Thursday, February 15 2001
I don't know if something weird chemically changed in my body recently but suddenly I notice that I smell a little like patchouli, and that can't possibly be a good thing.
As many of you have probably noticed, I'm an intensely nostalgic person. History to me is a treasure of unchanging events that can be referenced and studied for clues to the human condition. In some places it holds clues about the future and in others there is just dead strata, as relevant to the current situation as the Age of Dinosaurs. Yesterday morning, a bit of that dead strata liquified and came flooding unmistakeably to the surface, brought forth by the power of the internet. Such things simply couldn't happen ten years ago, at least not this way.
Twelve years ago, I was a student at Oberlin College living in Harkness 201 with my then-girlfriend Joy Powley. I was having a good year. During the preceding Fall, Joy had been out of school and in her absence I'd grown very close to a 17 year old student named Gretchen. Gretchen and I had been so close, in fact, that we'd started completely violating the unwritten terms of my fidelity to Joy. By February 1989, though, that was all over and done and it seemed I'd even gotten away with it. Everything appeared to be going nicely with my life. But within weeks I was to undergo a rather dramatic life change. On February 26th of 1989, Joy, my first serious girlfriend, dumped me. Soon thereafter, Gretchen stopped talking to me over some perceived dishonesty issue and she never forgave me. We'd fought before about things, but there was something awfully cold and final about this new silence she was enforcing.
In the long run, of the two near-simultaneous breakups, I think the Gretchen breakup affected me the most. An indication of this is the number of subsequent dreams I've had in which I finally manage to patch things up with her and it's time to live happily ever after, only to wake up and find it was just a dream. It's been awhile since I've had this dream, but not more than a year. She's still in there somewhere fucking with my subconscious.
Yesterday morning, I saw I'd received two emails from Gretchen, one immediately after the other. She'd evidently done a web search for her name and had found one of my pages. It was impossible to believe, but there they were. I was so weirded out by them that I just let them sit there unread all day long while I prepared myself psychologically. When I finally read them last night they were reasonably friendly and even made a bemused reference to the Dan & Gwen animation on my homepage (she remembered him well). So, very relieved, I responded. Then all day today we corresponded back and forth. We never talked about the few months we were friends or the circumstances at the end. Mostly we just talked about what we're doing now and what we've been doing for the past twelve years. Mind you, the last time we were good friends she was 17. Now she's 30. She'd gotten into activism and union organizing and all that leftist sort of thing. Then, more recently she got a gig with Disney as a copy editor. Now it seems she's a victim of the dotcom downturn and is being laid off. She's had boyfriends and she's had girlfriends (she just got out of a five year relationship with another girl) but evidently she never got married or had kids or any of those normal things. Now she lives in Brooklyn.
After we'd been corresponding for a few turns she suddenly suggested I drop everything and fly to New York to visit her next weekend. I thought about it and decided I couldn't. I like to be spontaneous and all, but with this condo and my financial situation, she was catching me at a bad time. That said, it really would be interesting to see her again. It would be like exploring an alternate parallel universe of possibility.
Gretchen was not impressed with my pleas of having too much work, writing to me, "you really have changed! where has the spontaneous, anti-establishment gus gone? your old priorities? well, change can be good, i suppose. " Well, maybe, perhaps.
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