Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Wave Will Embrace the Words Erelong

Occasionally, a face or name will come sneaking back into my mind without notice. In this particular case, it started with a friend getting praised for his yard work. He'd put pictures up on Facebook of clearing out a dense bracken in his front yard. Much sweat went into the rehabilitation of the area, and I made to compliment him on his serious work. One of the comments there before me was from a woman I didn't know. It was her face that caught my attention first.

She looked familiar. Oh, right. She sort of looked like a good friend of mine, known for her enveloping smile. It was the similarity of the smile and the smooth face and dark hair that caught my attention. But this woman wasn't known to me, so I moved on to make my comment. 

Yet the face glowed ever brighter in my thoughts. Why did I keep thinking about it? This wasn't a person I'd ever met before. Or... was it? I stared at the face, almost willing my brain to make some connection and ease the tension. It couldn't be... what was her name? Elsie? No...Elmarie? No...

Elaine.

The door in my mind had opened a crack, letting some of the light from beyond pour out.

Elaine was a friend of someone I dated years ago. A friend of my girlfriend's from even further into her past. I recall meeting her only once, but she was memorable. Surely it wasn't the same... I glanced at the name attached to the picture.

Elaine.

Even then, I wasn't convinced. Elaine had worked in the military and then gone to work for a bank. The Elaine from the post had a bank listed as her current job, just above her military service.

I sat back and marveled. Who would have thought that I'd ever cross paths with her again? Even virtually, the chances were astronomical. And here, to be a friend of my friend from going to the same exercise club. I laughed at the sheer coincidence.

And then I forgot about it for a few months. Tonight, I saw her pop up again, commenting on a story my friend had posted. And for whatever reason, I thought about that old girlfriend.

We haven't dated in more than a decade, now that I do that math. I haven't laid eyes on her or heard anything about her for close to... seven years? And while I never forgot that she existed, it had been a good long time since I'd had a thought drift her direction. So it surprised me that after seeing the picture of Elaine again and remembering the connection, I started to think about that ex-girlfriend in an unexpected way.

I realized that if I extrapolated forward, I probably knew nothing about her in the year 2013. Her car is probably long gone. Her pets (whose names I no longer remember) may also have passed on. If I saw her in line at the grocery, I might recognize her enough to give a second glance to be sure, but I don't think I'd recognize her voice any longer, were I to hear it without the benefit of seeing the face.

And I have no idea how long it has been this way. The last time I remember thinking about her, I remember still the bitterness that lasted long after the relationship was over. The hurt and the embarrassment of a relationship end that was not of my choosing. The prickling anger every time I knew she was in the room.

And now... what?  That last memory was from years ago. All circumstances (for her and me) have changed. I haven't given even a moment's thought for... five years? Six? When was that last time, when the bile was still so acrid?

There were times when I knew I would never be free of the negative feelings. That I could never let the image of her pass through my mind without choking on the hard lump in my throat. And yet, here I sit, no longer even able to remember the things I swore I would never allow myself to forget. I don't remember the injustices, the wounded pride, or the simmering jealousy. All I feel are the dim echos that suggest that there was injustice, might have been wounds, and that there was possibly jealousy. 

Somewhere in that time, I forgot that it was supposed to be a big deal. And now... it isn't.

*** *** ***

This is on my mind now because I've got friends in the midst of wrenching ends. I feel for them and wish them a speedy passing through. I've been there when relationships end. I've been there when friends are lost. I've lived in the quiet of the night - a still state, both a welcome relief and the sole problem.

People ask me how long to recover from a bad relationship. It could be never, or it could be as soon as you forget what you had for dinner on February 11th of this year. Every person is different and every relationship is different. The key is always to move forward. If you keep thinking about what you had for dinner on February 11th of this year, you'll never be able to forget.

And if you can't forget, it will always be February 11th of this year.

The key is to be occupied for long enough that you can no longer remember. Sure, you definitely ate something, but it just no longer matters.

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