Every so often, I get a nudge.
A reminder that says, “Hey, keep that ego of yours in check.”
Some would dismiss it as happenstance; some would call it the hand of God.
I’m not sure what to think.
But I notice.
* * *
It is New Year’s Eve, with the old year breathing its dying gasp and the new one crowning like a baby’s head. I am in a small, sparsely attended dive bar with my friend Troy. We are here because Troy is a good person.
I will soon betray him.
Weeks earlier—five days before my birthday, in fact—the woman I thought I’d grow old with said she was moving on from me.
Actually, she, Judy, made the decision to end things long before informing me. She just needed to figure out a few things first, such as: “Will the guy I cheated on nathan with be my boyfriend now?”
(You don’t let go of one vine until the next is in your hand, right?)
I haven’t talked to her since the day after my dumping, when I dropped off a box of mementos. A locket of hair she had given me, a postcard featuring Man o’ War she sent while traveling, movie tickets from our first date…
(My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have longed to redeliver. I pray you now receive them.)
Judy and I met at a restaurant we worked at.
That means most of our friends are co-workers. On this New Year’s Eve, Judy is hosting a party with her new boyfriend. Everyone is at the party except for Troy; he is kind enough to hang with me, the uninvited.
We are having the discussions people have when one is in the throes of depression and the other is a comforting soul; me saying, “I don’t understand the treachery” and Troy assuring, “I don’t get it. You’re much better than the new guy.”
Our silence hangs in the air a moment, a question mark suspended atop it wondering who will pierce the taciturn atmosphere, when Train In Vain starts playing on the jukebox.
The question mark disappears, and an unspoken understanding takes place between us; neither will interrupt the song. Me because I’m reveling in the pain and free-form association, Troy because he is (most likely) tired of my blathering.
The song finishes. Troy and I have not said a word for three minutes and nine seconds. As the infamous Clash song fades into the next arrangement, Troy intones, “Wow. That was like… perfect.”
As I am unable to make sense of my life, I stand and walk out into the night. I have not grabbed my coat, because I don’t need it.
Standing in the cold—records say it was five degrees—I feel nothing. I strip off my shirt and absorb the winter air into my skin. Troy looks on in worry, wondering what this idiot friend of his is up to, but I just stand. Breathing in, breathing out.
I take my leave of Troy. I need to be alone.
He tries to get me to put my shirt or jacket on, but I decline. I’ll carry them home. I’m trying to feel physically numb, so it distracts me from the emotions overpowering me.
Troy goes to Judy’s party.
I’m fine with that; he’s sacrificed enough of his holiday for me.
And that is that.
I spend the next two years of my life seeing a therapist.
* * *
It is fifteen years later, and I am driving through my old neighborhood.
I’d moved away over a decade ago, and haven’t been back since. But, work beckoned, giving me a quick three-day payday in my old stomping grounds. Thus, I have a lunch date with a good friend. There’s a Thai restaurant from my college days I love, one with a dish I’ve been unable to find anywhere else. That the restaurant remained in business until my return, with that item still front and center, should tell you how special it is.
As I near my old apartment, a wry smile of nostalgia crosses my face. I pull up to a stop sign and glance my left, right, and left again when my memory kicks in.
I haven’t thought of it in years, but there it is.
Memories of that New Year’s Eve spark in me, and as they do Train In Vain comes on the radio.
My arm hair raises.
I am neither upset nor alarmed, more… “Keanu Reeves.”
My smile widens, as grateful eclipses wry. Though the moment has taken me by surprise, I have already been down this emotional path. It was an incredibly dark period of my life, one of deep pain. When you give your heart and soul to someone and they tell you those items hold no value, it attacks your self worth.
I became a very bitter person, but eventually worked through it all and now look back on it as one of the best things to ever happen to me. Had I not been dumped, I wouldn’t have eventually met the woman I married, and I wouldn’t have the two children I love more than life itself. Had I not learned the pain of emotional infidelity, I might not be the loyal mate I am today.
Not long after that New Year’s Eve I cut ties with anyone “stuck in the middle” between Judy and me.
I didn’t want to force an ultimatum on anyone, but couldn’t be around them; I couldn’t be reminded of her constantly if I was to ever heal.
Troy was a good friend, but I couldn’t know that on Monday he was hanging out with me, and on Tuesday, Judy. Maybe saying I betrayed him is too harsh, but I know he was surprised and possibly angered by my action.
Though I hold no regrets, now that everything is so far in the rear view I almost wonder what it would be like to talk to Troy, or any of the other friends I shared with Judy back then.
Some might call that precise song playing at that precise moment the hand of God. Others would call it random.
Of all the radio stations I could have had on and all the songs that could have been played…
(“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”)
As I relived a memory that hadn’t fired across my synapses in years, having thoughts of appreciation for all I went through, all the pain and all the healing, all I could think was:
D: It is written.
I just don’t know who the author is.
Do you enjoy my stylistic scribbles? Please, go pick up a book…