05 September 2007

A Month of Somedays

Summer is ending. And it’s not just the warm weather (or endless-seeming heat wave) and long days that are fading away; so many other things have come to an end. Good, bad, indifferent or appropriate, loose ends have been tied, questions answered and natural resolutions occurred. Spring shot it all into action, bringing my past into my present. By summer, my future had come into clearer view.

I don’t believe you can go back. Though, sometimes, you find yourself doing just that. I was brought back in touch with Masters when I went to Manhattan. He was still in the city working. Having received his graduate degree, he’s now teaching at his alma mater, warping young adult minds, writing freelance and working on his novels. Six years ago, Masters and I had an ill-fated, long distance, telephonic callationship. Suffice it to say, two, broke, struggling writers who cannot come up with the funds for consistent cross-country travel should not bother being involved. It seems romantic in theory, but the reality is harsh if neither one can afford the airfare. Phone calls and emails can only take you so far. We did the push-pull of wanting more but not being able to have it. Sweet conversations turned into terse talks because neither one of us was getting what we needed. Finally, I cut the phone cord. Even though the feelings lingered, I kept them at a twenty-eight-hundred-mile distance. After all, what was the point? He was there, I was here, and the space between wasn’t getting us any closer to something real.

We had stayed in touch off and on over the years, though not always on the best of terms. I refused to flirt and found his late night calls more annoying than charming. Do you like the phone ringing at 2:30 AM? On a weeknight? And I mean my time, not his. The guy should have a breathalyzer attached to his phone. Still, I thought it would be nice to see him while I was there. Surely enough time had gone by for us to move beyond what was and move forward to something new. Like an actual, grown-up friendship. We made tentative plans to see each other, understanding that my schedule was unpredictable and his was pretty booked. We stole some time on a Sunday night and met for wine at a Spanish bar.

I had no intention of reopening the door to our past. We would be friends, and that’s it. I even donned my most “I’m so not sleeping with you” ensemble: Plain, white, button-down oxford and jeans; hair not redone; makeup suitably subtle. The conversation was kept safe. Respectable physical distance maintained. My plan was going along famously, surviving even an Irish pub crawl, until he insisted on helping me get a cab. I asserted that I was more than capable of hailing my own taxi, but he wanted to play the gentleman. He failed at that when he pulled me into a kiss before I got into the yellow sedan.

Damn. We still had it.

I rode back to my apartment with furrowed brow. Perhaps it was nothing more than the Guinness mixed with fond memories and jetlag. Still, I had a feeling that I was being haunted by history. You have to understand, I had just taken a job that I had ten years earlier, gone to my twenty-year high school reunion two weeks before, and now had made out with a beau from half-a-decade ago. There was a hell of a lot of karma closing in. It was enough to make your head spin. Mine surely was. Like the candy floss I had for dessert the next night.

Masters wanted to see me again, and I couldn’t find a reasonable excuse not to. So we grabbed time again on Tuesday and the Friday before I left. In true “us” form, we did the push-pull thing back and forth during the week and ended up having a huge fight on Friday night. And when I say huge, I mean apocalyptic. I really let him have it. It had been a long week and a hard day. Mix physical and emotional exhaustion with some truly stupid moves on his part, and you get a rather unpleasant public display of agitation. But, if you are going to explode, there’s no better place to do it than in the back of a cab in New York City. I got into another taxi and went home.

Two weeks went by before we spoke again. Feeling terrible over my end of the fight, I offered an apology the best way I knew how…email. He accepted, offered his own set of sorries and then we talked. A lot. About why we did the push-pull, what we might be afraid of, even about going to Ireland together in the fall. After two-point-five hours on the phone, it seemed the wounds were healed, but a question mark still lingered. So, the next morning, I did the unthinkable. I invited him to come to L.A. and stay with me through the month of August. While it might seem crazy, I thought it was the saner move than just going off to Ireland for a week and potentially ruining my favorite place. We needed some sort of test-drive.

I knew Masters was going to take August off and go to the Catskills, of all places, where there was a free place for him to stay via a family friend, in order to work on his book undisturbed. With that amount of free time on his hands, I saw this as an “If Not Now, When?” situation. Someday had come, as far as I was concerned, and so I offered up my home for him to write and for us to experience reality. The reality of two writers, that is. We needed to spend quality time together, day in and out, so we could see what it was we really had, and if it could last longer than a phone call and some stolen time. And, if it could survive both of us in creative mode, as I would be working on my book, too. I told him to think about it, it was a big step. For him, it came down to finances, which I well understood, and finding a subletter. So, I left the offer on the table and waited for him to come back with his answer.

I needed an answer of my own, though. I found myself wondering why did I give this guy such a hard time? He was obnoxious and arrogant at times, absolutely, but he also had many fine qualities and characteristics. We couldn’t deny the connection we had, and enjoyed the story we could share of how we came to know each other. I wondered what we would find if we both dropped our guards and didn’t have the luxury of running away; hence, the offer to stay with me. We needed to see what we really had, decide if we wanted it, then find a way to make it work.

