Thursday, January 11, 2007

Full Stop

Having written my way into this 6 part remember-when, I have to tap-dance around the nature of memory and context and what is made irrelevant (and all that jazz) to get out of it. Parts I, II, III, IV and even V.

I never heard from Zelda again.

No calls, letters, or messages passed through mutual friends.

Geez, and after all that leadup...or not...

I’m relatively sure that she still walks the earth. Her options are many and varied. She could be respectably married. Or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aries (I don’t think she spoke Spanish or was into that kind of work, we’ll call that last supposition rather unlikely).

When it became obvious that I wasn't going to hear from her, I tried to be philosophical. Seduced and abandoned? Whatever. At least I got seduced, right? And up to a certain point in one’s development that represents at least half the battle.

I like to think that I’d passed that point a few years earlier, but I can’t honestly put a date on it without the fear of someone from my past screaming ‘Liar!’ with great conviction. So let’s just say that while the seduction part was great fun, it was not the overall objective for the day. Quite unexpected, as a matter of fact.

In the seduced and abandoned equation, the former is traditionally more fun than the latter (there are exceptions, but if abandonment turns out to be preferable to seduction, you really should have thought things out more clearly in the first place). I don't even think the label quite applies here, since I wasn't sure exactly who seduced who. It seemed mutually enthusiastic at the time. I couldn’t really claim ‘abandoned’ either, since it’s not like she took up residence in either physical or emotional terms.

I sent a few emails over the next month, pointedly harmless ones along the lines of I'm cool with whatever's happening, just let me know if you're okay, all of which were ignored. The hint was taken. I was still trying to figure out if I felt;

• Angry at being snubbed
• Guilty for putting her into an obviously unhappy state of mind
• Disappointed that a potential connection (weird as it was) had come to naught, or
• Relieved that I wasn’t expected to negotiate a long-distance relationship (which was an admittedly long shot to begin with)

I want to say that I shrugged it off, and for the most part I did. But I had gone into it in a lonely/fragile state of mind, and the radio silence left me feeling that I was being either blamed or punished for something (since it was all about me, right?), and that I at least deserved a letter suggesting that we never speak of this again. When you look forward to a letter like that, it’s easy to get petty.

And there was the voice. Something internal muttering You can't complain about something you were uncertain about in the first place. You can't feel both jilted and relieved. You can't feel guilty and slighted at once. These are contradictory emotions, don't you know anything? Categorize it and get back to work.

The voice had a point. And a Texas accent. I had seen The Fugitive a few months before and apparently my subconscious had decided that my nagging voice of reason sounded like Tommy Lee Jones. Fortunately this phenomena subsided before therapy was required.

Finally, despite priding myself as the kind of person to know when a door is shut (and not to whine about it), I blew it. I fired off a last snippy missive (at least it felt snippy at the time), that I only remember as something like Nobody tells me anything, sorry if this felt like a waste of time on your side. It sure as hell worked out that way over here. See you in seven years.

I'm not proud of the sulking. Or for my desire to put bookends around it. I walked away with the sinking feeling that this could have been avoided, and wasn't quite able to determine exactly what 'this' represented.

In the end, I liked Zelda. I was keenly aware that we might still be friends if that afternoon had stopped at a pot of coffee.

There’s a far happier coda to all this than you might expect – all points related to Zelda became irrelevant over the next few months. My life improved on most levels. The software firm was sold to a company with deep pockets and we got caught up on our paycheques. I stayed in Judy’s two-handed play and discovered that the female lead did not loathe me (she and I eventually got married and produced a child, which is another story entirely).

Any residual issues around Zelda - from 1987 to 1994 - faded. It felt vaguely embarrassing half a year later and I wondered why it had felt so important at the time. Which probably means it was all smoke and mirrors to begin with - I realized that it all felt too thin to get on a bus, Zelda felt it wasn't worth dignifying with a response. And the world goes on.

So...back to the nature of memory. Why remember anything about this, other than the fact it was the last event before everything changed for the better? That's probably enough. I think it was Freud (and if it’s Jung or somebody else, feel free to nail me) had some theory about the subconscious that said you can’t forget something until you actually remember it. You can’t throw something out from that pile of junk in your attic until you actually crawl up there and see what needs to go.

I keep stacks of letters dating back to university and high school, I’ve been threatened with death by certain friends if I ever publish the contents of anything they've written, even under pseudonym. This isn’t because they’re particularly revealing or even mildy saucy (ok…maybe a few) but because they’re over.

I keep them for the sense of perspective, aware that if I chuckle at the content sent to me I’ve got to cringe at what I sent out in the first place. Who wants to be reminded of what they thought was incredibly important 10, 15, 20 years ago? It’s this level of detente that regulates relationships with friends or lovers (especially past lovers), the tact that’s motivated by a mutually assured destruction. If you remind a good friend of that incredibly stupid thing they did six years ago (or sixteen years ago, or last weekend), they are perfectly entitled to say ‘Let me remind you about that time when you…’ and when the gloves come off, it isn’t pretty.

None of Zelda’s letters survived, although I don’t remember throwing them out. It obviously wasn’t something done with any great motivation.

The remaining snippets of Zelda linger because it's hard to figure out when the smoke and mirrors first fell into place. It doesn’t matter now. Didn’t matter much 6 months after the fact. But never knowing exactly why might be enough to keep it around, if only for the puzzle alone. For something to be there and gone, after all, it had to be there at least temporarily.

It’s that thing in a dusty box in the dark corner of that attic. You’re aware that it didn’t do you much good to start with. You don’t remember how it got there. You plan to get rid of it, but it never gets done. The thing itself remains unchanged.


Anonymous said...

thouroughly enjoyed spending the greater part of my morning following the saga that was "Zelda" - very funny (hope it was supposed to be!) and highly suspenseful - kept me running from part to part, with nary a minute in between to check my inbox for what I should be doing this AM.
it occurs to me that all grown women might look back and realize they have likely filled the role of Zelda for someone at some point - hey, wouldn't it be something if you'd interpreted it all wrong?
of course - it's not about Zelda - and so, you got it all right - but what if it were? - what if you had been someone's Zeb (or Emmett or Frederick)? how might that have played itself out? - not nearly as interesting.. which accounts for your never hearing from her again...

Mike D. said...

Who's to say I didn't get it all wrong? Damned if I know. I was just _there_ at the time.

Weirdly enough, Zelda eventually made a reappearance long after this piece was posted. The issue wasn't brought up. And it ain't going to be.

Glad you liked it, er, whoever you are...

Nathan Baker said...

Before I clicked the link for 'Zelda(6)' I thought: What will he have to say about 'The Legend of Zelda'? I was completely surprised though, about the the context of the story(I was expecting video games). However, I still really enjoyed it. Having been just in a relationship, I probably took it with a different perspective, but I found it easy to relate to. Thanks for the good read.

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