As this summer nears its end—I promise I’ll get that last Summer Reading List post up before Labor Day!—I can’t help but look back and see what a difference three months makes. And, for that matter, what a difference a partner makes.
I’ve mentioned her many times on PPC, but it was always with a note of sorrow. For three years, I alternately tried and gave up on trying. Whether it was my inability to get a job, a lack of transportation, bouts of severe depression, or a global cabal attempting to establish a New World Order by creating an overblown pandemic, something always kept me from getting to her. Nothing brought me down harder than getting a simple text message (“I miss you” always did the trick) from the woman I love and knowing in my heart that I could do nothing. I couldn’t even respond with anything approaching truthfulness, because I didn’t miss her. You can’t miss what you never had, after all.
A few weeks ago, however, the stars finally aligned. I drove into a city I’ve never visited, through a storm even more turbulent than my emotions, to a nice house on a nice street. As I parked my mom’s car—the only vehicle I had available at the time—I felt like I was going to throw up, and my mind was flooded with questions, worries, doubts. Would she recognize me? Would she want to talk to me? What would her family think? It was all I could do not to turn the car back on and back out of the driveway.
She came out to meet me, but…not exactly. I’d imagined that we would embrace like long-lost lovers desperate for one another’s touch; instead, she stood a few feet away, staring at her phone. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I thought was indifference on her part was actually the same fear I felt.
Since then, we’ve spent four weekends together, and Labor Day will mark our fifth. They aren’t really “dates” in the traditional sense, although we do have date-like activities. We go to restaurants, visit landmarks, and she even convinced me to try an escape room. Twice, we’ve stayed at hotels in our respective towns, and that was out of both caution and respect. At home, we’ll watch movies or play games, but that’s so much different with her.
What I’ve learned most in this time is perspective. We’re a lot alike, and it took seeing her in person before I truly understood what that meant. The problems I thought were mine alone are, in fact, something we share. And that means we can solve them together, just like we did for that escape room. Sure, working out a future in a fast-collapsing world is much more difficult than finding the clues that unlock a door, but I don’t have to do it alone.
That’s the thing. When you’ve gone so long without any kind of hope at all, even the simple knowledge that you might not have to face the future by yourself is…well, it’s a feeling that goes beyond mere relief. It makes you want more. Not necessarily in a physical or sexual sense, the desire and passion you expect when people talk about love and relationships, but every aspect.
If I act over-romantic, it’s because of that. I want her in my life, and I would do anything to keep her, because I know what it’s like to go without. I don’t yet know if we’ll last. But I hope we do, and I know I couldn’t have done even that much when this summer started.
We will walk this road together
We will face this hand in hand
With music and love on our side,
We can’t lose this fight
Tomorrow our dream comes alive
— Dream Theater, “Ravenskill”