Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Doing the Unstuck

Today I miss someone. Not someone appropriate, like a family member or a husband, but someone I shouldn't miss--an old boyfriend--a man who wasn't particularly good for me (though not particularly bad either) but who I truly loved in spite of the mediochre relationship and the feelings of inadequacy that went along with it.

I dated him in college for about a year. He was an amazing guy (probably still is, to be honest). Brilliant physicist, intense and hard working at everything, and the time we spent together felt like we were the only two people in all the world. I visited him once while he was working in San Jose and the two of us drove up the coast sunday morning. I remember stopping at a fruit stand and buying melons, and then stopping at a rocky beach and wandering together for a while. I had my sketch book with me (one that he'd given me several years earlier for a bithday present) and I found a rock to sketch. I didn't have a pencil, so I borrowed one of his mechanical pencils. To this day I love sketching with mechanical pencils. He left me alone to sketch, coming back a couple of times to check on my progress, cocking his head to one side and leaning over as he approached as if he needed to interrupt my gaze to announce his presence. I have no idea what he did while I sketched but I knew he was pleased with my sketch, and pleased to give me the time to do something I loved.

Another day he sang to me. He had practiced a Cure song on his Dad's old guitar and he sang it to me. I remember sitting in his pale yellow room, on his plaid sheets listening to him singing softly, strumming the chords slowly but in perfect time. I don't think I've ever seen him as exposed as he was in those few, sweet moments.

I wanted to be near him all the time but I think I was too much of a distraction. I tried studying in his room once, but he kept talking to me, and I to him, distracting each other from our more important homework. Within an hour we were making out, crawling across the hard wooden floor to his bed while simultaneously undressing each other, and from then on I was banished.

I lived in the room below his and every hour of the day I could hear him above me, rolling his chair back and forth, his leg jumping up and down in a steady rhythm as he worked. I wanted to walk upstairs and quiet the ceasless motion of his leg--the sound distracted me from my own reading. But the next term, when another physicist who lacked that nervous habit, moved in upstairs I missed the sound.

Of the year we dated we were apart for fully half of that time--three months while he worked in San Jose (I was car-less in LA) and another three while he did a semester abroad. I broke up with him during the semester abroad because of the distance between us, and because the pain of knowing we would be together only for a few months before graduation would rend our fragile union forever was almost unbearable. I missed him terribly when he was gone, so much that it distracted me and made me miserable. I never talked to him about it. The only time I brought up the topic of what would happen after graduation he suggested I get a job in the city where he was born--coincidentally on the opposite side of the continent from the grad schools he was at that moment applying to.

Looking back he probably had no idea how that suggestion sounded, or that it tore me apart to know he'd leave at the end of the year for grad school and that would be it. He probably had no idea how much I yearned to be with him, to feel like a part of his life instead of the mistress to his true love--physics. I treasured every scrap of time we spent together, but those scraps, sweet as they were, didn't fill me up. I needed more. Or, maybe I just wanted more.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have handled the relationship better if I were more independent, more self-assured, lower maintenance. I guess it doesn't really matter. We are who we are and while small changes are possible, I'm not sure it's possible to "make" ourselves happy with something that doesn't fulfill our needs unless we find another way to fulfull those needs. I found a new boyfriend--one who eventually became my husband, though that was a long and tortuous road in its own right, and he is more capable of completing my happiness. Still, some days I still wonder if I could have found a way to fulfill my needs within the boundaries of that old relationship. On those days I play Tori and Sarah, and sometimes Robert Smith and Morrisey, and I feel those old yearnings and wallow in that old pain to remember the good thing that was; sometimes I even google him to see what new, amazing thing he's done, where in the world he has traveled, and I wonder if someday we might run into each other again.

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