JOY part 31

Ann pulls the car over to a little area facing the lake. She turns the engine off and begins talking. She apologizes for sending me mixed signals. A first for a woman, right there. Most seem to think it’s their right, if not their obligation. Secondly, she launches into this very personal, very serious story about her life since Richie.

It was two years ago that he died and she’s still dealing with it and what it means to her. She hasn’t really dated anyone since then. And spends most of her time alone, by choice. When Richie died, she had to deal with the death of someone she had very mixed feelings for. He was the love of her life. But, it also turns out, he was an alcoholic. Along with that. Finding her life changed so dramatically by his death raised a whole host of other issues for her.

What it came down to was that Ann didn’t have a clue what she wanted, anymore. She had thought that when she got married she would have the perfect husband, the nice suburban house, the close family ties, and, in the not too distant future, kids. In short, she would live the way she had always thought she would. But then Richie died. And it was all on the table again.

All the choices that were once automatic were now being seriously questioned. She might still want all of that and just have to rebuild what she had lost. Or, she might want something totally new. Or, she might want some combination of all of it. She didn’t know. And she knew she didn’t know. All of which was really incredible to hear. All of which made me admire her and like her even more for knowing herself that well. And being willing to ask all those painful questions of herself. All of which made me wonder what the hell any of this really had to do with me?

So, I asked. I figured if things had gone this far, why not? It probably pointed out how frighteningly self-centered I was but I figured she already knew that. Anyway, her answer was pretty fascinating. She definitely liked me. She even said she was attracted to me (GO ME!). But, it was more complicated than that because she was having trouble separating me the person from me the lifestyle and life choices I had made. Choices which she had never explored for herself. She also said way too perceptively, I might add, that she knew what I meant to her.

Ann explained me to myself (much as I’ve asked you to do many times, in vane). At least this part of me. Ann knew she was a name on some imaginary list that I had created. For a moment, I got really nervous that she knew more specifically about my actual list, what was on it, and most of all, why I had felt compelled to create it in the first place. But that wasn’t what she meant.

What she meant was that she knew that she was on a list of mine as someone to revisit and conquer. She knew damn well how much I had liked her and wanted her throughout high school. And how it probably killed me to never have had the opportunity to act on it. And after years away, and years feeling better about myself and about my life’s accomplishments, she guessed that she remained an unfinished task in my mind staring me in the face. A reminder of failure. Furthermore, if I could have a chance with her, a real chance, and succeed, I would have proven to myself that all those terrible insecurities I had in high school were now and forever vanquished. By the way, that first advanced degree Ann had before becoming a Medical Researcher…psychiatry. Who would have guessed?

Which led to the most uncomfortable part of her laying me bare, so to speak. Since I hadn’t denied anything she had said so far, she felt compelled to sum up the crux of the problem she faced in dealing with me. Not only didn’t she know what she wanted out of life, how she felt about me, or what she wanted from me (like that wasn’t enough to mess things up). She also knew that I didn’t really know what I wanted from her. Well, other than that part about us being naked in a hotel room together.

Specifically, she was guessing that I had started going after her as just to prove something to myself but found myself actually liking her as a real person and still hadn’t determined the difference between the two sets of emotions. I thought about asking how she knew all that, but it seemed useless to deny it. She was right. Which was really kind of scary. But which was also kind of good because it helped me know that my end of things wasn’t nearly as murky as before. I knew.

I didn’t before but I did right then. At that moment. I knew flat out that I really liked Ann, the person, a whole hell-of-a-lot, regardless of the rest of it. Somewhere during this whole conversation I just knew. And told her so. I even said, and God help me, meant it, that as much as I still looked really forward to getting her naked, I would still be really grateful for just getting to spend time with her. To which, I of course, secretly hoped she would respond by sleeping with me (I am a guy, God Damn it!). But no that’s not exactly what happened. I got the following reaction, instead.

She told me I had better mean it. I had really better mean it. Because she had decided that we were going to drive to Chicago. And we were probably NOT going to sleep together. Or, for that matter, do anything else physical together. And that I better be OK with that or we should just go back to Madison, right now. What was I supposed to say to that? Tell me, what? So, we went to Chicago. But I was driving. I still had some self-respect left.


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