Monday, March 25, 2013
FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS (Chapter Eight) - JENNIFER
I turned my attention from the replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex hunting down a Brontosaurus. I had been meaning to check out this exhibit at the Museum of Natural History for months. Show me a guy who doesn't like dinosaurs and you'll be showing me one deeply disturbed individual.
"Jennifer!" Of all the women I knew, she was among the last I expected. It had been so long. My God, it had been fifteen years.
"I can't believe it's really you," she said.
"Me neither." My high school sweetheart, prom date, first ever girlfriend in the flesh. "You look incredible, Jennifer." And she did indeed.
I caught up on the passage of her life over lunch. Jennifer lived in Chicago now, where she worked as an investment banker. A five year mistake of a marriage had produced a cherished son and a substantial amount of misery. For the latter reason she was in the process of getting a divorce. She was staying with her parents for a couple weeks as a brief respite from the tribulations of real life, which included a custody battle for her son, Paul.
Over drinks I provided the details of my considerably less complicated existence. She was proud of my attempting to be a writer and certain I would eventually make it to a second chapter and beyond. Her words of faith and encouragement made me feel like the teenager I had been when we first met.
Had it really been one and a half decades ago when I believed we would be together forever? It didn't seem she had aged a day, or that my heart beat any slower upon looking at her. The details of the day we broke up came back to me with startling clarity. Jennifer had no definite proof, but strong enough suspicions regarding enough of the girls I had fooled around with behind her back to pull the plug on our relationship a few weeks before graduation. It struck me as no big deal at the time. My cockiness and luck with girls had grown immeasurably in the two years since Jennifer and I conducted our first experiments in the art of kissing and introductory anatomy. And even if I had managed to remain monogamous throughout high school, going to different colleges would surely put an end to that. Our romance, sweet as it had been, had doubtlessly run its course. My only regret was that unlike the majority of my on the side girlfriends, Jennifer had not yet granted me access to her most prized treasure, and now likely never would. We had done just about everything under the sun short of intercourse, and with this I would have to make due.
To her credit, Jennifer dumped me in a calm, dignified manner. Every word of her indictment was well rehearsed, and my attempt to dispute her claims was half-hearted at best. Despite her apparent lack of emotion however, I knew I had hurt her far beyond what she allowed me to see. At the time, I didn't think she would ever forgive me. And perhaps she never would have, had another man not come along later who sinned far more grievously against her.
By the time we were downing after dinner cocktails, I knew my wish would come true at long last. As I gazed affectionately at the girl who had taught me about love, I wondered if she had it in her to re-teach the lessons I had somehow forgotten. Then I realized the more pertinent question was whether or not I had it in me to learn them again.
When we arrived at my apartment I was as drunk as I wanted to be, and Jennifer as drunk as she needed to be.
"Better late than never" were the last words she spoke before we progressed to make tender, poignant love.
"Worth the wait, don't you think?" were the first ones I said when we were done.
Jennifer didn't answer. She had a lot on her mind, and mine was surprisingly full as well. I was actually thinking about resuming a relationship with her, long distance at first, then her eventually moving back to New York or me heading out to Chicago. I had no real ties here, other than my love for New York City and my Mom. My mother would have no problem with abusing her frequent flier miles.
I said I thought about these things, not considered them. This night was clearly an end rather than a beginning. The tears falling quietly down Jennifer's face said as much. They broke my heart, even though I knew they had nothing to do with me. Maybe because of this.
Then I found myself jealous of her pain. That I had never cared enough to hurt so bad, or been cared for enough to bring about such misery. The feeling only lasted for a moment. What good could misery possibly do for me?
"I wish I could do something." I didn't realize I was speaking rather than thinking until Jennifer responded.
"You did what you could."
As I watched her get dressed to leave, I couldn't help but feel gypped and a little angered. This was not how things were supposed to go. Our crossing paths in a city of millions and completing what had begun when we were different people, just starting to be formed, was a miracle of sorts. Miracles were to be celebrated, not moped over. What happened between us that night was special, and she was spoiling it with self pity. This was not how I wanted to remember our first time. I wanted her to be happy. What we had done was supposed to make us feel good, or else why do it?
Jennifer had finally given me her body, but kept everything left over for herself. It had been a revisiting of our past with the components in reverse position. In essence, nothing had changed between us. It appeared I would never possess all of her at the same time.
I concluded that perhaps when the dual memories had grown faint enough, I would be able to match up the experience of Jennifer giving me her body to that of her surrendering her heart. Sadly I realized that the concocted image might be the only genuine love affair I would ever have.