With three weddings to attend in the coming months and a recent break-up causing heartache, it is hard not to think about the future of my love life. Oddly enough, it was my past love life that unexpectedly caught my attention. While on an Amtrak train to my hometown for Mother’s Day, I ran into someone (THE someone) I dated in high school. Before my best guy friend (The Californian), before my college sweetheart (The Health Nut), before my 6-month lust (The Film Major), before my NYC love (The Lawyer), there was The Musician. He was the first one with whom I fell into a state of complete and total infatuation…an infatuation that lasted a year until he even noticed me. So what happens when your first somehow returns to your life (almost a decade later)? Is it fate? And let me throw a little wrench into the equation: what if you are newly single but your old flame is six years into his own marriage? Is it still fate?
In high school, I prayed that I’d be cast in Fall plays and Spring musicals just to be near him. I joined the Cross Country team because he was on it (and I was a terrible runner; I came in last place at every meet…for four years). Some may call this behavior pathetic; I like to call it a passionate pursuit. (Besides The Lawyer, The Musician was the only other guy for whom I’ve attempted a new sport; I reserve the passionate pursuit for a very precious few). The Musician and I became husband and wife onstage (the prayers were answered) before we ever even officially dated. But we got to know each other. We dated. We went to Prom together. We broke up. I got over him and attempted a failed romance with The Californian. I forgot about The Musician from time to time and ended up in a long-term relationship with The Health Nut, followed by a not-so-long relationship with The Film Major and finally an incredible but heartbreaking relationship with The Lawyer.
Mid-relationship with The Health Nut, a friend told me about The Musician’s engagement. I cried that day and even told The Health Nut that I was upset. My first someone would become someone else’s last. And that’s emotional. It wasn’t that I didn’t wish happiness for him because I truly did. He is a great guy, a total catch, of COURSE someone scooped him up. My good cry was due to the fact that any potential future with him was lost. I didn’t even think I wanted a future with him but to have the door closed was a shock to the heart. Seven years passed and in that time, he crossed my mind less and less.
We both weren’t supposed to be on that Amtrak train. I wasn’t even supposed to be in his train car. I decided last-minute to make the trip home; he almost missed the train because of NYC traffic. Here is the kicker: he lives on the other side of the country but was in NYC for a conference. As it turned out, my good friend was on the same train so I left my train car, post-ticket collection, to find her and entered into his train car, mid-ticket collection, when he happened to look up from his book and saw me. (The conductor was both confused and annoyed with me…and not at all amused when I excitedly explained that I’d be changing seats because I ran into an old flame.) Fate, right?
The Musician was the one to first mention the fate thing and thank goodness because I was dying to blurt out “this MUST mean something!” It was all very Lifetime Original Movie, especially when he disclosed that he is separated with divorce on the horizon. It was the last thing I expected him to say. The Tom Waits lyrics to “Martha” started to run through my head (‘Cause it’s been forty years or more / Now Martha please recall / Meet me out for coffee / Where we’ll talk about it all) and then OMD’s “If You Leave” (I need you now like I needed you then / You always said we’d meet again someday) and then Van Halen’s “Love Walks In” (And then you sense a change / Nothin’ feels the same / Love comes walkin’ in).” As my mental musical selection started to spiral downward, I realized that my mind was making a very clear point: my previously established lost potential had the possibility of restoration.
We talked the entire way home, stumbling occasionally on our respective relationships, delving into the how’s and why’s. How did The Lawyer and I break-up? He wasn’t as sure about me as I deserved. Why isn’t The Musician’s marriage working? She isn’t as sure about him as he deserves. (We’d make such a great couple, huh? Two rejects in love). As the train bypassed the Lancaster stop, it occurred to me that I didn’t know the person sitting next to me, despite the fact that we had a past (and clearly, present situations, on different levels) in common. However, there was this strange comfort in sitting next to him, comfort in the ebb and flow of our conversation.
We are two completely different people, inside and out. (It didn’t matter that I knew he had an amazing singing voice or that he knew I was a terrible runner because things changed—music doesn’t rule his life anymore and I’m actually quite a good runner). We changed over the course of almost 10 years. It was as if we were meeting for the first time but without the uneasiness that goes hand-in-hand with something new. When we pulled into the station, my mom saw us walking together. She said, “Wow, you really grew up!” He really did. I really grew up, too.
Will we eventually get together or rather, get together again? I don’t know. I went a few rounds with The Lawyer, which was met with little victories each time but we didn’t work hard enough to get on the same page. The Musician situation seems to be a whole different breed of the second-round syndrome. Perhaps something worth another shot? We may move on and forget about those past loves but is there always potential spilling about for the taking? In another decade or so, will I randomly run into The Lawyer? I hope so. And it would be great to see if The Lawyer’s and my future potential could supersede our past potential. Will I meet The New One at Wedding No. 3 this summer, someone who isn’t from my past? I hope for this, too.
My heart is still very sore. I think about and miss The Lawyer more than I care to admit. Getting over heartache is like relieving muscle soreness (the heart is a muscular organ, after all) even though the next few runs are painful and awkward, the soreness eventually works its way out of our system and we are almost as good as new. We get our stride back. Our muscles are actually stronger, less prone to future soreness, even though the minor tears may always remain. The lack of soreness is a testament to just how far we have come. I learned this running Cross Country, a team I joined in my passionate pursuit of a boy, who is now a man, who is now back in my life after all this time. Potential is all around, whirling throughout time and swirling in between soreness. Potential is a lovely thing. So is a little bit of fate.