Time Travel, High Fidelity and Casablanca

I went time traveling last week, back through the years where I encountered a younger Luke just on the cusp of becoming an honest-to-goodness adult and was able to see some of who he’d become in the intervening time.

It all started when I was in Florida in April. There to play in USA Hockey’s over-50 national tournament, I was in a condo watching TV alongside a dozen or so other puck-brained dirtballs when I checked my phone for email. What I saw stopped me cold.

It was an email from a woman I’d been involved with more than two decades earlier, one whose departure out of my life became one of the most prominent events in my life. It still stung. She was known to a mutual friend as She-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Uttered. Seriously. It hurt me that bad. Hell, I even had a playlist of songs I’d been compiling over the years comprised of “why not me?” types of tunes. Good songs, sure, but it also pretty pathetic. And, as evidenced by the film “High Fidelity,” all too common.

She dumped me on the day after Christmas 1996 and we hadn’t had any real contact in more than 21 years. None. Zero. Zilch. Oh, I’d noticed two separate comments on posts on this blog in recent years that could only have come from her, but rather than lash out in response I bit my tongue.

And yet here she was. I was dumbfounded and stewed over how to react. I chose to wait until the next day to reply, and opted for respectful and courteous: everything was cool; there was nothing to forgive; she’d made her choice way back when and gone on to have a life and a family; I’d gone on to create my own life, too.

But again: here she was. Our correspondence continued through the spring and ultimately grew to include text messages and phone calls. And then the prospect of a face-to-face meeting arose. And that occurred last week.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from any of it: the correspondence, the get-together. It had been a long time and we’d both changed. Yeah, I was hurt in 1996 and yeah, I let it color my future relationships. But that was on me, which I think I knew all along but never wanted to admit. I think I relished embracing the victim mentality. And now I was an older, wiser and, I hoped, kinder man, right? So why not stay in touch and even meet? It’s not like rekindling anything was really an option, right? You can’t resurrect something that’s been dead for 21 years.

Or can you? I didn’t know and neither did she. So we agreed to meet. And given how things had gone way back when, it was she who traveled, flying east to Boston where we spent a couple of days at my home on Plum Island. I had rented a car and driven up from Annapolis, to which we returned for another couple of days before she flew home to Utah.

How did it go? It went fine. We had both changed in obvious and not-so-obvious ways: physically, emotionally, psychologically. And we both had — and have — our lives to live. But it was good to reconnect; at least it was for me. It was good to carve out and discard that anger that I’d carried for two decades.

From my perspective, it seemed as though we lived our own version of the film “Casablanca” and, like Rick and Ilsa, had gotten Park City, our version of Paris, back. It was a comparison She-Who-Had-Returned hated (mostly because she felt Ilsa was a weak woman who would following either Rick or Laszlo like a puppy), but I still believe it’s apt. Like Rick, I’d kept things bottled up inside ever since that fateful day in the past. But now, with the opening and cleansing of that old wound, I could finally get on with a life that hopefully included an open and loving heart.

We spent a few days starting to get to know each other again and it’s possible we might find ourselves in sync again, but that’s a long ways off. Life, in the form of distance and different paths, might preclude further exploration of that possibility. And it’s very possible that we’ve just become too different over the years. I know I’m WAY different from how I was in 1995 and 1996. But a cloud has been lifted from my heart and for that I’m grateful. I’ve even deleted that sad-sack playlist.

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