Is That All There Is?

Attempting to ease the pain of my second divorce, I joked that the divorce court is a great place to hang out to meet single women. Oh, you could meet women alright. But consider your timing and purpose in meeting them.

There might be worse places than that to meet single women, like in a women’s studies class. Such classes contain many attractive and accomplished females, but again, consider timing and purpose.

I remember when I was on campus after a mid-term. I had pulled an all-nighter studying.  Sitting outside, alone, I tried to clear the brain fog while recovering from the test. I needed a dose of strong coffee.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain as someone smacked me up the back of my head. I turned to see a young woman covering her mouth in shock. She apologized, saying she mistook me for a friend of hers. For his sake, I said I hoped she didn’t find him. A vague recollection of local feminists staging a “Women’s Strike” that day, came to mind.

So that was what the ‘women’s strike’ was about? In grade school, such behavior would be seen as proof the aggressor had a crush on the victim. This didn’t feel like a crush, more like a smack. Once past the clumsy introduction, she was pretty nice. I didn’t ask for her number.

The summer before my senior year in high school I worked on a resort on a lake up north. Late in the season, a family of four rented one of our cabins for a week. The couple had teenagers, a girl and a boy about my age. The girl was bored, and having just graduated, was mortified at being stuck in nowhere, with her parents no less.

Sensitive to her plight, I offered her a diversion besides gin rummy with the folks. The activities available were pretty modest. Our remote location and my work schedule limited us to watching the sunset while sitting on the boat dock and playing pool in the lodge. It rained one day and there was a double rainbow. She wasn’t interested in fishing.

Although we shared a mutual attraction, a romance was not our destiny. She lived in another city. Even with letters, phone calls, and occasional visits, long distance relationships wither on a diet of hope. Life intervenes. We became “just friends.”

Years later, my brother Jeff lent me his pickup truck over Easter break. It was a tough semester and I needed to hit the road. On a whim, I thought I’d surprise my friend at her college in Illinois. I didn’t even know if she would be there.

The trip was dreamlike. Fog blanketed three or four states. Old snow covered dormant corn fields. Towns loomed out of the grey and then were gone. I drove dreary two lane highways on a quest for what? I did not know. I had no expectations but to put miles behind me.

“Killing Me Softly” played constantly on the radio, but the theme of the trip became Peggy Lee’s “Is That all there Is?”

I looked her up and she was happy to see me. We talked over a beer. Our conversation devolved into a silly circular debate, crystallizing around the word “patriarchy”. She asserted that fathers raise their daughters to be submissive to men. I thought that mothers raised the boys who became fathers. It was textbook to her, yin and yang to me. Two people reconnecting became verbal jousting. And so it goes.

Someone put Peggy’s song on the juke box and I could only laugh. Had they heard our conversation? It was time to go.

I expected to sleep in the truck but she and her boyfriend graciously lent me a cot in their attic. She offered me a pillow and apologized for not sleeping with me, because… the boyfriend. Yes, the boyfriend (and that pesky patriarchy).

The cot was sufficient. I slept well. I left the next morning.

Disconnection from reality (not always mine), became the obvious pattern in all my relationships (prior to my current marriage). How does suspending the laws of physics add savor to a steak? I always presumed that observable reality was the base line from which two people moved forward in agreement. What is gained by debating the color of the sky, yet again? Was the egg accountable for producing a chicken?

Things are worth fighting for. But love cannot endure unceasing opposition. People too readily fight for the garnish while losing sight of the entree. Life is too short to always be fighting.

Decades pass. Old arguments and the participants lose importance.

I found the one with whom I can see clearly and share love. What we struggle for, we struggle for as one. What else can one want?

One thought on “Is That All There Is?

  1. This is so wistful & poignant. Very insightful & well written. Something everyone who has ever yearned for and lamented the innocence of young love can relate to … that first double rainbow.


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