I was probably twenty four years old and a class-A directionless goof. I had gone to some sort of reception with my dad at a local museum and saw her serving hot dogs, if my meaningless detail cortex is firing. She was taller than me and strikingly beautiful and probably out of my league. I decided I needed a hot dog. I watched her retreat from the room with an empty tray and return replenished. And as she walked back toward the crowd, I seized my opportunity and walked away with tubed meat and her phone number. I still think it’s funny that I hit on the hot dog girl.
A couple of days later I picked her up at what seemed like a nicer apartment than I would have expected a dog slinger to have, but my aged and rusty Honda and I didn’t think twice about it. I remember being giddy about the possibilities. This was a beginning, I was sure of it. We hadn’t spoken for more than twenty minutes prior to that night, but in my naivety, idiocy and (probably) paisley shirt (not kidding), I had grand plans for the two of us. That always works out well, right?
We went to some Italian place and then some other place with a view. I was funny. And deep. And sensitive. And then funny again. I dropped her off late and we kissed at her door. It was the most staggeringly inspired date in the history of awkward goofs in their twenties with weenie cars and no style. I think I Fred Astaired it back to the ol’ Honda and belted out whatever was in the tape deck on the glorious drive home. Possibly Sublime. Or Marcy Playground. There may have been some fist pumping involved.
A couple of days passed (there are rules, of course) and my expectations never found limits. I wrote poems (which I still have) and told friends about her and thought of little else. Finally, I called her. Then I called her again. And again. And maybe one more time. And never heard from her again.
I was pulverized. I couldn’t imagine what had happened and couldn’t find the bottom of the pit it dropped me in. I wrote poems (which I still have) and moped around and drank a bunch. I was sure that the real thing – perfection, as I had painted it in my mind – had just slipped past me.
And I honestly loved every second of it.
As ridiculous and adolescent and not entirely sane as my reactions to it all seem looking back, I walked out of that week absolutely assured that I was alive. What a gift. I remember talking to a friend about how grateful I was to have experienced it. I was actually happy that I had been so completely un-call-back-able because through that I was given the opportunity to really feel. To feel elation, to feel loss, to feel it all. Granted, it happened in a smaller time frame than it might have for a well adjusted and romantically capable person, but I got to feel it all, nonetheless. Hell, I even eventually capitulated that I might have imagined the whole thing (not her, just the emotion part of it – I had at least a couple of toes still in reality) and I didn’t care because that didn’t make it any less real in terms of how I vibrated as a result of the experience.
It seems like a long time ago now, and in many ways it was.
Life was different then, and much simpler. Responsibilities were few and time was infinite and I ate hot dogs. I remember being sad and frustrated a lot at that time in my life, struggling to find myself though I’m not sure I even knew that I was looking. But I also remember being very happy and laughing hard, probably much more than I do now.
The thing that sticks out to me, though, is that I remember an ability to accept all of the emotions just as they were without tethering them to the weight of my world. They weren’t met with labels or consequences – they just were, whether they were rooted in reality or some hot dog girl related fantasy.
Those feelings were all beautiful in some way then, the joy and the pain, the sunshine and the rain (keep it goin’, now). They were nothing more than evidence that I was alive and I was grateful for the reminders.
I seem to be taking things much heavier now, attaching weight to them that maybe doesn’t need to be there. And with that I seem to have lost that ability to see past the gravity of moment, whatever it may be, and just remember that being here in that moment is the gift.
Life itself is heavier now in the sense that I have kids and responsibilities are many and time is limited, but maybe all of the much deeper emotions that come along can just be a greater reminder of the wonder of it all. Maybe all of these moments now that seem so hard can lead me back to the time when I just marveled at the miracle that I am even here.
Besides, my wife is way hotter than the hot dog girl was and she calls me back every time.