Another Step Forward… Two Steps Back

Dearest Rachel –

It’s just about nine in the morning, and I need to head out to the ‘office.’ But I can’t exactly say my mind is entirely on my ‘work.’ My mind is somewhat preoccupied with what’s going on later today.

It almost seems inappropriate for me to be going on a date this afternoon, exactly twenty months since your departure. And yes, I still remember these days – it got past me once, but it hasn’t since – the twenty-third of the month continues to serve as a reminder of that day. But is it more appropriate for me to continue obsessing over you (like I do by spending all this time and effort letting you know so many details of my life after you) – and particularly, on this day each month – or should I be getting on with my life, since I won’t see you again on this side of the shadowlands? I honestly don’t feel that I have a good answer to that; how long is long enough to mourn your loss, how soon is too soon to look for another?

Granted, I have been looking for another, with limited enthusiasm and success, for the better part of the past year – or maybe, the worse part? I’ve chased down so many blind alleys, both online and in person, all the while fairly conscious of that fact, and increasingly so as time went on and the disappointments added up. Still, I’ve rarely – if ever – been emotionally invested in anyone to be truly upset (let alone brokenhearted) when nothing comes of one potential relationship or another. In most cases, this is simply because almost none of them have even led to a single face-to-face encounter; how do you get excited about someone you’ve never met, and most likely, never will? And – which is usually how these things fall apart – why would whoever is on the other end of this connection think you could do so to the point of sending them money, sight unseen?

But today is different in that regard. For all that the rational, reasonable part of my mind is screaming at me that this is a bad idea (and strangely enough, this part of me is neither angel nor devil – in fact, it looks a bit like Erin, come to think of it, which is weird, because she almost never screams in real life, to my recollection), I’m actually meeting someone who contacted me out of the blue, and having lunch with them.

That’s it.

And that may just be it. Or… it might be something more. Either way, it’s another step forward, isn’t it?

***

It’s about one-forty in the afternoon, now, and I’m waiting for Alexa to appear. It turns out, I’d budgeted way too much time to get here – I’m even outside of the family dictum of ‘if you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late.’ Still, given the distance, how was I to know how long it would take?

The place, while easy to find, is a little bit more of a hole in the wall than I’d hoped. That’s probably on me, since I suggested it, but this is what comes from not being familiar with the area. At least I said as much to Alexa, so I’ll be able to use that as an excuse. So now I’m left sitting here with my thoughts about the whole situation, and how I feel about it – and whether I’m right to feel as I do.

If you (and I mean you specifically, rather than anyone who reads this) were to ask me, I would say that dating is for younger people than ourselves. Sure, we’re recommended that, as a married couple, we do things together that each of us enjoy (hopefully, both of us do, but sometimes, each of us has to do something we don’t simply because the other one does. It’s all part of the process of cultivating and maintaining love in a relationship, especially one that you have promised to make last ‘until death do you (plural) part,’ however archaically phrased that line is), and call it a date night, and I agree, that’s a necessary thing even in a marriage. But it doesn’t feel the same.

When we were dating in college (and now I speak somewhat generically, as ‘we’ never dated each other in college; we hung out together, sure, but that was the extent of it), it had a different purpose than these recommended ‘date nights’ between married couples. We – the male and the female involved in this particular outing referred to as a ‘date’ – were as much sounding out each other as trying to participate in a (hopefully) mutually enjoyable activity. We didn’t know each other that well, and were trying to remedy that in hopes of determining if the two of us could possibly enjoy each other’s company enough to move on to more of the same, and ultimately a lifetime of the same (as well as the more and less pleasant activities attendant upon this upgraded relationship). Whereas husband and wife are out to enjoy themselves and each other – with, ideally, little else in the way of ulterior motives – boy and girl are theoretically quite well aware of the undercurrent of motivation beneath the surface of any activity, no matter how anodyne. It’s part of the reason for the nervousness, the sweaty hands, the awkward pauses in conversation – and the heightened awareness of each of these; because the one who wants more out of this relationship fears that any of those hiccups could derail their dream of this growing from ‘today’ to ‘forever.’

