Yes, dear Reader. You read that right. In 2001, I flew to Chicago to rendezvous with Dave, seeing him for the first time since the early 1970s. How did that happen, I bet you wonder. Or, maybe you think it was a dream sequence, or fantasy scene.
No, no dream, no fantasy. It happened. But how does one manifest such a brazen, cross-country, multi-purpose rendezvous 30 years after a break-up? A rendezvous borne of curiosity, my need for completion, and my yearning for a “do over”? One needs to mix a quantum leap of blind faith with the heart of an incurable romantic. Mix with questionable ethics and a dash of revenge, and slather on top of a body starved for affection and on the cusp of menopause. And that’s just what I brought to the potluck dinner.
Dave didn’t have a chance.
* * *
The years I could afford to pay high school alumni dues, I received the annual Bronx HS of Science newsletter. My Portland address changed frequently enough that I kept my parents’ Bronx address on file with Bronx Science. Apparently my mother liked to scan the newsletter, too. “I see Dave and Thelma are looking for old friends,” she told me on the phone once, before forwarding my mail. Right. Like they were “friends” of mine. Ha! I would never initiate contact.
For decades after their marriage my heart beat in time to bitter music. Wanda had given me the wedding details; I was not a friend enough to make the invite list, myself. A traditional Jewish wedding. A traditional June wedding. A no-expense spared wedding. “Wow,” Dave had confided in Wanda. “They have so much money.” Honeymoon in London followed. Fine! I had been to London, myself, six months ahead of them. All right, it was by myself. But I saw it first! Not that I’m competitive.
They want to be in touch with old friends? Salt in the wound, Mother, salt in the wound. Didn’t she know not to point it out to me? Or . . . well, no, she probably just wasn’t thinking.
Dave and Thelma’s alumni news — on their lives moving ahead, as mine stayed frozen and secret behind the wall of my 1970 vow of self-protection — was something I read with consistent annoyance and, I’ll admit it now, envy.
I should have figured out that Thelma, not Dave, was the one submitting those alumni updates. Dave was more of a closet type of narcissist; a narcissist only by reflection, you might say. He basked in her glow; she generated it from her own heat. I later confirmed: Thelma was the drive behind the family accomplishments and their broadcasts: graduations, post-graduate degrees, birth of children, professional milestones, children attending the best schools, travel abroad . . . yes, living the most enviable life possible, in southern Florida. Well, that was one thing I didn’t envy: living in southern Florida.
Turned out he would have been happy — happier — with far less.
No other alumni appeared in each issue; no one could keep up with her broadcasting each detail. No one else felt the need.
Those were the days before the Internet, of course. You can imagine how that might have changed this arrangement.
And you would be right.
to be continued . . .
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.
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