May 15, 2008

Much Later, My Love

I heard a song the other day which reminded me of when I was a teenager. It’s important to know the title of this tune and the band that played it; and, what’s also interesting is that it made me recall a series of incidents which I find mystifying to this day.

As I sat in the driveway of my home listening to that song the car radio, I flashed back to my days as a sixteen year old working in the town library after school.

One of the librarians I worked with was a friendly woman with two children whom she talked about often. She lived in nearby town; but, not close enough where I’d know anyone from her neighborhood. I did meet her daughter, though, a pretty girl about my age, who often visited her mom at the library accompanied by her friends. I never said more than “hello” to the girl, and only once or twice I was in the same room with her as she would often enter the library and go directly to her mom’s office.

I left the job after I graduated high school and lost contact with the librarian and her daughter.

Years later, I met my wife and we began to date. While becoming acquainted, we talked about growing up and school and about our friends. It wasn’t long before we discovered that the woman I worked with at the library lived next door to her; and, that her daughter was my “new girlfriend’s” best friend. I also learned that their families were extremely close and often vacationed together. My wife considered her friend’s parents to be surrogate relatives, calling them “Aunt Millie” and “Uncle Joe.” When I was reintroduced to her friend, Diana, she remembered me from the library and our reunion was pleasant, if not amusing.

The one benefit of this coincidence was that my future mother in law was relieved to learn that her daughter’s new boyfriend, me, was considered to be a “nice young man” by her librarian friend, Mrs. Martens. My background investigation was completed with a stamp of approval coming from my former boss who just so happened to live next door to my girlfriend.

After four years of dating and engagement, we had a big, Italian wedding, and in due course, two wonderful children followed. During that span of time, I joined the police department and since retired, my wife advanced in her career, and we both reached middle age. Our family is doing well and I’d like to think that there is a lot more history to be made between my wife and me.

Every so often, we have some quiet time to chat as the day to day tasks of working and taking care of the kids means that we have few occasions to be alone and just talk. Sunday mornings, we rise early, at around six o’clock, and head downstairs while the kids are still sleeping to have coffee and read the Sunday paper. This is our opportunity to enjoy each other's company and to share a hushed laugh. Occasionally, we surprise ourselves.

On one particular weekend morning not too long ago, we talked about various jobs we had in high school. Of course, we reminisced about how I worked with Mrs. Martens all those years and eventually ended up marrying the woman whom she regarded her “niece.” I described how I remembered seeing Diana coming and going to the library with her friends all the time and my wife raised an eyebrow.

What do you mean she used to go to the library with all of her friends?” she asked.

I picked my head up from the sports section and looked at her. “Huh? That’s exactly what I mean. Diana always had a friend with her as she came to visit her mom.”

She never took anyone to the library but me. I went there with her all the time.”

My mouth opened and I paused a moment. Finally I spoke.

You mean to tell me that was you who I saw with Diana way back when I was sixteen years old?

We both stared at each other. It was a moment when we both understood how eerie the circumstances actually were. More than just the coincidence of working with Mrs. Martens in the library, and then meeting her again nearly ten years later while dating her daughter’s best friend, was the fact that I used to regularly bump into the woman I would someday ask on a date, fall in love with, become engaged to, marry, and father two children with. All of this happened long before I would meet her one evening in a loud, smoky, night club and asked her to dance at one thirty in the morning.

I have the chills.” I remember my wife saying.

Wow. That was you the whole time? I can’t believe it. And we wouldn’t meet again for almost ten years as total strangers in a bar.” I pondered.

It took a few more seconds for that insight to sink in for both of us; yet, it required twenty years for us to finally discover this concurrence. We still chuckle about it. And, once in a while, something will make me ponder the mystery surrounding the memories I have of a young, teenaged girl following her friend around the library as I watched from between the book shelves.

Her image remains blank, as if shaded to obscure her identity. In my recollections of her at the library, she exists as an anthology of fleeting glimpses and passing glances. I’m unable to conjure a distinct likeness of her. The discovery of our previous encounters is like unearthing a treasure chest and finding nothing inside. It hurts because I can’t envision her walking next to Diana; and, I wish I was able to remember what she looked like when we came within precious inches of each other not knowing that one day we'd meet again and fulfill a new destiny.

Yesterday I sat in my car in the driveway of my home, and listened to a song I first heard as a sixteen year old teenager back in 1980 while driving to my job at the library. Inside that building was a woman who would remain an obscure outline in my mind for many years until the day I found her again and she became my wife.

That song made its own significance clear by its title: “Don’t Stand so Close to me,” by The Police. For me, it reminds me of a young man edged by providence away from the woman whom he was supposed to fall in love with later on in life, and not before. Perhaps if I stood closer to her, if our eyes met and we chatted like two awkward teenagers, things would have turned out differently. Who knows? What I do know for sure is that I am happy. We are happy, together.

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