Being an Aries, I have to examine the big picture, look at all the potential problems and find solutions. It takes me about five minutes, if that. It’s what makes me good at what I do, and awful at letting the man in my life figure things out on his own. This time, I was determined to let Masters do just that. I was going to let him hang himself, or pull himself up, by his own rope, without any hints from me on which direction he was headed. It was bad enough that I had already done the flight research (who knew Continental was cheaper than JetBlue and offered better airports?). I wanted him to make his own choice. Rise to the occasion, which was something I had waited for him to do since the beginning. So I resisted the urge to remind or cajole. And, while I understand the money situation, I also know that if a man wants something, a man will find a way to get it/have it/make it happen. He had ample time to procure another writing gig, or even just cut back on his bar bill. If there was a want, he could find a way.

Then again, he is a guy to whom things come rather easily, and usually free of charge. The women in his life cater to him. Doors open for him, he doesn’t have to work for much. But he would have to earn me. I rooted for him quietly, waiting for him to surprise me and prove me wrong. Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t come, no matter what words he said to the contrary.

“I’ve got good news and bad news, baby,” he said. He went on to tell me that his aunt had called and the Catskills house was his for as long as he wanted it.

Um, that wasn’t news as far as I knew. The place was his from the get go. So I waited for him to finish, wondering which part of this was good, and for whom.

“Are you there?” he asked.

“Yep,” I replied.

“So, do you want to come and stay with me in the Catskills?”

“Nope,” I answered.

“Have you ever been to the Catskills?”

“Yes.”

“Well, have you ever been to the Catskills with me?” His pitch was getting higher.

“Once was enough, thanks.” I couldn’t hide my irritation. Seriously, what part of a job didn’t he get? I had one, a new one, and couldn’t take time off. Even taking a long weekend to visit him, the hassle of getting myself to the remote location was not enticing, nor cost-effective. Going to Manhattan is one thing; going outside of Manhattan is…well…pointless.

He kept going on about how the house was free and so wonderful. Hey, so is mine. All he had to do was cough up the airfare. It’s not like getting to the Catskills was costless. Cheaper, yes, but can you put a value on spending time with me? Well, it seems he did.

“Baby, I don’t want you to think that I don’t want to come to L.A.,” he placated.

“Let’s just not go down that road,” I said. It was just that. Just as simple as that. I got off the phone before I gave in to the urge to school him in semantics.

One of the more aggravating things about Masters was that, for a writer, he was quite lax with his words. Still using the surfer lingo from his Ventura upbringing, which I find terribly grating, he didn’t understand why I would ask him to define my gender when he used “dude”, “man” or “bro” when talking to me. He was good at tossing words around without respecting their meaning. I’m the type of woman who believes that if you are going to bother saying something, you had better mean it, understand it, and own it. I don’t say things just because they sound pretty or are provocative or pacifying. But he did.

“Baby...” he said on a later call.

I let him know that his “baby” days were over. He was no longer allowed to call me that, nor any of the other endearing terms he offered up.

“Am I in the doghouse?” he asked. There were times I wondered if he had brain damage or was some sort of functioning idiot savant.

“More like you’ve been demoted,” I advised.

There wasn’t time to get into it. He had to go, and I had to move on. For a guy who seemed to always have something to say about what we would/could/should do someday, he was easy to let pass a month of somedays when it was offered. I didn’t hear a Plan B, or when he would come out to LA. He did ask when I would be back in the Apple. Funny, no? Still, as irritated as I was, I was relieved to have my question clearly answered. Yet, that wasn’t the last shift to hit the fan.

June and July had come and gone. By then, I saw more changes on the horizon. I treated myself to a new computer — something I do about every seven years or so — went wireless and got busy writing. I was plowing through a new version of the novel and expected to be done with it by the end of September. Everything seemed to be going swell. Until I heard I had a certified letter waiting for me. When that occurs, you’ve either won a lottery, or are getting into a lawsuit.

I didn’t win the Lotto.

A “cease and desist” letter was served. It seems my book infringed on someone’s trademark. No, I didn’t check for that. A publishing rookie move that a first-time author/publisher is bound to make. The thought of having to rename my book was devastating. Trust me, if I could’ve come up with a better title, I would have.

I spent the first weekend in August in a twist. I put together lists of titles, emailed my friends for a consensus, narrowed the title list down, and fought a losing battle with tears. It was no time for insipid phone calls. Especially not from a cell phone. Masters made an attempt to be a support for me digitally, but I’m not really going to open up on a call that might be dropped. Besides, if he wanted to be there for me, he should’ve been here, don’t you think? And so I let him know his time would be better spent packing for the Catskills. I had a tome to re-title.

For those of you who bought the original Guide, keep your collector’s item. In another week or so, you will find A SASSY LITTLE GUIDE TO GETTING OVER HIM on the shelves. Who knew one little word would cause so much trouble?

Before August was over, the new job came to an end. You just can’t go back. Things are never the same, and rarely are they better. That’s not to say they are worse. They just are what they are. It’s simply something you left behind, and it stayed there for a reason. And it shouldn’t be sad, or hurtful, or even surprising. It should be looked at as a confirmation that you have grown. You have moved on. And so have they.

“Someday we should get together for lunch or a drink or something,” another old friend suggested. I smiled back and said, “That sounds nice,” knowing that someday rarely comes around. But, if it does, take it lightly. It’s a gentle time to hold, and it usually doesn’t last for long.