Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Vortex of Obsession

Has this ever happened to you?

It started with a simple hour of cause and effect. Because I’m walking in the Susan G. Komen 3Day Walk for the Cure, I took a few minutes to search for the husband of my college roommate, to whom I am dedicating my effort.
Because I could not find him on, I turned to People Search.
Because I found his address so easily, I looked for another friend.
And another…

Because it was so easy I looked for the name that has eluded me and Google these 30 years.
To be google-able means you have to have created something and advertised that fact, or someone has.
It never really surprised me that my quarry, that long-lost flutter of my heart, was, after all these years, still a private person. I remembered him as private, eschewing notoriety of any kind. It was a quality I admired and also envied.

Deductions via Google…

He did not have a business of his own. He had not produced a CD of the music I remember his playing. He had not been the subject of news. Or made news. Or wrote for a newspaper, magazine, television or radio station, taught at a university or college.

His zip code and a quick peek from Google Earth suggested he has not gone the way of the non-profit or the public school.

This took way longer than a lunch hour.

thanks largely to the free bits offered by People Search, essentially, the white pages plus ages and handy possible relatives, I’d uncovered a vaguely random, blessedly short list of facts that included an address and telephone number and the name and age of a wife. And possibly the name of a child possibly named after the wife who was probably named after her father. One of those names. And the knowledge that my old beau’s mother, who had been widowed the year before we met, had remarried but lived nearby. That his brother was also still in New Jersey.

The news elicited a physical response I carried around for days. Something that felt a lot like I'd swalled a bone sideways. Of all the people I’ve thought about over the years, he was the one I just knew would turn up in Paris. Or Dubai. Or Prague. Clearly, all the sexy, interesting people do not leave.

For an additional $9.95 I could uncover legal records, property records, liens, marriages and divorces. Nothing I wanted to know. I’ll never want to know if he has a criminal record or owns a second home in Florida. I want to know what no detective or search engine could ever yield:

Are you happy?
Have you compromised?
Do you love your work? Your life?
Do you have an illness?
What has taught you compassion?
Who did you lose on 9/11?
What do you still love? Music? Botany?
What have you made of your luck?
What toll did your choices take?
And, sure,
Do you ever think of me?

What can it matter now?
Could I use what I thought I knew of you 30 years ago to make a guess at who you are now? Or am I only discovering, in the surprise I feel in uncovering that you never left New Jersey, never had to search for a home, the vast smallness of what I actually knew.

Of course, the crooked bone I swallowed was the knowledge that what I thought I knew of you, what I projected, was, of course, my own desires for myself.

Still, what does remain? What, of the couplet one is at 20, lurks between the lines of the sonnet we are at 50?


Anonymous said...

nice romantic/sentimental piece. oh what might have been. now that you found him, what next? probably depends upon who initiated the breakup. you or him? and whether there was loving making involved in the relationship. sex always complicates things. is it possible for us to be just friends afterwards or did friendship get tossed away with the condom? if he does think of you and came across your site and read about himself and contacted you, what would you do? would you think any less of him? if you allowed the relationship to rekindle, would you think any less of yourself? hey maybe thomas wolfe was wrong and you can go home again, you can find your tomorrow in your yesterday but it might not be the tomorrow you envisioned or the yesterday that you thought it was. after all, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

femminismo said...

Very interesting. I recently looked up an old flame - a psychic friend he trusted a lot told him he had found his life mate in me - and found his name (an unusual one, so probably no mistake) and his (gasp!) wife's name. You are right, I think, in surmising we are looking for our old selves. Looking to find who we were now at our older ages. - femminismo

pattie said...

Another thought....
this year I was contacted some (40 years later)and if you were indeed so connected probably still are now...Love has a way that if TRUE never dies...