I dreamed of a love I thought I had forgotten. He showed me his open hands and I fell into his arms. Like water without a pot, I could not be contained. When we started walking backwards, it seemed like a fun kind of game at first, a new perspective on the shape of things ahead. But we stayed stuck, a broken clock unwound.
I woke up in tears in the stop-watch moment between sleeping and waking reminded of the way we were together. All that was good rushed back much more quickly than any recollections I could have about what was bad. But why would this man from half a lifetime ago come to visit my dreams all these years later with such stinging clarity?
When I knew him, he was on the edge of brokenness. No longer a boy, but not ready to consider himself a man, he saw life as one long path towards intoxication. He had a certain kind of confident swagger and ease that made him incredibly attractive. In between the times when we stayed up all night on a playground listening to the leaves whisper to the trees like frogs, or driving my car to chase down the moon, or watching Spaceballs for the fifteenth time, he was drinking with such a vengeance that he ended up hurting everyone close to him. While I may have tried to give him– and everyone else around me–the impression that I was above it all, I was not. I wanted to be the steady in his sea of troubled waters. But I was probably more of a shipwreck at that time. So, I closed my heart and floated away.
When someone struggling with addiction goes through a 12-step process, at some point during their recovery, they will get to number nine: Making amends.
“An amend has to do with restoring justice as much as possible. The idea is to restore in a direct way that which we have broken or damaged–or to make restoration in a symbolic way if we can’t do it directly.” –from the Hazelden website
A few years ago, he called me to apologize for the things that had come to pass between us when we were young. I was so caught off-guard that my knee-jerk reaction was to tell him it was no big deal, I was over it a long time ago. While it is true that I didn’t harbor any negativity towards him, when I looked a little deeper, I wasn’t so sure. I found myself wondering if there was one incident in particular he was apologizing for and why exactly he thought it was a good time to pull me out of my life to remind me of our past together. I went from blasé to pissed to sad in a matter of hours. I mean, how fucking difficult is it for me to accept an apology?
I realized that buried in the apology was what remained between us. We had loved each other. I had been there for him when others had not. I had opened myself to him in ways I had never done with anyone else before. He was my first great, but not-so-great love. And in the process of making amends, he had shown me that I had meant more to him than I had convinced myself in order to get over my heartache all those years ago.
He’s doing quite well for himself. He has a beautiful family. He lived up to the potential everyone who knew him could see even when he couldn’t. The truth is that relationships braid two people together beyond time and reason. While my time with him was a bit like a broken clock stuck between adolescence and adulthood, having the chance to restore what had been honest and true between us was one of the best of life’s little surprises.