Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen.
Previously: Our two year reunion, made uncertain by a NYC bomb scare!
I have no idea how long I waited there, outside an airport terminal. It could have been minutes. It could have been an hour. Cassidy texted me that he was so antsy he was doing push-ups in the aisle of the plane. I don't know how he got through that flight and this. Finally they were let off the plane. No one was allowed in the buildings so baggage was sent outside. It was a mess of suitcases toppling over, and people reuniting. I saw him from nearly a mile away. I think the satellites saw him from space. He was grinning, for one, and much more tall, handsome and tan than anyone in NYC ever is in the fall.
He was coming straight at me. I couldn't run! I had no idea what he'd do when he got to me. At the last minute, he veered away from me. ..What? Then I realized he was putting his suitcase to the side, away from anyone near us. So that he could sweep me off my feet until I was weightless and airborne, and then he spun me around a bit.
We couldn't stop looking at each other. He looked so different. So much younger. Sexier. Skinner. Edgier. When we had been together, once in awhile I'd see pictures of him when he was my age and I'd get slightly upset that we weren't closer in age. Well hell, that went right out the window on September 29th, 2006. He looked like everything I had ever wanted, from him, from anyone. I didn't know whether to thank his ex or not. Or his healing. He was someone completely new to me. We were pretty giddy like last time, and luckily did not have to ride the monorail again. Even the thought made me dizzy. And we didn't have to get lost in the Hamptons either. I let him drive my car into Manhattan. NYC makes me uncomfortable. This was probably one of the few times in the last ten years that I've loved it for all of the magic it was about to give us...
"Don't Cry" by Seal came on my cd. He pulled over and we both cried and hugged for a long time. He kept saying, "I'm sorry, so sorry, so sorry." We'd do that a lot. Stare at each other in wonder, in alarm, in surprise, as if every second were the absolute first second of seeing each other again after so long. We checked into Cassidy's swanky hotel. It had long hallways and an ornate lobby. When we went downstairs to move the car to a lot, "Layla" was playing in the lobby. Cassidy heard it first and looked back and me, with his eyes wide. He started shaking his head. I think at that point I thought I might levitate at any second.
It was pretty late at night by this point and the next day was a big day. What's interesting about spending a night with an old lover is the comfort level that was already built in years ago. It's still there, no matter what. No matter how much you've hurt each other, or where you've been in life, or what boyfriend you may or may not have at home, waiting. The awkwardness? Not really there. We put on pajamas. I put on a blue Led Zeppelin t-shirt and moose pants. We sat in our hotel room and talked a lot. Every time the tension got too great, or my stomach started hurting for some strange reason, we'd race around the long hallways in our pajamas. We explored the hotel. We were giddy, goofy and intense. All night. Sometimes all three at once. Somehow at some late, late point, we fell asleep. Chastely.
The next morning, Cassidy had meetings. I ordered in room service and waited around a lot. My sister called me at some point during the afternoon. I remember clearly that I was in the tiny bathroom brushing my hair. She said, "I just want to know one thing. Are you happy?"
I said, "I am. I'm very, very happy."
She said, "That's all I needed to know..."
When Cassidy came back. We were so tired from the previous night's almost all-nighter that we slept for most of the afternoon. It was much better than exploring the city. We woke up around the same time late afternoon and looked at each other. I don't know who started it, or how it happened, but we did kiss. It was my "Kiss Out of Jail Free" card and I used it. I confess. The kiss was...well...how can I describe it? Imagine if you loved someone with your whole heart and that ended too soon and too tragically. You tried to get them back but couldn't. You were heartbroken for at least a year. You tried again, in vain, to get them back. You started to heal because you had to but there was a lifelong dark mark in your heart. A hole. Then you meet them again, and you fall in love again. Not back in love, mind you. Into a newer, more adult, brand new love. Imagine that. Imagine kissing that person after two years apart. That's how that kiss was. It was like a movie's "I will literally die without you" kiss. But better. A kiss of deep longing, deep love and intense pain. It had it all.
Then got all dressed up for our huge plans. Didn't I tell you them yet? No? We were going to an Eric Clapton concert at Madison Square Garden. Naturally. We started out having dinner at an Italian restaurant. I ordered ravioli. We talked some more about the past and Cassidy's eyes filled with tears. I saw this big, beautiful man crying in a restaurant and I just wanted to hug him hard. I hope I did. After dinner we were close enough to walk to Madison Square Garden, but it wouldn't be an easy walk. I let Cassidy lead and he took me through winding and back streets and all over this city of 8 million people. I looked up as we were walking a back street at one point and I saw something. Something so eerie I'll never be able to get it out of my head. It made me drop Cassidy's hand as if I was doing something wrong, which I wasn't..not really.
It was D's sister. In a city of millions. On a back street that wasn't necessarily on the way to the concert. I had known she was going to be in the city that night, and she had known from D that I was going to be with Cassidy trying to figure things out. She looked really sad and then she saw us. She had been stood up, or had plans canceled last minute on her. She was all alone in this city and then we found her. She started crying and said,"I needed you. And you're here. It's like..home." I think we offered to skip the concert for her but she insisted that we go. We told her where we would be and about when it would let out if she wanted to find us again. I..am still in shock from that moment.
