i wasn’t sure as to how kate would respond to the idea of getting together again.
i wasn’t sure as to how her response, excited indifferent aloof relieved as it might be, would interact with my own emotional stomping ground.
was i crossing a line?
was the timing right?
would her reaction over- or under-whelm?
was i doing what i’d sort of promised not to?
in the end, after a few texts to pierce the void, we caught one another over the phone and had a brief and fun conversation, mostly laughing and in the interest of making some dinner plans. it didn’t seem like months had passed without a word. the jolt of running into a past life on the sidewalk was present, but muted.
a week or so later, as chicago flashed its devilish grin to reveal its approaching winter plans, i picked her up from a business school class mid-week, and we shot across river north to one of her favorite haunts, le colonial, to post up at the second floor bar for some drinks and food.
we settled into the far end of the bar, the conversation bouncing around between humorous stories, new developments, nuanced personal changes, and ‘so what the hell have you been up to?‘s.
she’d ordered her dirty martini, i had a high-end scotch.
she looked gorgeous, as i’d expected, although after a long day at work and a few hours of class, i’m sure she didn’t feel it.
her laugh still made the earth vibrate.
and in contrast to the past, when shredded strings still held our hearts in a holding pattern, this night carried with it no clouds. our cards had been pulled off the table, and the distance had created new air to breath.
there wasn’t a third stool at the bar for Pain in his black trench coat and subtle sign language.
we were fun, and the conversational waterfall just couldn’t quit. it took forever just to pick out appetizers; with every update i think our mutual adoration and pride for one another took center stage.
she was doing great, and doing great things. she’d been in mexico volunteering, working hard towards her MBA, and taking huge responsibilities at work. she was changing the things she didn’t love about her life, and she was still goddamn hilarious.
she asked me how i’d felt about us…the way i looked at where we were and where we’d been.
i’d always told her i thought an end for us was necessary, if we ever stood a chance at a future. our future existed in a new life, together or not.
our old life only held a future apart.
i told her i still believed that, and i told her i thought we’d done the right thing.
and she said, “d, i have to tell you something.”
which was the moment i knew she was seeing someone.
in a moment i knew that, and i knew she was afraid to tell me.
i quickly felt her pain at my possible pain, and i stumbled to digest a reality i’d certainly contemplated, but entirely couldn’t find terms for.
was i upset? …i wasn’t.
was i surprised? …i think i was.
what i was, was off-guard, winded, and uncomfortable.
it only lasted a few minutes, with my stomach knotted and my awkward response (“oh WOW,” i believe) betrayed my effort to immediately convey that i was okay, and it was okay, and i was indeed really, really happy for her.
“just give me a minute to take it in. that’s really great, babe…it’s just hard to digest right in front of you.”
and then it settled. and i told her i was genuinely happy (truthfully), and i asked a few very basic questions about their meeting (at school) and her happiness (she was happy) and i asked her to be stingy with the details.
she understood, and the air felt cleared and we continued to catch up.
a poignant moment…in some ways a momentus moment…had passed.
and we found our footing on the other end.
later, i dropped her off at home after a long and heartfelt hug.
learning that kate was, well, where she was, was what i had come for. why i had reached out. it was maybe not what i’d expected, but it was a big piece of the unknown i had been missing.
when i looked back, and had time to digest our dinner and more specifically the idea that the girl i’d given a huge piece of my heart to was now exploring her life with someone else, i found i could handle it. i found that while i did romanticize our connection as something that would never end, i’d been wrong to think that our connection was predicated on the absence of other people coming into our lives.
a boyfriend in her life didn’t mean i couldn’t care about her.
and what it meant was that she was okay. i hadn’t realized how much i needed to know that.
my fear of her experience on the other side of our distance was that she wasn’t happy. i was worrying about her, and i didn’t need to be. whether this new guy was taking care of her or not, what i now knew was that she was taking care of herself.
and that settled a piece of my soul.
that night pushed me out into the next day with a renewed comfort with the way things had become, and a warmth about kate’s emotional place and wonderful future.
i started writing about her almost immediately.
i began exploring us with an eye towards the things i’ve gained from our experience.
and i was peaceful.
we survived our failed relationship, and i think we came out the other end with the good stuff. we changed each other in wonderful ways, and we moved one another tangibly closer to our chances at a lifelong happiness.
we shared a cab home, and as she handed me a blanket and a pillow for the couch, and we laughed and talked and laughed some more, i turned to her and said, “can i just sleep in your bed with you? i don’t want to stop hanging out.”
looking back, she couldn’t believe she said yes.
looking back, i think she just didn’t know what to say.
and at the time, my request was entirely platonic. it was about staying up late and relating to someone i immediately trusted and wanted to connect with.
but it also marked the beginning of the most rewarding, genuine, loving relationship i’ve ever experienced…and one that lasted for years.
one that for a while i thought would never end.
it was a relationship that did end,
in order to give it a future.
catch up on kate and i here, here, and here (and here).