Sunday, June 13, 2004

Out of the Blue (Part V)

Oh the irony of it all. Today, after more than a month of prodding, my wife was finally successful in getting me to go through my dresser drawers and closet to do the ol’ annual seasonal apparel purge & replacement. There’s a reason why I avoid it like the plague.

Have I mentioned that I’m a card-carrying packrat? How ’bout the fact that I’m a sentimental fool? Winning combination, huh? Actually, I’m of the opinion that you can’t really be one without being the other, but whatever. All that being said, I’ve always considered wardrobe purges tantamount to paying my federal income taxes: it’s painful, but you’ve gotta do it. The question is, when. For me it’s usually either when someone’s holding a gun to my head or threatening to cut me off from the Promised Land until I do (if you know what I mean).

So I finally acquiesced and went through my stuff. I found so many things that I hadn’t worn in years, and it still hurt to get rid of them. Things like old t-shirts that were once among my favorites, but which had long since become worn and faded. I came across one of my favorite old long-sleeved casual shirts that I’d had for ten years, but hadn’t worn in four. I associated that shirt with the time that we were finally able to buy our first house, and really felt like a grown-up for the first time. Just to see that worn-out old shirt made me feel good about myself. I know it’s silly, but hey, I did add that word “fool” to my self-description a minute ago, didn’t I?. It was hard, but I decided to dump the shirt. While I knew it was good to retain the feeling, the symbol was just taking up space. It was time to move on.

How fitting, I thought, that I was purging my wardrobe on the same day I’m also writing about the other side of my relationship with this girl who so thoroughly swept me off my feet — the sad side. I was thinking of how emotionally cathartic this story has been for me to put into words.

It’s amazing what a dichotomy love can be. As good as it felt to remember the events of The Concert, this next installment is the part that hurts almost as much. Wait. Let me amend that. “Hurts” is probably too broad of a term to use in this situation.

You know the expression, “hurts so good” — what does it mean? And how does it really differ from “hurts so bad?” Well I’ve given it some thought, and here’s my interpretation. “Hurts so good” describes a situation where you’ve experienced heartache, but with a silver lining. It’s a circumstance which you choose to look back upon and say, “it was tough to go through, but if I’d never experienced that, I wouldn’t have known what I know now; I may have never been in a position to meet this person or that person. My whole life may have been different.” In a nutshell, it’s the old “glass is half-full/glass is half- empty” interpretation of life. The “hurt so good” glass is guardedly optimistic and looks for a future opportunity with hopefully a better result. The “hurt so bad” glass is bitter and angry; it’s running out of options.

Nobody starts out in a bad situation as a “hurts so good.” Hopefully that comes later, when your inner core of values has a chance to get a word in edgewise over your emotions. And so it was with me. But, hey…how did I get so far ahead of myself?

The Rival
As in any good story, if there’s a hero, there’s usually a villain as well. Meet Surferdude Assbite Rival (SAR). Now SAR and I didn’t know each other prior to our mutual interest in Gabrielle. I had seen him around the athletic department there at 4YU, but I didn’t know what sport he played. He was pretty tall, maybe 6’2”-6’4” so I had guessed that he was a basketball player. Turns out he was on the volleyball team. It made sense, considering that he was really slender and wore his hair in a style typical of surfers. He also had a great tan, and back in the days prior to tanning booths, if you saw a guy in SoCal with a great tan, chances were he was a surfer. And did I mention that he was really good-looking? Yeah, the guy was a real prick — seriously. He was the kind of person that would look at you and just sneer. What an ass.

Prior to when I first dated Gabrielle, I don’t remember SAR ever hanging around the gym waiting to talk to her. I don’t know how much he saw of her, or if they ever had any kind of serious relationship. All I know is that he made it his life’s mission to be there as often as possible, I'm sure as much as anything, to try and intimidate me; to mark his territory.

Gabrielle and I were never a steady couple, although after The Concert I don’t think anyone could have blamed me for thinking that we would be. I took her to dinner a few times, we went out for coffee a few times, we spent hours on the phone, and occasionally I'd come over and hang out in her dorm room. But after the first couple weeks, when she became increasingly unavailable for dates, I quickly put 2+2 together. I know he was seeing a lot of her because he too lived in the dorms on campus, whereas I lived in an apartment five miles away in a nearby city. To make matters even more difficult for my seeing her, I supported myself living expense-wise my entire collegiate career, working as a grocery clerk at a local supermarket. I generally worked 3PM to Midnight three or four nights a week. It was kind of hard to pursue the relationship when I had to compete with his easy access to her practically every night.

It was indeed frustrating, but a good part of that was attributable to Gabrielle and her alone. I know she didn’t want to be tied down. And she wasn’t — to me or to SAR. And while I accepted it, it must have driven him nuts!

I remember one night, sitting in Gabrielle’s room talking about SAR. This was well after I’d given up on being her boyfriend and was doing my best just to be there as a friend to her. She was expressing her frustration over SAR’s attempts to control her life. “He’s always telling me I can’t do this or that. Why would he do that? It just seems like he wants to possess me.”

Um…’cuz he’s an asshole? Well, I didn’t say it but I sure wanted to, especially because SAR professed to be a Christian. Gabrielle was undecided in her spiritual life, and this guy comes into her life, dogs me (she told me that he’d ask her, “why do you want to go out with that little guy when you could be with me?”), and then starts layin’ do’s and don’ts on a girl who just wants to have fun?

Great witness dude. I’m sure God is real proud of ya.

Now I’m not trying to toot my own spritual horn here either, but I know I’m a Christian, and I recognized that Gabrielle was her own person early on. However at the same time she always wanted to make you happy, make you feel that you were the only person in her universe. I never tried to change her. I knew that was not my right nor responsibility. But I have to admit that I don’t really fault SAR for wanting to possess her. She was a fantasy, one that any guy would want to possess — just as I am a guy who any woman would want to poss — oh, uh…heh, heh, sorry…I must have been fantasizing…

On final examination, I guess I have to ask, was what amounted to one really good date and a few minor ones really worth the frustration, confusion and anger that I experienced?

Oh yeah!

We never had sex, we never did anything more than hug and kiss (good kisses I might add), but the entire package of emotional fulfillment was so intense, I’ll never forget it. However the important things I received from that short and bittersweet relationship with Gabrielle were learned in the aftermath. What love really is; Where I was in my life; How truly “half-full” my glass was.

Next: Moving on: The Letter (to her)
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