I’m a little sad.
Why is that?
I had this great opportunity, and I let it slip away from me. Now, I can’t even know whether it would have been good or bad, lasting or ephemeral, beautiful or painful, because I was too young, too immature, too inexperienced to know what I had to do. Too proud and too self-righteous and not enough caring and forgiving and living my life instead of getting upset about things outside of my control. I suppose I’m getting a little upset about things outside of my control now though, aren’t I?
Sure, I can say that if only I’d not done this or that, or if I’d been a better communicator, or … done SOMETHING differently, things might have worked out better. I can also realize that by the time I figured out what I needed to do, things outside of my control had already taken away my ability to do anything at all. She disappeared. From me, anyway. One day she was there, standing in front of me, not altogether pleased with me, but I think still loving me somewhere inside. The next day, she was gone. Phone number disconnected, address changed with no forwarding and no response, no listing in any conceivable city or state; just gone. What could I do about that? How could I try to do the right thing, to make things right between us if I couldn’t even contact her? If I couldn’t even verify that she was alive or dead?
That was a long time ago. That day was four and a half years ago. I have not seen or heard from her since, though a week doesn’t go by that I haven’t thought I saw her across the street or in a passing car or across a crowded dancefloor. I have become what no one wants, what even I don’t really want to be; the creepy stalker-guy. I keep doing searches for her, I keep calling information to see if I can find her or her mother. I kept calling strangers with her name, then after a while I started spending money to narrow down the search to strangers with her name and birthdate. Then, a little over a year ago I found an address here in town that she had actually been living at. The people she had been staying with did not remember her fondly, but they confirmed for me that it was the person I had been looking for. This didn’t help to set things right, or to quell my desire to try to locate this strangely missing person, but it did confirm for me that she was at least alive, if not well, or had been recently.
I have learned that I cannot afford to search for her as exhaustively as I would like. So, I applied my strong patience and have managed to only spend money searching for her about twice a year. Once in the summer, just before her birthday, and once in the winter, just before the holidays. I never got to spend either with her before she disappeared, but I can’t seem to get through them without thinking of her. This year my search gave me a new address for her mother. I know it was her mother because they also listed a series of previous addresses, two of which I already knew, one of which was where I had last seen the two of them. I immediately wrote a short letter to her mother, trying to make contact again, apologizing for the length of time since my last communication, and asking only that I get some sort of response confirming that I have found the right person. I included my address, phone number, and email address, and sent it over four weeks ago and have not received a response. I have been thinking of sending a second correspondence, using some sort of postal service that will allow me to verify that it was received, or to return it to me if it is not, or if possible to notify me if the address has changed.
Then, Saturday night I was out with a few friends at a club for after-hours dancing. For the ten-thousandth time I thought I saw her. Right there on the dancefloor next to me. Not wanting to dance with a possible hallucination, or to displace my feelings for a lost love on some innocent stranger, I did not approach her. A little later, when I realized she was still there, and still appeared to be this person I have not seen in nearly five years, this person I have been searching for like a crazed stalker to no avail, I became perplexed. I think I may have begun staring. I had to stop dancing.
My heart was in my throat. Could it really be her? All this time, all that money, and I run into her at a club at 2 AM? Is it possible? I’ve made this mistake before. It must be someone else. It couldn’t be her. All I’ve got to do is ask her name. All I’ve got to do is get this lump (my heart) out of my throat and go ask her name. It couldn’t be her. At this point, I know I’m staring, and I think I’m beginning to creep her out. I know I feel like I look creepy. I know I don’t look like I did the last time she saw me. I begin to freak out.
My outward appearance stays blank, though. I look like I’m in shock or perhaps in a coma. Someplace else. Not here. Not now. I’m not ready for this. I’m not expecting this. It can’t be her. I try to get her attention without actually getting up. I can’t get up. I can’t move. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. One of my friends asks me why I’m not dancing. I point out the girl, I say I think I know her, but I’m not sure and it’s perplexing me. I’m hoping my friend will just go ask her name. My friend simply goes back to the dancefloor. I simply go back to being perplexed.
She disappears from view. I can’t see her at all. I don’t see her on the dancefloor anywhere. Have I scared her away? Is it her? I look to the door. I look back to the dancefloor. I look to my left. To my right. Behind me. I don’t see her anywhere. In my throat, my heart it racing. In my belly, butterflies are dancing. Could it really be her? Could she really be gone without one word? Finally I am able to move. I stand up and I walk around the perimiter of the bar. She is still here. I don’t allow myself to slow down. I just redirect myself toward her. I can’t miss. I tap her arm. I try to express that I think I know her. She isn’t looking at me. She’s been drinking. She doesn’t want to look at me. I ask her name. It’s the right first name.
My heart almost comes out my mouth. I don’t know how to speak anymore. I try to ask her last name, but she just laughs. I try to say who I am, but she shakes her head at me knowingly, presses her index finger to her lips, shushing me. Like she knows what I’m trying to say and I don’t need to say it and would I please stop bothering her about it? I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. If it is her. (I believe it is her.) If it is her, I respect her, and I want to do right by her, and I want to not say the wrong thing at the wrong time or sour things somehow or… I back away. I step away. I try to figure out what to do. I try to think of what to say. How to act. How to be. How to verify it is her, that she knows who I am, to re-open the lines of communication. It is getting late. She looks tired.
I watch for her to move toward the door. I watch for a friend of hers that perhaps I will be able to approach more easily. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and mine just about leapt out at her for the time she’s been absent from my life. I see her moving to the door, I take a different route but I can’t bring myself to touch her again (her skin was so soft; I want to touch her again) and I watch her walk by, out the door. Wait. There is someone I saw her with on the dancefloor, a female friend. I stop her friend. I say her name; is that HER name? I think I know her. Her friend is noncommittal. (“I think so. She goes to ASU.”) Her friend is polite though, and asks for my name. Says she’ll tell her I said hi. I make sure she can repeat my name. I let her go. Wait. I stop her. I hand her my card. She says she will give it to her.
Then they are gone. Out the door and on their way. It is after 3 AM now. The club is emptying. My friends dance until they turn on the lights and kick us out. I sit on the sidleines, comatose again, thinking about what just happenned. Thinking about the fact that my business card only has my email address on it, and I won’t have internet access until Wednesday at the earliest. Thinking about the fact that she may not have email access at all. Thinking about the holiday weekend and how even if she does have email, and even if it is the right person and even if she is willing to communicate with me, she may not have the time to do so even before Wednesday. Thinking about how I should have tried harder to communicate with her directly. Thinking about how her friend would certainly have waited for me to write my phone number down. Thinking about it all over and over and over again. I hardly noticed leaving the club, getting in the car, riding to the all-night restaurant, eating breakfast.
Then all of a sudden I opened my eyes and realized that there was nothing more I could do. There was no further action I could take. All that remained was patience and hope. I stood up and walked out of the restaurant, confusing my friends who were still dining, and walked home. I shaved my head. I went to bed and tried to sleep. She is still on my mind.