A familiar vehicle paused next to my Pontiac as I lingered at the traffic-light where MD-650 crosses MD-198. From the open window of a burnt-orange Veloster, a hand dangled with a cigarette pinched between two fingers. Full recognition came a second later: it was my ex-girlfriend’s ex-husband. The confluences that make this possible are astounding: our overlapping routes, our times of departure, rates of travel (of ours and other vehicles on the road), my time spent considering vitamin water varieties at CVS. I could argue The Universe ordained it. I could dismiss it as coincidence. Truthfully, I nearly looked away and willed it not to matter. Then, I glanced once more. For a moment we were a pair of exes, together, as I took a drag from my bottle of pink liquid, he from his cigarette. This was Thursday, when I stopped at Ashton CVS for something healthy to drink because I was exhausted from writing an e-mail to my ex-girlfriend. In it, I tried to account for the rapid changes in myself without pretending to be “finished”, nor trying to change her feelings. It pained me to admit that I was not ready to love again, even after taking so many healthy strides this year. I cannot even know if I am approaching or past the half-way mark of my process. My often-unbearable fear has been that, in embracing an admission of imperfection, I risked being entangled forever in cycles of doubt. I’ve constructed powerful projections to act-out, in the past: versions of myself built to shield my sensitive core.
Mercifully, the moment collapsed: her ex-husband and I are not made from the same metals. His life is bound by difficult or irreversible constraints, more so than even mine. Some relate to responsibilities, but more salient are the stunting effects of his vice. Indirectly, I blamed him for her break from me: he never fully escaped his dismal, strangling patterns. She was reluctant to stay with me through a darkness she couldn’t know I would overcome. Her persistence was punished with him; why would she have faith in me when, before this past June, I wasn’t sure I could evolve? I wanted to give her assurances that I could do better long ago but I needed to go through a process that started afterward — a process difficult to communicate. Whenever it feels “too late” I have to remind myself that my warped tuition makes everything into a zero-sum game, that I must hold consciously to the foundations I construct in the uncertain middle-ground. I may have to take a path I have not imagined and love someone I have not met, having faith in my burgeoning ability to respond to the unknown.
Yet the full force of perspective flowed in me when I considered him: having been at my lowest, my position is now improving. I am growing and will do better. The ability to love her again someday (even if she wouldn’t accept it) and the potential to transform and strengthen in her absence are both in me, now. My fight required medical remediation but my chosen vice, coffee, works with me and my pharmaceuticals. An unforeseen but rich future could await. Whatever brought my car next to his, where I go afterward is not locked to his fate. I am ‘The Universe’ in “Reverse Exiled”: I construct meaning from encounters, chances, confluences. If God can be found in this, it is through my need to be at play with ideas… especially in Writing.
The light turns green like the torch in my hand. Why does the flame burn green? I wrote-it-so when I was eighteen. [next]