Today is the fourth anniversary of my li’l’ ol’ navel-gazer of a shadow blog! Just in time for that benchmark, its page views surpassed 15,000. That works out to about 313 a month since its debut. Not exactly The Daily Beast or Gawker, but pretty darn good, given that it’s intentionally hidden away, divorced from my real-world identity, and wholly unadvertised. Most of the people in my life still don’t know about it or how to find it (which is why I speak freely, but change all the names). In short, kind of a thrill. And now that WordPress shows hits by country, I even get to see where in the world they’re coming from. It’s fun! Turkey? Pakistan, really? Honduras? Kewl!
That one afternoon I ditched work with my parallel-universe husband seems to have supercharged my writer batteries. I went home that weekend and cranked out a fully-formed article for an ex-fundamentalist Web site that got published a week later, garnering rave reviews. To my delight, one visitor called my prose “delicious;” another wanted to know if I was writing a book. During the following week and a half, I finished a particularly long and involved assignment from Matador that required me to rewrite the same travel story for three different markets. (That’s the project that had previously stymied me.) Not to mention the post I published on this blog, two days after we played hooky. We’re talking about a total of at least 7000 words right there, in the space of less than two weeks. Well over twenty pages!
Say what you will, Dan is like a match to my creative fire. And not in the angst-ridden sense of so many of my past muses, inspiring morosely poetic ruminations about perennial longing. No, I feel motivated and empowered to pursue my dreams with all the more gusto. I want to finish as well as start multiple projects. I want to leave behind the soul-sapping grind of pay-the-bills phone work, and just write all day long.
I wish I could do the same for him. At last count, his workshop languished abandoned; he hadn’t played a music gig in ages. In the meantime, he struggles mightily with his left-brain homework, on the road to becoming a productive member of society and pulling his own weight.
I want to say: Let’s run away together — to some sunny place, somewhere by a crashing foreign sea — and create beautiful things. Let’s live a bold, courageous, and impractical life, while we still have the time. Let’s not strain against the grain of our natures just because other people told us it was the grownup and responsible thing to do. But above all, dearest man, whatever you do, whatever you decide, don’t believe — as I did for so many years — that the world doesn’t want your gifts.
Have I ever mentioned that Dan’s first major was Creative Writing?
He is on an extended leave of absence after a death in the family. The one day he did appear, right after it happened, I wanted to put my arms around him, but I reined myself in, as I always do. I have never so much as hugged Dan (despite the fact that I hug practically everyone there, even the enormous gentleman with compromised hygiene) — nor have I even friended him on Facebook. This, my darling readers, has been my way of attempting to respect some semblance of boundaries. It was never my intention to seduce another woman’s husband, after all. This insubordinate love took root with all the tenacity of a morning glory, despite my best intentions.
I miss him terribly. I’m restless and impatient, looking over the shoulders of my colleagues, wading through the repetitive tedium of scripts and rebuttals, barely tolerating the inevitable abuse. I have neither the time nor the energy for the usual psychic vampires who come around to feed off my (now somewhat diminished) excitement and joie de vie. Did he miss me as much, while I was gone? His performance plummeted — coincidentally or not — to rock bottom during those five weeks. He thought they were going to fire him. (The week after I came back, he hit the top twenty.)
I still haven’t had a decent opportunity since that day to fess up, to pull a Shasta, and see what transpires (and I mean other than my irrevocable consignment, in the eyes of All Who are Good and Righteous, to hell). Given my history and my self-image, not to mention the hard data, it’s difficult to be optimistic. But I’ve gone over all that already.
And now I have no idea when I’ll see him again.
In the past, the only man I ever knew about who wanted to forsake all others — including his wife — for me was a morbidly obese theatre actor aptly named Karl Bacon. He was married to my friend Maureen, a sweet, bonny Irish lass with naturally red hair. I was stunned when he confessed his undying desire for me later, after they were divorced (and unbeknownst to his current girlfriend), because he had always been insufferably pompous and diffident around me. I had always wondered, frankly, what a wonderful woman like Maureen saw in this unattractive character. He was testy, to say the least, with most people; to her he was occasionally abusive. Apparently he would also have jettisoned her without a second thought upon my cue.
Needless to say, he was never the remotest temptation.
Liz, that pretty blonde alpha female from my wedding dream, who is married with a young toddler but who seems, at times, to covet Dan, appears to have attached herself to our old friend Ted in Dan’s absence.
I am more than a little relieved by this. Women like Liz have perpetually bested me; they seem to be able to get whatever they want, and sooner rather than later. Few men can resist the queen bee, and I fear that if Liz truly set her sights on Dan, he’d be hard pressed (no pun intended) to resist. But may I say, emphatically, that she can have Ted, with my sincere blessing. If she’s bored with her unglamorous domestic life, and shopping for an affair, he’d make a stellar candidate. Not only does she fall within his favorite physical demographic, her marital status makes her ideal for his distinctly noncommittal purposes.
