Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mr. Kavorka Came Back (June 2008)

I dreamt I ran into Mr. Kavorka at a smelly old urban grocery store. We were both with our babies.(Does he even have a baby? Who knows.) But in the dream, his baby had shaggy black hair and dark wise eyes; an uncanny resemblance. We sat down on a bench to catch up, he draped that double-jointed arm around me and I sank into his chest. After a few small talk exchanges, he said he wanted me back. “It’s a little late for that,” I said, scoffing down my racing heart. “Why didn’t you answer any of my e-mails all this time?” And he laughed, matter-of-factly, “I don’t answer any of my e-mails.” Fair enough.

The dream proceeds. We’re trying to sneak off and be alone, trying to figure out what to do with our babies. We leave them sleeping in their shopping carts and curl up in our self-indulgence for a while until I suddenly and ferociously want my baby back. I race back and find her just in time, just as she’s waking up crying and concerned citizens are intervening.

I come home late, Mr. Black doesn’t even question it, and I suddenly realize that I have to tell him. Telling him will mean ending the prospect of an affair with Mr. Kavorka, which I don’t really want to do but know I should.

Then the dream completely switches venues; Mr. Black and the kids and I are trying to fly home from Canada, but we can only catch these little commuter planes in between towns. Vancouver to Port Angeles. Port Angeles to Forks. Forks to Seattle. Why don’t we just drive home?

And then I wake up. My first thought: Thank God that didn’t really happen, thank God I’m not really faced with telling my husband I cheated on him. My second thought: Damn. It didn’t really happen. Mr. Kavorka doesn’t actually want me back; he’s still the same old elusive non-mystery.

There’s nothing much out of the ordinary about this guy or my relationship with him. Same old story. College senior year drama, stolen star-crossed dorm room encounters, one intensely indulgent blissful summer before we moved to different time zones. I pursue, he withdraws. We go our separate ways and it tears me to shreds for a while. I move on, a few years pass, he moves back to the east coast and we fall back into bed like nothing happened. Minus the drama, minus the obstacles, a relationship in the conventional sense never happens. He does the old male angst bullshit pull-me-closer / hold-me-back dance that should have had me yawning even then. Eventually we part ways for good.

And, for the most part, I got over it and moved on like a normal person. There were other relationships, other unrequited obsessions. There were the early Mr. Black years, running toward each other through a field of independent films while Stereolab swelled in the background.

I even saw Mr. Kavorka in person a few years ago, right here in Seattle. He was in town with some friends who were recording a CD. In typical Mr. K fashion, he contacted me out of the blue with vague offers to get together. I’d return the message and not hear from him for days until it started over again. But we finally got it together and met for dinner. Mr. Black came too (he’s got his own Ms. Kavorka from his past and was remarkably understanding about the whole thing).

It was kind of easy, actually. We just sat and talked like any other old friends from college. No butterflies, no yearnings, no resentment or desperation. We caught up. Mr. Black and Mr. K had some interests in common and chatted with ease. He was visibly older and a little flakier. It was clear that we were in our own separate stories now, briefly intersecting, pleasantly irrelevant to each other in the present.

The next night, I found out I was pregnant with my son. It was as if I’d finally put the last of my Kavorka issues to rest, clearing the way for my life to really move on. And for a long time, it really felt like it was Past.

Then. One summer, visiting my parents, my mom asks me to clear out my old closet. And I came across the box of his letters. (You heard me, letters. Our courtship took place in the early 1990’s, before the dawn of AOL. “Hey everybody, an old man’s talkin’!”)

While my son napped, I read each letter one last time. With each one, you could connect the dots from the initial passion to the long-distance-relationship grasping to the years-later reconciliation attempts; poetic break-up letters, wildly-passionate-yet-neurotic letters, mundane letters telling me where he's sitting and what he's eating, what kind of pen he’s using to write. It left me feeling a little shaky, just a jumble of unexpected, irrelevant, outdated emotions.

And I threw the letters all away. Every last one. There’s no longer a trace of physical evidence in this world that Mr. K ever loved me. But he did. He wanted and resisted, pushed me away while mourning the loss of me. TrĂ©s High Fidelity. It’s always a jolt to read those old letters and remember that it wasn’t just him flaking out, it wasn’t just me yearning with empty arms. He loved me too. Adored my quirks. Admired small, ordinary details.

At the time I wrote “There's a risk that I'll ultimately forget these feelings, and the details, and it will all become lost or mis-remembered. But I suppose it's better off lost.” But instead, something was stirred. I missed him again. I thought about him again.

Months went by, with Mr. K still heavily occupying the corners of my imagination. It was mildly exhilarating and highly irritating. I tried to get in touch with him just for a reality check, to recapture the normalcy we had that time at dinner years ago, to make it feel Past again. But he didn’t answer. Six months passed and I e-mailed again. Nothing. When my daughter was born, I included him in the group e-mail announcement. Nothing. How humiliating.

I guess I don’t get to know why. Turning 39 this year with two kids, I just can’t bring myself to chase him anymore. Besides, I’ve already crammed so much closure down this thing’s throat, I can’t imagine a few more breezy e-mail exchanges would change anything.

I don’t know if I’d even recognize him on the street anymore. I don’t even want to have sex with him, really. It all exists in the abstract far corners of my mind with no intention of ever acting or even actively coveting. I love my life. Mr. K was right to be afraid of comittment; it’s not for the faint of heart. You get dragged through the trenches by your teeth, but there’s progress in that. Mr. Black and I have been through so much shit together, he’s in my blood now. Monogamy has become physiological somehow, not just a lifestyle choice. Flesh and bone.

When Mr. Black was having his little mid-life mini crisis over his own Ms. Kavorka, he admitted that it wasn’t her he missed as much as he misses that time in his life. Youth. The unbridled sense of optimism and self-actualization. I guess that’s as good an explanation as any.

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