There is hardly a way to complete a succession of blog posts like my Connecting the Dots series in one fell swoop as I had foolishly deemed possible last February. I don’t sit with a playback reel of my love (and lost) life constantly going in the background. Life has its way of switching that projector on and off when it comes to thoughts of the people who shaped our love lives. That’s my opinion, at least. Once in a while there will come a trigger that brings to mind memories of past relationships. I don’t believe anyone who denies he or she ever experiences this. It doesn’t have to mean there is anything unresolved. I firmly believe like any life experience, the old feelings and emotions we lived through back then shape who we are for better or for worse.
Being the sentimental fool and writer I am, I often think about what happened in my life to make me staunchly stubborn about certain views while compassionate and non judgmental in others. What conversation prompted me to consider that selflessness means different things to different men? Why do I laugh each time mango and roe are present in a sushi roll? When did I become even more aware of the cut of a man’s jacket sleeve? Why did I never get through watching the movie, A Few Good Men? What fueled my fascination with paper colors and textures? Everything has a back story.
One would not think to put the two of us together. Landing right in that space where our different circles met, the common plane- the union- I think it is, is how we became friends. We met at an outdoor party where the drinks were overflowing out of the back of a truck and our old college buddies celebrated the New Year rowdy and free. I spotted this person joking around, chatting it up with some people I knew, and pouring varied people a suspicious looking concoction out of an orange jug. “Cheers!” he said to me reaching for a cup. “Um, I see you pouring it out but you don’t seem to be drinking any of it,” were my first words to him with my brow raised. I told him I wanted to see him drink a full plastic cup of it. He looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are you?” I smiled and shrugged. “I am not drinking anything you’re pouring if you won’t drink it yourself.” He downed his serving and showed me his empty cup with our friends looking on. “There, ” he said, “Your turn?” “No thank you,” I answered with a grin and walked away.
Before I knew it we were having a getting-to-know-you dinner later that week. But whether in finance or farming, nothing could put a damper on a date like shop talk. He opened the career conversation and I found myself slowly inching towards ‘tuned out’ territory. “People don’t realize just how interesting paper is,” he told me. Hold the presses… did he just say he ran a paper mill and company? Breaks screeching, needle scratching… Oh! Now he had my full attention.
There seemed to be nothing more engrossing to either of us that evening than the talk of pearlized medium weight paper in pink or powder blue finishes. Or the kinds of playing cards Las Vegas chose to deal with. Thinking back right now, I didn’t notice the clear sky under which we dined, or the breeze blowing in from the bay. All I wanted to know was what the worst thing is that can happen to paper. “Water” he said. “Fire is nothing, you can trim burnt edges or salvage what’s left. But get those same reams wet? ohh!!” he closed his eyes and grimaced as if he were stabbed in the heart.
Years before we met, I was a freshman in college and he had just about graduated, so there was no way for us to sensibly have been acquainted to the average passer by. Someone once asked me, “How do you two even know each other? What do you even talk about?” We had common friends of varying degrees, but my friends were merely his acquaintances, and vice versa. When we’d meet up on a night out, it was easy to chat as a group, but for the most part all of our joking around, discussions about paper, exchanged stories about our families, visions for our respective futures … it all happened just between us, typically at a table in a quiet restaurant where he liked to sit “Godfather style” with his back to the wall of the furthest corner in the room so he could see everyone and everything.
He didn’t woo me with conventionally romantic presents, but instead he played to his strengths like delivering several reams of deliciously decadent stock to the faculty room for our special projects, and delighting me with new paper products before their retail release. I could listen to his corny puns every day, as there were things beyond our stationery seriousness that we shared. When paper meets passion – or was it the other way around?
I knew in my gut that it would not work out long term between us, and not just because I was moving away that spring. I knew by then that a relationship takes more than chemistry and common interests for any of us to be the Paper Girl to another’s Paper Boy. But you only live once, I thought, and why not keep playing the game while you’re already having fun? I knew I’d keep everything in perspective, because I could be steady as a rock when I wanted to be. But as the game goes, paper always beats rock. I adore paper, but this rock didn’t expect to be beaten by it.
When spring ended that fling, I won’t deny that a few emotions were involved. He wasn’t exaggerating about what happens when paper gets wet. Tears, though few, tend to make their mark, and when they dampened our paper … it certainly felt a bit like that stab to the heart.
Still connecting… what will I recall next?