Monday, April 15, 2013
FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS (Chapter Fifteen) - DAWN
I wonder if it was her or merely the circumstances of my life when we met. Was Dawn my soul mate, or did she just happen to come along when someone like her was what I needed? I'll never have a definitive answer, for such matters are beyond definition. What is love? Whoever claims to know is either a liar or fool. People are capable of vastly different levels of emotion and devotion. Those on the high end of the scale love no truer than those at the bottom. They're only more apparent.
Commitment is easier to get a handle on. Concrete ground rules can be set for it. Breaking them does not void the existence of love, but this tends to be difficult to prove in divorce court.
Dawn and I were officially introduced by her Cocker Spaniel, Holden. I was strolling through Washington Square Park when he broke free of his master's grasp to greet me. I stooped to give him a pat and looked down into his big brown eyes, then up into hers.
She was undeniably beautiful. I would have been content had this been all there was to her. But I was to learn that there was considerably more in Dawn's arsenal.
Like myself she had inherited early and substantially enough to make financial matters of small concern. She too had chosen to dedicate her life to the arts, painting and sculpting at her loft in SOHO. Conversing with Dawn came easy. She was cleverly sarcastic, adorably pessimistic, pompous enough to display occasional evidence of her Ivy League education, silly enough to continue eating her ice cream cone after Holden sneaked a lick. I worked hard on making Dawn smile, not solely to enhance my chances of winning her over, but also for the simple pleasure I derived when her lips curved upwards and her dimples took shape. The next day I realized with amazement as I stared at my phone receiver, preparing to make the first call, that I was actually a little nervous.
"So would you like to get together sometime soon?" I asked after several minutes of fumbling small talk which I usually excelled at.
"On what?” She was toying with me. The tables I was a professional on were being turned.
"On where you plan for it to lead. Is your intent to wine me, dine me, and then play me like a fiddle? Or have you already booked the chapel?"
"I figured we would play it by ear."
"That will do. I'd love to go out with you."
She had me. I tried to dismiss the thought as we discussed where to meet and what to do. I tried to act as if the conversation was ordinary, the situation routine, and my voice probably conveyed this. But my heart was beating a rhythm it had never played before, one that made my soul want to dance.
As we spoke in the park on the day we met, I sensed that there was something different about Dawn, or rather, about the way I was being made to feel when I was around her. She possessed a quality that the scores of femme fatales to come before her who had failed to cast a lasting spell were lacking. When Dawn looked at me, it was as if she saw through the surface I presented. Her gaze penetrated straight to the attic where my innermost feelings are stored. This obliterated the need for pretense. There was nothing to hide behind, which somehow meant that there was nothing to hide from.
Perhaps I imagined these things because I wanted them to be so. It is quite possible that Dawn's powers were a figment of my mind, and the reason she got through my guard is because I had willingly lowered it. The order of cause and effect doesn't matter much when the effect is so wonderful. The effect was this. In the days to follow I would go to sleep with a woman in my thoughts, and miraculously awake each following morning with the same one there. This seemed nothing short of a miracle.
Events just prior to Dawn’s entrance into my world had caused me to re-evaluate the life I was leading, and perhaps predisposed me to settling down. Yvette's do me or die proclamation had been unsettling, I must admit. Given no choice I continued to see her, and she acted as lovey-dovey as could be, but each occasion deepened my loathing for her. There had to be a way out, but I was damned if I could decipher what it was.
Hitting more directly was Jamal's recent confession. He had tested HIV positive. This information had yet to fully register. I expected a phone call from him at any moment revealing that it was all a twisted practical joke, April fool's with bad timing. The amount of women I had been with dwarfed Jamal's head count, but this caused me no real fear, for my level of caution was also superior. I did not view monogamy as a haven from sex diseases. Nevertheless, I knew that Jamal's condition was symptomatic of his lifestyle, which made me wonder if the payoffs of that modus operandi were worth the risks. I had had enough scary moments to know that kindness wasn't the only thing strangers could be depended on for.
If I hadn't met as incredible a woman as Dawn, my defenses probably weren't weakened enough for this old dog to seriously consider new tricks. But I did meet her, and now I was suddenly asking myself the age old questions. Is this it? Is she the one?
I gave myself plenty of opportunity to find out. The next several weeks rocketed by with Dawn at my side practically every second. Now as I look back, I'm amazed at not having grown bored or claustrophobic within the confines of what was shaping up to be a long term sentence of monogamy. At the time, I was too dizzy to contemplate enigmas. The fact that I had sharply veered off the road so long traveled caused me no dismay. I took these new sensations in without questioning them. I just went where my heart led, which was always to her.
I held none of my standard doubts, felt none of my typical fear. As I sat across from her at the vegetarian restaurant she selected for our first date, the rest of the world vanished. Only the two of us, in that place, at that time mattered. The past was a memory I had no ability or desire to recall, the future something that may never arrive. Only the here and now was of consequence. I had been baptized by her presence, born anew.
I didn't say these things to Dawn, for it was too early. Now it's too late. At some point the right moment must have come, but it passed by without announcing itself, as moments tend to do.
"Don't you miss other women?" asked a devout bachelor friend I confessed my state of bliss to.
"I haven't really thought about it."
"How could you not? Don't you feel trapped? Don't you remember how incredible it feels to be with a beautiful woman you've never seen before, and will never see again?"
"I remember. But what I find even more incredible is wanting to see Dawn again, and again, and again."
"Unbelievable. I never thought I would see the day. You're whipped, man. You're done. You might as well brand an L on your forehead."
"No, asshole. For loser."
When Marc Jacobs phoned to invite me to his next party, I accepted with unusual zeal. I couldn't wait for the opportunity to show Dawn off. I wanted to publicly revel in my good fortune. And so I did. That day was undoubtedly the happiest of my life. I drank to my limit, danced to my limit, laughed till I was about to burst, and upon returning home made glorious love to Dawn under the watchful eyes of the gods.
How was I fooled to believe it would last? Perfection is fleeting by nature, meant to hold still only in memory. For all their beauty, perfect things are characterized by frailty, simply no match for the march of time. I suppose this is one of the many reasons I end relationships prematurely. I want to preserve the experiences in my thoughts before they inevitably begin to decay.
You'd think I would have retained the lesson taught by my parents. They had once been young, beautiful, above and beyond the usual tribulations of life. My earliest memories are of a world that strongly resembled paradise. Then my father ruined it with infidelity. Being the dramatist she is, my mother boldly confronted him. He denied nothing, apologized blandly, and continued his behavior. My mother engaged him in no further shouting matches. She just kept a glass of gin perpetually in hand, apparently to drown the emotions she no longer wished to have. When my father was killed in a car accident, the drinking ceased. I hoped my mother's joyful demeanor would return as well, but this was not to be. Too many things had taken their toll. She was no longer young, nor so beautiful, and cared far too much about such matters to be truly happy again. My mother wasn't being cheated on anymore, but couldn't help feeling cheated. Everything had started out perfect. She could never figure out how to settle for less.
I held my father to blame for a long time. I believed had he been true to my mother's love, paradise never would have closed its doors on us. I thought happiness would last forever, because it was all I knew. I know a good deal more now. I understand that happiness is not a birthright, but a sporadic flash occurrence. Had my father behaved in a different manner, paradise still would have found a means to end. To become spoiled by happiness just ensures future misery. I learned this lesson early on, yet somehow briefly managed to forget. I would be reminded soon enough.