail about me, they float alone and occasionally, strike a resonant chord in a perfect stranger – you.  Telling you has helped me because you listen.

I write primarily for my own catharsis.  But I have grown to like the twang of your empathy and validation. I know it’s freely given and unencumbered.

Secretly, I fantasize that the objects of my fancies will stumble upon this blog and recognize themselves. Equally, I’m terrified of being recognized. The consequences to confession may be steep and irrevocable.  I do not allow myself to prick the balloon by considering “Then, what?”

Writing to transform rushes of yearning and pangs of regret into consumable capsules has gone a long way in allowing me to accept and acknowledge my own reactions without self-recrimination. It is harder than I thought it would be and infinitely more rewarding than I expected.