You Were My Book (Part 1)

[First of a two-part post.]Book_One

On Thursday, May 10, 1990, I wrote in the journal:

“This is an attempt to write about what happened almost two weeks ago. It’s about Bud Morris’ wedding in Louisville, Kentucky, when I went down there to be a part of it. It’s something I feel I need to write about because it was (I believe) one of those pivots that life’s changes turn upon. I’m not sure, but it’s a gut feeling. I’ve put off writing about it because I’ve been listening more to my head than my heart lately. It was the other way ’round when I was there in Louisville.”

The entry continues for another 18 pages in longhand, relating the four-day wedding trip to the best of my memory.

Now, here in 2016, after seeing some old encyclopedias at my new job (photo below left), and rereading that journal entry about the wedding, “You Are My Book” suddenly seemed like a good working title for this post.

You see, I’ve been reluctant to write about romantic relationships, mostly because I suck at them. That’s not an easy thing to admit since life is all about relationships (whether you like it or not), be it family, friends, coworkers—or spouses and lovers.

But “romantic relationships”—that’s a can of worms that only gets … worm-i-er.

I’m still in touch with Bud and his family, which made me even more reluctant to write about the wedding.

But I’m sticking with it because I might discover how and why my life has turned out this way, why I’ve consistently failed at romantic relationships.

Could it just be me, as I’ve always assumed?

Or is the idea of “romance” the real sick puppy here?

***

What are you really saying when you tell yourself, “There’s no one in this world just for me”?

I’m not for me”—that is what you’re saying: “I don’t really believe in myself.”

Examined closely, “There’s no one in this world just for me” has no basis in fact. Do you know how many people are currently alive in the world?

Seven billion human beings.

Damn right that’s a lot.

Have you interviewed each and every one of them, to assess whether they’re appropriate to be in relationship with you?

Thought not.

Furthermore, can you define “for me”? How might the appropriateness of that relationship change over time? (Because it will.) Is it possible someone who is “not for you” now might be in the future? And what will you mean to them in five or ten years?

Yep, moving targets. Always moving, always changing.

***

I flew to Louisville on Thursday, April 26, 1990, arriving in upper 80-degree humidity, at around 3:45 p.m.

I’d met Bud’s parents before, while he and I attended the University of Iowa, and his sister Beth on a visit, but the rest of his family—and his fiancée Ellen and her family—were new territory.

This is how romance often begins, catching you by surprise:

“I remember her coming up the walkway,” the journal reports, “but I didn’t really look at her [until] I was introduced to her—we shook hands—I first thought her a little cold and hard.”

Ellen’s youngest sister, Lynn, was “very pretty, long brunette hair, small features, 5 ft. 4 in., bluish, misty, pretty eyes. …Frankly I didn’t know what to think of her at first, and didn’t say much to her while we were all in the living room.”

After Bud suggested I ride in Lynn’s Toyota to the first pre-wedding port-of-call (above photo, left to right: Ellen, Bud, me, and Lynn), at the groom’s dinner (“Hey at least you two can talk about film”), the ice had, well, broken.

I’d been writing screenplays; Lynn was line producer on an independent feature shot in Tennessee.

From that moment on we couldn’t stop talking to each other.

***

You_When I look at those old encyclopedias, I remember love.

Particularly my late parents’ love, since they made sure we had plenty of books in the house—including the World Book encyclopedia.

When I’m in the book, I’m gone. I’ve vanished down the rabbit hole between the covers—vaporized, unavailable, closed off.

There in my hands is the entire world—stories and information all leading to possibilities my young mind could only dream of.

You see, books have always been my One. True. Love.

But books are also a great metaphor because of their look and feel: the power that comes from fingering their pages, gazing into them to understand the mystery behind the words at their heart … and the attraction (or repulsion) of their design.

You can decide where a book goes: on a shelf, or back in your hands.

It’s an object you can give away—but then you don’t possess it anymore. You can no longer “read into it.”

It’s no longer yours.

And that metaphor? The toxic possessiveness of romantic love.

Hey, don’t get me wrong—I’m the biggest sucker for romance. Remember? “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

But how long would you stay with a book that kept changing? One that, every time you pulled it down from the shelf and cracked it open, was entirely different?

Maybe you’d be pleasantly surprised.

Or hugely dismayed.

That, it seems, is what you get being in an intimate relationship with another human being.

***

Later that Thursday night in Louisville we all went to a place called the Back Door Bar.

Lynn put some Van Morrison on the tape deck as we drove there. I asked her if she thought a man could accurately write from a woman’s point of view. Since I’d just finished the first draft of a screenplay about the nineteenth century English actress Ellen Terry, I was curious about her opinion.

She thought for a bit, then flatly said, “No.”

Men could empathize with women, she said, but they could never know the full range of male-centric influences that women have to endure all their lives.

“I felt like I was on an equal footing with Lynn,” the journal says. “Amazed at her voracious mind and her love of thinking and talking—Wow! Like a ghost had walked over my grave.”

Lynn left before the rest of the group, around midnight. I then got into an argument with a wedding guest from California who angrily said to me, “Maybe if you didn’t have such a closed mind!” I’d had a lot to drink and was feeling deflated by not having Lynn around.

“I know now why I acted that way,” the journal confesses. “It was my infantile attempt to display my disappointment that Lynn had gone. I didn’t know it at the time. I was drunk. But I was starting to fall in love with Lynn.”

And so the old book gets pulled down from the shelf.

And the debilitating cycle of romance begins once again.

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~ by completelyinthedark on July 8, 2016.

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