A Fatherless Child and a Sickly Pair of Oxen (Memoir Monday)

Here’s the weird thing about aging: your emotional center is ageless. I have a husband and a son now, and a different car, and years more experience, and a few wrinkles, but whenever I hear that one Pete Yorn song, I’m back in my old car watching the raindrops, sobbing my heart out for the chance to connect with someone the way I knew I could connect with Metal Nose Boy.

After I told them about the Panera Bread Revelation, my two best friends at work, Beth and Michael, said that seeing Metal Nose Boy again was a terrible idea. I would never be able to rely on him, they said, and he would just make me miserable.

“I know you have a soul connection with him,” Beth told me, “but you need somebody dependable.”

“Wasn’t that one of those dance party shows from the 70s?” I asked.

“That’s ‘Soul Train,’” said Michael. “And Beth is right. You know, maybe neither [Mr. Italy] nor [Metal Nose Boy] is ideal. Maybe there’s somebody better out there for you, somebody who has all the qualities you’re looking for.”

I rolled my eyes and asked him to produce said apocryphal person. Strangely, he could not.

“I’m just warning you,” Beth continued. “He’s going to…to…suck the life out of you. And abandon ship. And sail away.”

“How can you sail away if you just abandoned ship?” Michael asked.

I shrugged. “You could sail away in a dinghy?”

Beth sighed. “You can go to dinner with him. But be home by 8:30.”

“Christ!” I rolled my eyes again. “Seriously?

*

On the first date, over wine and pasta, Metal Nose Boy and I went places I had never been with anyone. We discussed what we thought of ourselves and what we believed other people thought of us. Our relationships and patterns in our relationships. That we were both idealistic romantics. Mortality. The reasons people should have kids. The books we were writing. Our goals and dreams.

After dinner, as we walked down the dark street, he took my hand and put his fingers through mine. I can’t remember what we talked about then because 25% of my brain was screaming, “HE’S TOUCHING ME! HE’S TOUCHING ME! HE’S TOUCHING ME! HE’S TOUCHING ME!” As a result, I had only three-quarters of a brain left with which to comprehend sentences and issue coherent responses with any kind of vocabulary befitting a person of my intelligence. At least by that point I’d had enough wine to calm the nervous habits that always seemed to show themselves in MNB’s presence—the hair twisting, the lip biting, the rocking back and forth like an autistic child.

That night, as we sat on my love seat talking, he leaned in and kissed me suddenly, covering my mouth with his. I wanted that—to be taken over. We rolled over. We rolled onto the floor. We made happy little making-out noises. I was completely present; I wasn’t ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. My ego dissolved. I was only wanting MNB and loving the feeling of his wanting me. No past, no future, no self. Only this delicious, ecstatic melting into another.

Before he got in his car that night, he hugged me. Every time he hugged me, he always held me extremely tightly, as if it were the last hug.

“Don’t disappear this time,” I whispered.

“Oh, you’ll see me in a month or two,” he said, flippant. When he saw that I wasn’t amused, he added, “I’m joking! You really think you’re not going to see me again, don’t you?”

I shrugged and made a sheepish face. “Yeah, kinda.”

He shook his head and smiled as if that were a dumb thing to think. Which it wasn’t, based on previous experience. “I’ll see you again soon. I’ll call you this weekend.”

As I walked back to my apartment, he yelled out the car window, “Now go write about this!”

I giggled. “I am,” I called back.

*

“What are you doing?” Ray demanded crossly when I called him the next morning, overjoyed. “Why are you lowering your standards?”

I tried to explain to my best friend the dream-killer that I needed to be with Metal Nose Boy because our love was transcendent. Standards? Pish-posh. The only standard that mattered, I argued, was feeling a connection to someone and loving that person passionately.

Ray sighed as if he were talking to an idiot. I remember the sigh because I ended up hearing it many more times during my search for love. “He’s a loser,” Ray said, “and we knew this back in college. You shouldn’t have even gone out with him last fall. I just let it slide because he’s hot.”

“Thanks for your leniency,” I grumbled, rolling my eyes.

“Look, I can see this working for a time,” he said. “I can see him falling in love with you, possibly even marrying you. But at some point, I also see him flaking out and doing something only [MNB] would do, like moving to California to become a gold miner.”

I argued with Ray, naturally. I protested that we should give MNB a chance. But after our conversation, I couldn’t shake from my mind a disturbing picture of myself in a petticoat circa 1849, standing with my little girl Annabelle by the door of our house, waving as MNB pulled away in a Conestoga wagon. I would never hear from him again. He would eventually succumb to dysentery or become the hapless victim of vigilante justice gone awry. I would have to raise Annabelle on my own; no respectable man would marry me, as I’d be too old by then, and I’d have to live out the rest of my life in despair with a fatherless child and a sickly pair of oxen.

The disturbing scenario I couldn’t shake had a lot to do with my being highly suggestible and having an active imagination. Also with the number of hours I spent as a kid playing Oregon Trail on an Apple II GS.

Whatever you do, do NOT search Google Images for "dysentery" without including the phrase "Oregon Trail." Just trust me on this. (notevenpast.org)
Whatever you do, do NOT search Google Images for “dysentery” without including the phrase “Oregon Trail.” Just trust me on this. (notevenpast.org)

But the biggest reason I couldn’t stop thinking about my fatherless child and sickly pair of oxen is that I was worried Ray and my other friends were right: whether it was sailing away in a dinghy, taking off in a covered wagon or the emotional equivalent thereof, Metal Nose Boy wouldn’t stick around.

To be continued next Memoir Monday!

 

What did I miss?

Cannot Predict Now

Paradigm Shift

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