Tonight was the “BBSer Reunion GT” — or whatever they’re calling it. If you don’t know what a BBS or a GT is, just pretend it’s a party. The word ‘reunion’ I assume you know – in this case, most of the people in attendance hadn’t seen one another in 10+ years, and we mostly knew each other from when we were teenagers / young adults. I Twittered about it briefly, stating that, while I have no interest in attending a High School reunion, when I heard about this get together there was no question whether I would attend. I generally don’t make plans in advance, and this was a ‘sure thing’ that I turned down many other opportunities for in the last six weeks. As opposed to the people I went to High School with, these were my real friends. (Note to friends from the actual high school I attended: the few of you who exist were also, generally, BBSers and, as you know, we’re still in touch and good friends. No reunion necessary.)
As I expected, more than half of the people there I didn’t recognize – either at first, or, in some cases, at all. It’s been 10, 12, maybe more years since I saw these people, and some of them I only saw for a few hours, here and there. Others I spent a lot of time with over my teenage years … and some of those I still forgot the names of – though I recognized their faces, voices, and characters. A few of them looked like they had been somehow stuck into a time capsule after the last time I saw them; nearly identical to my memories, what memories I have. Which was eerie. Much more eerie than that most of their personalities seem to have likewise been frozen in time; that I’m used to. People tend to stay largely the same, beyond a certain stage of psychological development.
It was good seeing them again. There were missing faces. A lot of missing faces. It’s hard to get hold of people after so long, especially when no one knows their last names or … much else about them that might help find them, because when we were friends none of that stuff mattered. But those who showed up it was good to see.
And there was something else there. The realization of something I’ve known, something I’ve been telling people, repeating to people, trying to teach people about, trying to capture in my fiction, something so a part of me that it had become nearly invisible to me. Tonight brought to the surface, made real again; relevant for a moment. An inescapable truth of my being. Have you guessed it, yet? It’s a recurring theme.
I have been telling people for years, for over a decade, apparently. I have been trying to explain it in a way that doesn’t drive people away, doesn’t threaten them, doesn’t cast me in a dark or pitiful light. I don’t know that I needed, ever, to try so hard – people know, people believe, when they see it, when they hear it. I’ve had people tell me that just from hearing my voice change in response to it has made them believe in, and to long to experience what has been the source of so much joy and so much strife in my life. I love. Love. True Love, as the pirate says. Nothing less than True Love. The tricky thing about true love, as I understand it, as I experience it, is that it is unconditional, unending.
As I explained to one, but true for all: I can only love her more, I can never love her any less.
I can never love any of them any less. It was difficult to learn that I could love again, to love another, living with these fires burning unrequited within me, though one of them taught me how to burn again. Taught me I could fall in love again. And every time since the first, half a dozen times so far that have each burned so bright that it feels upon spark of ignition that I’ll be consumed, used up by it, I have tried to explain that the one, the ones, I loved before I will always love. And the love I feel for you now can never be diminished, only increased.
And it is always a struggle of some sort. From where I am, from my heart, I don’t know how they don’t understand. It’s so simple and obvious to my heart, and has been since the night I was awakened to the reality of love. What has been seen cannot be unseen. What has been loved cannot be unloved. Not truly.
Though one can move on. One can go about daily life. Life without. Life apart. One can even find new love and can grow that new love, perhaps into something greater than what has come (and gone) before it. I have done so. I have moved on. And moved on. And moved on. And I have found new love.
I even lucked out and found love with someone who not only loves me, but chooses to be with me. Who chose to marry me. Someone I could share a commitment with. Which is more than I can say for all the other people I experience True Love with. Which does wonders for the growth of this new love that years of wistful pining never could.
Then, after I-don’t-know-how-long, tonight I saw Melissa. (Would you believe I felt her before I saw her?) Instantly I realized that all those years of saying “I still love her” and “I’ll always love her” weren’t mere words but were truth. Palpable. Like a presence in the room. We didn’t speak, not really, a brief hello and ‘this is my wife’ and … well, what do you say when the truth does no good? We had our chance, long ago. It was not to be. It certainly isn’t something now deserving of action, this love; the time for action has long since passed. I am happy and in love with my wife. From what I know and from what I could see, she is happy and in love with her husband & daughter. Which actually gives me a really good feeling; seeing the people you love happy is so great, and so much better than seeing them unhappy and/or alone. So much better than mere ignorance.
Where do I go from here? What can I say?
Just repeat myself, I guess. “I still love her, and I’ll always love her.” It’s true of Melissa, and it’s true of my wife. Except I see my wife every day, so it’s only a shock three or four times a week how much I love my wife – I haven’t seen Melissa in perhaps a decade, so the shock of that realization seems much greater. Perhaps also because realizing it about Melissa brings to mind the realization that it’s true for Amanda, Sara, Jennifer and Jennifer, as well, though no reunion is likely that would bring any of them into my sight again. So, what can I say?
Amanda, Melissa, Sara, Jennifer, Jennifer, and Amanda: I still love you. I always will.