But I have to ask myself: how badly do I want this to grow?

At the moment, I’m not expecting more than a decent meal (although I have to go light on everything, as the girls are coming over tonight for dinner) and maybe some interesting conversation. I don’t see how this could develop further, since I really don’t know much about this girl, and what I do suggests we don’t belong together. She’s much younger than me – which adds to my curiosity as to why she reached out to me – and while she’s much more sparing on the terms of affection than most of the gold-diggers online, I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s another motive besides looking for a husband.

I kind of hope I’m just being paranoid.

At any rate, if things go south, I can’t say I’ll be any more upset than in any other situation. It’s an adventure, at any rate – although you know my opinion of adventures.

One last thing about the concept of ‘dating’ before she arrives; I’ve never tried to give myself a pep talk in the mirror before, and while I did find myself staring at my reflection for a moment before catching myself, I’m not about to start. I know that the idea is to put your best foot forward within counters like this, but I’m not so sure that’s the best plan of action. Doesn’t that contradict the other instruction the parents would give their kids when they would go out on dates: “be yourself”? Oh, don’t be the worst version of yourself that you can be, but if you’re on your absolute best behavior, you’ll have to maintain that façade for an indefinite period of time. That’s an exhausting proposition, and if she can’t take who you are in a normal situation, then the two of you really are supposed to be together in the first place, now, are you? Best to be reasonably well-behaved, but as close to your real self as you think you can get away with, and if it fails, it fails.

It’s remarkably liberating, being in a position where you don’t have everything at stake.

Freedom is just another word for nothin’ left to lose

Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee”

***

I’m pulling into the driveway by four o’clock, and that little part of me that looks like Erin isn’t saying anything, but she’s just giving me that look. I’d say you know what it is, but you rarely ever gave it to me. It’s the one where she’s been vindicated, but she’s keeping to some sort of self-imposed moral code that she’s not going to say anything about it. It’s not quite smug, and it’s not like schadenfreude; there’s too much sadness in her eyes to be either. It’s not even anger from being ignored; I wonder if she didn’t harbor just a few atoms of hope as well.

Now, it isn’t so much that I was stood up, exactly, but that, when I asked her where she was, she claimed to have run out of gas on the way to the restaurant, and could I send her some money to take care of things? I countered by asking where she was – from what I can tell, North Chicago isn’t very big, unless you count the areas occupied by the naval training centers – but she refused to tell me. She even got offended about my request; “Don’t you trust me?” Hey, I was offering to get a can and fill it with gas so she could join me; assuming she really was on her way, and really having this kind of car trouble, she shouldn’t be too upset to see me sooner, even if it was in these somewhat embarrassing circumstances. Besides, it’s not like I have any of those cash transfer apps on my phone, nor do I know how to use any of them. We went back and forth on this for nearly an hour, before she claimed she was at 1% battery and couldn’t communicate any more, but she had enough juice to tell me, “Guess I’m screwed.”

Only she didn’t say ‘screwed.’

Of course, the obvious point here is that she most likely was never where she claimed to be, nor was she in the situation she said she was. It was all just another con job. And, to be fair, I was actually out the three hours between the drive up and back and the time spent waiting. But I have the conversation (technically, I haven’t blocked her yet; I still need to save the discussion), and that’s a story in and of itself. To be honest, it’s pretty much what I expected to have happen, but I had a little bit of hope it might have been better.

But, of course, it wasn’t.

Anyway, it may be a dead meme by now (especially since it’s old enough for you to remember it), but it’s certainly fitting for today…

…this is so sad. Alexa, play Despacito.

Well, at least I’m home in plenty of time for dinner tonight. Keep an eye on us, honey, and wish us luck. Still probably gonna need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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