Hello! Gosh, I feel like I’ve been a non-internet vacuum these last couple of days, even though I think I posted less than a week ago. I certainly am in a vacuum of sorts–I’m in New London, Connecticut. Not that New London is a vaccuum in and of itself (and maybe I just like saying vacuum, because I like those two u’s next to each other, and the way I pronounce it in my head as “VACK-you-um”)–I’m just in an, um, self-contained pouch.
My partner is working at the venerable Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and since I am about to attend–nay, participate in–my best friend’s wedding in New England this weekend (!!!), it made sense for us to come up here together. (Thre is a much more ridiculous picture of O’Neill at the center itself, but I can’t find it online.) Anyway, while A. has been faithfully attending to the play at hand, I’ve been hiding out at the lovely house they’ve let us stay in, working on a la novel. Did I mention that I finished a draft? Maybe I did, which is a huge accomplishment, at least a year in coming. I also re-outlined and cut 90 pages just for starters! I always laugh at how hard we writers try to nudge up our page counts and then how much we cackle when we’ve cut whole chunks. It makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s still funny. As a teacher, I never would have been like, “The students just learned twelve new vocabulary words and forgot five! Bliss!”
In the midst of all this novelicious productivity (which is also, I might add, somewhat lonely, although the beach awaits at the end of the day)–are odd memories of New London. I passed through here all the time on my AmTrak way to and from college, of course, but I think I only stopped here once, and not even on purpose. It was the summer of 1996, and I was on my way back from visiting a friend, whom I’d formerly had a huge crush on. I’d thought we’d had a good visit, including a nap for me on Saturday afternoon that was, no joke, The Best Nap I have Ever Taken, but then Sunday morning we got into a fight somehow. It was strange, because we’d never fought, but I remembered her accusing me of not, I don’t know, supporting her relationship with her boyfriend, and I burst into tears. “That’s so not true!” I blubbered. “I always ask you about him and how things are going.” Who knew which one of us was right, but I’m not the kind of person who bursts into tears during fights at all, so it obviously really upset me.
We reconciled enough to go on a great bike ride and meet up with two other friends for Mexican food, and then I was on my merry way back on AmTrak–except that the train stopped in New London with a bomb threat. Since this was in the late ’90s, it was way more of an eye-roll than the actual scare it might be a few short years later. (Gosh, it’s kind of crazy how much things changed in such a relatively small amount of time.) Anyway, we all had to unload off the train and of course there was hardly anywhere to go and I hadn’t eaten dinner, but we ended up at the bar across the way that must make a huge living from stranded travellers. I don’t remember if I got anything in the way of enough to eat, but the great thing was that the Women’s Gymnastics Team Competition was up on the screen! So not only did I get to see my beloved gymnastics (I’m sure readers of this blog will understan what that means to me)–but I also got to see Keri Strug do her amazing vault with a cracked ankle or whatever it was to victory! I can be a bit of a wimp and I am sure that if I injured myself on a vault, I would have been like, “Sorry, Team USA; you may be the Magnificent Seven” (a reference I didn’t understand then and still relate to only hazily), but you’ve made your bed with your poor scores. I can’t do anything for you at this point, so I think I’m going to sit it out for Vault #2.” Not so for Keri Strug! As I slurped Diet Coke at a New London bar, Keri Strug ran and flipped and landed on that injured ankle and brought the US GOLD.
Or at least, I think she did. The crazy thing about memories of important events, as I learned ound September 11, 2001, is that they create–oh gosh, this is becoming eerily related–a sort of vacuum. They suck nearby events into their orbit to the point where people who attended weddings in July or November of 2001 will say, “Yeah, that wedding was right around September 11th.” I suppose the important event in my story, embarrassingly, might be the winning vault. Maybe it didn’t occur that night as we waited for the train to be searched; maybe that was later, on my mom’s bed, with my cousin who was living with us for the summer. I honestly don’t remember.
What else to say? I stopped being friends with the crush, although we did have a rather poetic re-meeting. We didn’t correspond over the summer except for me to send her a postcard requesting that she return a library book I’d left behind, and apparently I’d said something like, “I’ll see you online at the bookstore,” because that was pretty much how you’d see everyone back on campus.
I didn’t see her then, and I didn’t contact her, but a few weeks into school, my roommate and I were at Shaw’s (oh, that great Shaw’s–I still think of their Indulgences chocolates sometimes)–and there was the crush in the cereal aisle. (Okay, I made that up–I have no idea what aisle it was.) It was deep enough into the year that it was clear that our silence meant something, but I hadn’t known she cared until she said, “Well, I guess it’s not the bookstore after all.”
She may as well have been speaking Sanskrit. “Um, what?” I asked.
“You know.” She blinked. “That thing you said in your postcard–how you’d see me at the bookstore.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess not.”
And we weren’t really friends after that. Which in way was too bad, because I’d really enjoyed her when I’d thought she might like me back, but the things that had complicated the crush (including the fact that she turned out to be, you know, kind of straight) got in the way, and in some ways, at least at that time, she wasn’t such a good friend. I will say, though, that that is the only time I ever remotely felt like I had the last laugh on anything, though if for some reason the crush is reading this (which I sincerely doubt), I hope she knows it does not reflect on her.
So au revior, bad crushes–I’d get a much better one several months before September 11th, 2001, who would become my wife–and hello to a less troubled New London; and hello wife herself, whom I am about to go off and meet, maybe for Mexican food, not at a bookstore.