The reason I bring up this TMZ-grade gossip is that my ongoing unease with Liz provided the occasion for a thoroughly lucid moment the other day. When I halted my anxious beta-female thought processes for a moment, the honest question arose: so what if she did manage to seduce Dan? Even go so far as to break up his marriage? He does ask after her when she’s not around.
On the other hand, what if Dan’s ultimate response to me were that he loves Mai, and knows they are meant to be together — forever?
What could I really do about it? Any of it?
Sure, it’s painful to lose out one more time to the sought-after blonde every man wants – that will always rub salt in old wounds. Thanks to Cheyenne and her precious ilk, it’s a built-in trigger for some pretty intense and unpleasant feelings.
But in the grander scheme of things, if Dan truly doesn’t feel the way I do, it’s not like I can make him. Any more than Mai can make him not love me (regardless of whether she invokes the attendant rights of her position).
“If it’s right,” a friend of author Diane Conway once told her, “nothing you can do can screw it up. If it’s wrong, nothing you can do can fix it.” (Clearly this friend was not an evangelical of the there-is-no-right-person school.) I don’t know what gives me the impression that this is far from over, regardless of how long Dan is gone. Oh, I’ll keep meeting people; I’ll even date if I feel like it. I was prepared for Dan to have all but forgotten me after my long hiatus…but when I saw the naked joy on his blushing face, I knew that that just wasn’t the case.
If you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, you can’t expect to lead a horse away from water, and make him not thirst.
Or to quote Dan’s man Warren Zevon, They say love conquers all/you can’t start it like a car/you can’t stop it with a gun.
This week I dreamt about Ron and Stephanie — the widower of interest I mentioned in a previous post, and the (beautiful, slender, younger) girl friend who captured his heart on the sly. Like the wedding dream involving Dan, this is one that lingers in my mind for days.
I am casually visiting the two of them, and get left alone with Ron for a bit when Stephanie has to run some kind of work-related errand.
I make lighthearted reference to the fact that Stephanie has snapped Ron up before the rest of us could even have a shot. I have no agenda at this point; they’re engaged, I accept that, and I wish them nothing but the best. But I do nevertheless imply, impishly, that I would have liked a chance myself, and punctuate this flirty (but hardly serious) jibe with a wink and a grin.
The unanticipated force of Ron’s reaction astonishes me. Looking stricken, he flushes a deep crimson, and starts to stammer about how maybe things won’t work out with Stephanie after all. He’s backtracking like crazy, as if I’ve just given him a game-changing piece of information.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, I’m no longer the jilted “Jen,” I’m the “Angelina” — the irresistible, potentially homewrecking temptress — and not just to a Karl Bacon. (If anything, Stephanie should be the Angelina.)
I have no desire to steal Ron away from Stephanie, but you could sure knock me over with a feather. This has never happened before. I’ve just expressed an interest in someone, however belatedly, and it’s given him an honest-to-god life crisis! I’m too desirable, instead of too pathetic!
When I see Stephanie soon thereafter, I inform her that Ron has provided me with some much-needed practice at humiliation-free confessions — although for obvious reasons I leave out the bulk of Ron’s response. I am aware, in the back of my mind (even as I’m dreaming), that Dan is next, and that the “real thing” will be much harder…though not as hard as it might have been without this overwhelmingly positive reinforcement.
I wake up feeling far more confident than usual about my feminine appeal, and far less certain that revealing the extent of my feelings to Dan would be a huge and characteristic AlienBaby crash-and-burn.
Writing this post at the neighborhood coffeehouse, from which I’ve composed a majority of posts over the past four years, I relish the afternoon sunlight streaming in the open garage door. Brendan has gone to Australia with his doctor girlfriend; I hope they’re having a great time. A former “girl crush” of mine, a gorgeous bisexual yoga teacher with multicolor hair, not quite thirty, who knew me back at the studio, chats with me at my table for a few minutes. In parting, she offers me a free class, as her guest, and kisses me on the lips. The entire two percent of me with lesbian tendencies is tickled to death. Once again, I feel yards more attractive.
I intend to find a place like this, somewhere across the globe — a sunny, social spot for coffee and writing where the locals gather, a home away from home. I don’t need much else. It’s amazing how little I require to be happy. I would be even happier sharing this blessed simplicity with someone with whom I feel I belong, someone who feels more like home than any location ever has.
I intend to get there — I believe I will get there — with or without him.
But I do seem to be a hell of a lot more productive under the influence of certain individuals.