Dearest Rachel –
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it now, seeing as to how for so many years the two of us would appear in public practically joined at the hip. But in those early days of our relationship, we had, shall we say, “spaces in our togetherness.”
In a way, it was only natural. After all, the distance between us was a very real and physical thing. I was living and working here in the Chicago suburbs, while you were living and studying downstate. And during the times when I wasn’t working, leisure time activities were difficult – if not outright impossible – to enjoy alone (yeah, some things in my life haven’t changed. In fact, for all the complaining I do these days about how I can’t enjoy this or that without you, the very existence of the Internet these days provides a wealth of time-killing activities that are solitary pursuits that weren’t available to us back in the early 90s).
So what was I to do? Well, with your knowledge and consent, I would see other people. It was understood by all what our situation was, and these were no more than the little social events that they appeared to be on the surface. No plans, no hidden agendas – just a couple of friends sharing a meal and whatever entertainment we had agreed upon for the evening. Whatever it may look like to an outsider, that was the outsider’s problem for interpreting it that way.
There were essentially two girls that I would meet during those days: Amy and Krista. My memory is hazy as to how Amy fits in; a year younger than myself (and therefore a year older than you), we would not have shared classes, even though I think she was a business major, like myself. She may have been a floormate of yours at Munsell Hall; for all I can recall, she may have been looking out for you in some respects. I’m pretty sure she was in the periphery of the Sextet; with her dark curly hair and tall stature, she wasn’t exactly a dead ringer for Dena, but did resemble her to a noteworthy extent. Her humor, while more reserved and dryer then that of us charter members, certainly fit in well, as I recall.
Unlike Dena, Amy wasn’t militantly irreligious, just indifferent. She and I would discuss theology from time to time, but it wasn’t a big deal with her. In fact, living as she did in the shadow of Willow Creek, she found those that attended there to be… somewhat cultlike. Which I found disturbing, as I had spent enough time studying cults in the wake of the Jonestown massacre (my reaction to it was that something like “that could happen to me, and I certainly don’t want that to,” so I tried to study and find out what I truly believed in order not to be led astray) to know differently, but not enough to offer a suitable rebuttal to an outsider’s perspective like hers. After all, how do you explain that kind of enthusiasm to someone who’s religious experience was (like most people’s) limited to Christmas and Easter?
Like with Dena, our discussions were quite civil, and sometimes got pretty deep. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I ever convinced her of anything – nor did she me regarding her own point of view – but in fairness, the Willow Creek experience wasn’t mine to explain, so I’m sure I got a few things wrong, there, too.
I’m afraid I don’t remember any of the things we did, or the places we went together. The only incident that really comes to mind is the time I was trying to drive her home. We were on Algonquin Road, and I was trying to get to Higgins, which contained an inlet to her subdivision. Now, both of these roads around roughly parallel, northwest to southeast, So I figured that any road heading south would get us to the road we wanted to be on. But I hadn’t reckoned on I-90 being in between the two roads; most roads heading south from one would dead end before getting to the other. It took me a while to find a road that would actually cross over the interstate so that I could get her home.
I’ve always maintained that, in travel, it’s the misadventures that you ultimately end up remembering. That holds true no matter how far from – or near to – your home you are.
And then, there was Krista. She was part of the BASIC group, although I think I remember her being born and bred in the Lutheran Church, which I could relate to, having been educated in one of their schools from 4th to 8th grade. In fact, I think I recall having dug up a copy of their catechism as Jan and I were going through the upstairs office.
Since we knew each other from the BASIC group, she wasn’t associated with the mealtime crowd that surrounded the Sextet (although on a small campus such as ours, it was bound to be a fair amount of overlap regardless). Ironic, that, given that she was a theater major – or rather, a theater tech major. She worked with lights and scenery, but her real passion or costumes; I think she had a goal of becoming the next Edith Head. She and I even put together a plan to make your wedding dress at one point – in the Icelandic style, made of black velvet and gold trim. When you found the bargain you did, she simply turned around, and made us pillows from the materials the two of us had bought as a wedding present. Unfortunately, they hadn’t survived to this day.
She and I particularly enjoyed going out to movies together, as I had taken a theater class during my final year, and so was familiar with the lingo of the theater critic. The two of us would debate the merits of what we’d seen like a college-age take on Siskel and Ebert, either at dinner after the movie or, if we had eaten beforehand, in the parlor of her parents’ house. Some of these debates would go on for hours, and we had a lot of fun doing it. It may not of been as sophisticated as those two famed critics, but it was almost as entertaining as some of the films themselves. Again, I don’t remember the films, apart from probably Heathers and Pump Up The Volume. Even now, I don’t remember much of the latter; the former, however, was quotable to the point of serving for a number of inside jokes between the two of us.
She also served as my ‘plus one’ at various company social events prior to you and I getting married. What we found particularly amusing was the fact that everybody of the company knew I was engaged, and the assumption was that Krista was my fiancé. It was fun explaining that that was not the case, and that I was dating someone while I was engaged, and watch peoples faces as they tried to process that concept. Look, the three of us were all in on it, and there was nothing between Krista and I. So no harm done, just a fair amount of confusion sown among onlookers, who would jump to conclusions no matter what we did. Their problem, not ours.
Krista moved up to the Minneapolis area; I can only hope she escaped the worst of the wrath wrought upon that town over the last year. I have no idea what became of Amy.
Now, of course, things have changed yet again. I am no longer yours – although, to be fair, we were never each other’s in the first place. You were with me, and I was with you. And I thought it would always be this way.
But in some ways, things have stayed the same. I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it: there are so many things to do out there, and I don’t want to do them on my own.
I had hoped to find someone from among my friends, but that pool is a small and shallow one to wade through. Besides, it would seem that I am seen as your husband still, so that just won’t work.
I had considered looking around the church (as I have concluded that hobbies and interests can be modified, but faith is crucial and foundational), and thought I saw a possibility or two, but I have been advised otherwise before I set out on that first step. It may yet happen, but for now, it’s not promising.
So for now, with a little bit of help, I’m about to cast a fairly wide net – at least, I think so. I have no idea what to expect from online dating, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to tell you as I go along – assuming anything comes from it. But that’s where I’m going to start, and I’ll see where it goes from here.
I do hope you’ll understand; maybe you’ll find it as amusing as any others who might read this.
Until then, remember that I love you, and always will. Who knows? I may well find Megumi here, but she will – unfortunately for her – always have to share room in my heart with you. Hopefully, it’s not gonna be that crowded.