1. I had a dream last night which prominently featured an ex-girlfriend. Though she is married and has a child, my dream centered on attending her wedding (in a tuxedo, no less) to someone who I vaguely felt was Mace Windu, but somehow not Samuel L. Jackson. She wore a white, shoulder-less dress which featured an impossibly long train. I remember feeling jealous and confused – but not about my emotions – about the fact that I thought she was already married and not to this guy.
2. A few weeks ago while we were humming along H2, a Taylor Swift song came on and I casually mentioned the internet meme about how Swift should write a song called “Maybe I’m the Problem,” or something to that effect. I went on to call her the female answer to John Mayer (coincidentally, “something happened” between the two), plowing through male pop stars at an admirable rate. Lynnette then uttered something I think only a woman could have come up with. It also stopped me dead in my tracks and sent me off on one of my famed mental tangents. “I think she just likes falling in love,” Lynnette said.
When I look at an old picture of myself with an ex-girlfriend, I don’t really feel any emotions. If anything, there is sadness and regret in regards to how much a person can let one’s self go. But that’s about it. If I have the time and summon the will, I can recall memories and resurrect those emotions I felt, but I cannot feel them. I can only remember them. I think that’s why I felt jealous last night during my dream. I think it was an automatic response to dealing with something which had been mine, simply not being mine anymore. If that sounds selfish, of course it is. But I can only explain the world through my own experiences, and once upon a time, she was mine. It was emotional shorthand. How else was the dream-me supposed to feel in that situation? The key, though, was in the fact that I was more confused about the details of the dream. I knew they weren’t right. So why would my brain allow the jealousy, but not Mace Windu?
I think the answer is that the jealousy – even if misplaced – was more appropriate than an ex-girlfriend of mine marrying a Jedi Master. First of all, Jedi can’t get married. Secondly, she didn’t even like Star Wars. What I mean is: any girl I’ve been in love with has joined me along the same narrative trajectory: we met, got together, fell in love, and eventually fell apart. They all meant something to me at the time, and still mean something to me now. Those meanings, though, aren’t the same.
Obviously, the exception to the rule is Lynnette. We met, eventually got together, and somehow fell in love. And for a time it looked bleak, but we didn’t hit that last point on the plot diagram. Lynnette Pascua is the last woman I fell in love with. Barring a disaster that I don’t particularly care to think about, she will likely hold that title forever.
I remember falling in love. It was awesome. It was a kind of excitement and energy that I can’t replicate exactly in my current life. This is not a bad thing, but it might be kind of a sad thing. I have been with Lynnette long enough to say things like “That’s the first hip of another woman I’ve seen in _______________________ years,” on those rare occasions when I am within ten feet of a go-go dancer. Twenty feet if I have the glasses on.
I love Lynnette. She and I are now entrenched in the stage of love that they don’t show you in movies, primarily because movies are only two hours long. I still think she’s sexy. I still think she’s funny. She’s slightly less sophisticated, but that’s probably the result of spending so much time with me. We finish each other’s sentences. We know what the other is going to say before they say it and understand why. It’s boring sometimes, but only because reliability can never be thrilling.
Case in point: Yesterday Lynnette came home and couldn’t wait to tell me that Madison’s teacher had called and expressed interest in giving Madison additional, accelerated work because she was slightly ahead of the majority of her classmates. I want to be clear, I do not mean this to brag. In Kindergarten, “slightly ahead” might simply mean “can hold a pencil and draw straight-ish lines.” I don’t know. Lynnette doesn’t know either, but it didn’t matter. I saw the glow in her face. “Other than all of the things you wanted (house, child, dog, Highlander, tickets to New Kids on the Block concert), this is all you ever wanted, isn’t it?” I said. She smiled and nodded.
It was my turn to help Madison with her homework. Honestly, I hate it. I hate teaching all day, then having to sit there and do it again, but at an even slower pace.
But then Madison does things like casually say “Oh, I saw this on the Promethean Board.” Or she wrinkles her nose when she writes a letter too small or too big or too far or too close. Or she refuses to color her hair with the black marker, insisting her hair is brown. Yesterday, she told me that she did a lot of crafts in A-Plus, but could only specifically remember going to the bathroom and having a snack.
Somehow, doing mundane things with Madison reminds me how much I love that kid. It’s not the same as romantic, hormonal, young love, but perhaps it is more satisfying. The kind of emotional torque necessary to keep one’s head spinning is readily available in the early stages of love, but is ultimately unsustainable.
When I called my jealousy “emotional shorthand” earlier, I think I was trying to explain the idea that I had to feel something. My ex-girlfriend couldn’t – even in a dream – mean nothing. She was a part of my life. She counts, but she is not relevant.
Lynnette and I are probably too old, too out of shape, and too lazy to learn new tricks. Besides, as far as I am concerned, the old ones work just fine, thank you. But Madison? She’s learning new tricks every day. Every time she does, every time she masters something to the point where she feels confident enough to show it off, I get that feeling in my stomach. The same kind I used to get thinking about a girl whose name I would go on to write all over my property. The difference is that I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel this way forever.