Long ago, Lynnette and I selected May 8th as the official/unofficial start of our relationship. Since I like the number 8, it made it incredibly easy for me to remember when we had hit a monthaversary, you know, when we were young and still doing things like that. It also means that today makes ten years since she and I have officially/unofficially been together. Time flies when you’re having fun or locked in an inescapable blood feud. Either way, I guess. I know I’ve said all of these things before. I’ll probably say them again in the future. Indulge me.
Most of the pictures I’ve rolled out on the left are of Lynnette and I prior to 2008. Obviously, there are fewer pictures of just Lynnette and I after 2008 since we mostly started taking pictures of and with someone else. Madison’s become the center of my universe, a mouthy little sun I revolve around, and I suppose that’s natural. It always makes me smile, though to remember that time when Lynnette was the heart of my galaxy. I’ve never been a big believer in destiny (my pessimistic views of the Mets and Cowboys don’t count – those are metaphysical certainties), but whenever I piece together how Lynnette and I became us, it’s difficult for me to not somehow acknowledge at least the possibility of pre-destination.
Lynnette and I met in the summer of 2000 when we were both leaders at the Pearl City District Park Summer Fun Program. Lynnette recalls me wearing pajama pants to our first leader meeting, and while I vaguely remember doing something like that, it absolutely sounds like something the 20-year old version of me would do. We have since confessed that while we were both involved in separate relationships at the time, there was a mutual attraction. She still never believes me when I tell her I used to throw the dodge ball past her on purpose simply so I could experience the sheer glee of ogling her legs as she ran, then leaned over to pick the ball up. I don’t know why she can’t accept this when anyone reading this who knows me at all is thinking “that absolutely sounds like something Phil would do.”
In truth, our story goes back to the spring of 1996 when Lynnette chose Creighton University over Loyola Marymount University. Had she attended LMU, I am fairly certain one of two things would have happened:
A) She would have met the 18-year old version of me. Suffice it to say there’s no way we get together. I’ll do myself the nicety of saying I was “incomplete” then.
B) She would have somehow found that guy interesting – perhaps with a little help from Jose or Jimmy or Jack or what have you – and we would have gotten together only to end in a fiery train wreck before, during, or after her graduation.
If either of those two scenarios played out, there’s about a .0000000005% chance we end up together for the long haul.
The thing that really gets me, though, is how we reconnected in 2002. We were never very close during our time together at PCDP. I always had the feeling that my antics were beneath her somehow. She seemed confident and sophisticated, two adjectives I would never apply to myself. In the two years between, our interactions had been limited to chance meetings at things called Birthday Bash and Oceans.
Anyway, I called her one night and I can’t even remember why. I thought that she was on Oahu. She wasn’t. She was in Omaha. She answered in a whisper. It was 3:30 in the morning or something. Snow was falling. I think I threw a “my bad” in there somewhere. It seemed like the right thing to do. But for whatever reason, she didn’t curse me out. She actually talked to me. I can’t even remember about what anymore.
When I returned home from LMU, most of my friends (and girlfriend) were still in LA, and Lynnette was similarly lonesome. I called her one night (I was sure she was on the same landmass this time) and asked if she thought she might enjoy hanging out while I graded things. I made this face with my eyes rolled into my skull and my tongue hanging out which was indicative of the “Uhhhhh… I’m good,” that I thought was coming. Instead, she agreed to meet me at Pearl City Zippy’s. So I graded quizzes on The Odyssey and she studied her thick nursing books. I remember one night she was puzzled by something called “trophic feedings.” She read what the book said, and I replied. “That sounds like a snack. It’s a baby’s snack.” “It’s not a snack,” she said. “Babies don’t have snacks.” She dismissed me just like that. I would go home later and look up the term in a dictionary. I called her phone and left a message with my findings. I was right and she blew me off. This was the first, but certainly not the last time this exact sequence would play itself out between us.
We got together to study more, but studied less. Since we were both involved elsewhere, the thought of the two of us getting together never really entered my mind. Except on those nights she wore shorts that highlighted her legs. I will go to my grave believing she did that on purpose. It’s fricken Arctic in Zippy’s. But I digress. Since I didn’t believe I had a shot, I did a lot of Phil Things, like drop innuendo every other sentence and let her borrow my three-hole puncher with a label that read “Pound Me, Baby” on it. I also didn’t do a lot of other Phil Things, like obsess over things I wrote or said to her, or worry about if what I just said sounded as cool as it did in my head (it never, ever does. I have no game. Never did.) Most of all, though I didn’t do the quintessential Phil Thing, which is to take apart everything Lynnette said and look for additional meaning where there probably wasn’t any (BUT MAYBE THERE WAS AND I LIKE TO BE THOROUGH).
I found Lynnette to be as intelligent as she was beautiful. That’s saying something, a lot. The more I learned about her, the more I wanted to learn. It was the best kind of conversational stuff you’ve ever been a part of; it was the kind of stuff where you’re hyper-aware of how long it’s been going on and how it will likely soon end, and GOD, please don’t let it end. And it certainly looked like it was going to.
Perhaps it was brash and distasteful of me to tell her that I had fallen in love with her considering the circumstances. It was certainly selfish; I just wanted her to know how I felt. I knew how it would likely end, and that would be that, and I’d have another woman I couldn’t have to add to my long and pathetic list of unrequited lovers. I was completely prepared for the letdown and/or rejection. But then she said she felt the same way about me.
I think a lot of relationships are grounded in dishonesty. It isn’t the malicious type, necessarily, but the kind of dishonesty that exists when friends or lovers aren’t clear about their intentions. The reason so many of these relationships sour is that the inevitable revelations of these previously secret intentions/feelings shift the dynamics and expectations within. Lynnette and I basically left things that weren’t working for us in the hope that we would. We didn’t have great expectations because of what we had respectively left behind. For me it was time and distance. For Lynnette? Better she tell you. What I can say is that for me, being with Lynnette was being with an adult for the first time. She had a way about her, that confidence I talked about. She spoke of just spending our time together, not getting ahead of ourselves, not letting things escalate too quickly. “Sure, sure,” I said, or something equally as stupid. But she was right. Because from that, all of this. It wasn’t easy, but life – love – isn’t a neat 90 minute romantic comedy, is it?
I don’t think I ever thanked you for guiding our relationship so well during those early years. Back then, I didn’t understand myself as well as I do now. I realize I wanted to think and dream about everything, but to that point, had done nothing. I remember that you would express mild shock whenever you would ask me something and I’d reply that I had never done that or been there or seen this. I think, ten years later, the single biggest impact you’ve had on my life is literally and figuratively taking me places I’d never been and showing me things I’d never seen because I’d simply been too lazy or ignorant of how.
While I am sure you know I wistfully daydream of those days when you couldn’t keep your hands off me, I don’t fear change the way I used to. That’s primarily because of you. You pulled me out of the small box I was living in and helped me check more things off my “to do” list than anyone else. What I said to you so many years ago is true: for the first 22 years of my life, I was always able to picture the alternative to my life at the time. It wasn’t until you that I wasn’t able to imagine what else I’d be doing without you. And I have a pretty damn vivid imagination, so that’s got to count for something.
Thanks for giving me your best ten years and I’ll gladly take the rest.