The concert was loud and packed. We danced in the aisles to "Layla" and "After Midnight." We never got tired. I remember other concert-goers looking at us and saying, "Awwww.." We were sitting in front of the handicapped section, in front of a guy in a wheelchair. During "After Midnight" he was so caught up in the music that he stood and danced. So beautifully. After the concert, D's sister found us. Again. We all three went to Ben & Jerry's and Cassidy treated us to peanut butter cup milkshakes. I kept saying, "This is weird, right. This is totally weird." Despite her strong VERY strong loyalty to her amazing brother, she said, "This isn't weird for me because I love Tamara as a best friend and sister, and anyone in her past, present and future is someone I'd like to meet, and someone who matters to me as well."
It was a beautiful sentiment.
After we said goodbye to her, I wasn't over the shock of seeing her in a city of millions. What the hell did it mean? I may never know. We got our car back from our hotel. I think Cassidy had it booked for two nights, but we had no intention of staying. I wanted to get to Conway so that we could wake up in Conway. We left NYC around midnight and listened to the whole mix I had made for my first roadtrip to Conway with my mom a year earlier. The song that cut through our hearts the most was "Alive and Kicking" by Simple Minds. The live version:
"Oh you lift me up to the crucial top, so I can see
Oh you lead me on, till the feelings come
And the lights that shine on
But if that don't mean nothing
Like if someday it should fall through
You'll take me home where the magic's from
And I'll be with you
What you gonna do when things go wrong?
What you gonna do when it all cracks up?
What you gonna do when the Love burns down?
What you gonna do when the flames go up?
Who is gonna come and turn the tide?
What's it gonna take to make a dream survive?
Who's got the touch to calm the storm inside?
Don't say goodbye
Don't say goodbye
In the final seconds who's gonna save you?"
We got to Conway around 4:00 am. Above a field on a back road, we saw a bright shooting star. I hadn't seen a shooting star in years, and back then, had only seen a handful in my life. We got to Ruth and Ernie's house where Eva barked to let them know we had arrived. Ruth was calling out from the porch, "Is that him? Is that my Cassidy?" Then we all ate vegetable soup together until 5:00 am. Ruth had set us up with one bed in one of the guest rooms. Honestly is there really a protocol for when your son arrives at 4:00 am with his ex-girlfriend who happens to have a boyfriend but is taking space to figure things out? Probably not. We did share a room, as we had shared a hotel room the night before. And all we did was sleep.
The next morning we watched Ruth and Ernie's wedding video and all cried. They also have a beautiful love story. We went walking through the woods around our property and Ruth pointed out a second lot she had. She said she had a vision of her grandkids running on a path between the two lots. I got the chills when she said that. It was on the tip of my tongue to say, "I want your grandkids to be my kids." It didn't seem like the time to say it. As dreamy as this weekend was, I still felt a melancholy every so often, when I had time to think to myself. I kept thinking about how I was going to lose someone I loved. I was going to lose Cassidy and this whole dream and the magic we created wherever we went. Or I was going to lose D and the loving, wonderful relationship we had built for almost a year. It didn't seem fair to me. I kept thinking that I was definitely the loser here, and only one of them would be. So that left two broken-hearted people out of three.
These thoughts only plagued me once in awhile. Mostly, there were moments like this one, captured by Ruth:
That remains to this day one of my favorite pictures of all time.
Later that day we went for a walk by ourselves to Pixie and John's farm. Pixie was the one to rescue us back in 2004 when we got locked out of Ruth's house. They were on vacation or something but we played around in their yard, taking pictures of goats and donkeys and of each other. This is a favorite photo of Cassidy - he looks like a boy in it, and as Ruth said, "Like he's coming for you."
We had to say goodbye that same afternoon, after two nearly sleepless nights. Saying goodbye to Ruth and Ernie was especially hard because while I knew I'd see them again, of course, I didn't know if I'd see them again with Cassidy. We were a strange foursome, not knowing who we all belonged to and how we'd somehow have a safe, healthy and magical relationship together, apart, what? Being back in Conway felt so much like "home." I wrote to Ruth later that day:
"Thank you SO much for everything. Every time I close my eyes, I'm back in Conway. I can't believe it all happened, and it wasn't a dream."
And she shared the same sentiment.
We drove from Conway to JFK Airport, mostly playing with my satellite radio. The second we pulled into departures, "End of the Innocence" came on satellite and Cassidy nearly missed his flight for how long we had to sit and listen, and then talk and then hug some more. It wasn't our longest goodbye. After all I was still booked to go back to San Francisco within two weeks. I could still take that trip, or not, depending on how things went back at home.
I took that long, bridge and toll-filled way back home to my little sister and her boyfriend. They knew where I had been but didn't ask much at first. The sun was setting and I hadn't had even one full night of sleep in the last two nights. I was fading off in my room, to bad TV, when they came into my room and said, "Uh..D is here." I panicked and looked at my yesterday's clothes and and messy hair and general confusion and said, "I'm not ready! Tell him I'm not here!" Of course, as they had pointed out, he had seen my car and probably the light on in my bedroom. I went downstairs to meet him. It was awkward but we joked about something that easily broke the tension. We sat down on a couch. I thought it was really brave of him to come over. He had been quiet and patient. He had written me beautiful letters while I was gone. We talked about the strangest things. He wasn't coming for an answer and I didn't have one. Not at that moment. I was really tired and needed a few days or so to sleep and go to work and see where that left my heart. We said goodbye, and that we'd talk the next day or so.
I went back to my bedroom to sleep and saw a text Cassidy had sent me hours earlier:
"They want phones off now. i'll be safe. you too. we have a lot to live for that we haven't had yet. i want it all with you."
I went to sleep with a pounding headache.