“You have an idea parked in your head now,” he murmured.
It was one of those perfectly reasonable and measured conversations, romantic even, that had taken a strange and unanticipated turn. What he intended as simple disclosure of something in the past triggered a surprising chain reaction.
It was innocuous and I knew it, yet it spotlighted my own process of moving through small decisions and judgment calls, assumptions I hadn’t realized that I had made, an assessment of where I was and where he was and where “we” – as an evolving couple – found ourselves at that point in time.
The result was an unleashing of new concerns, new possibilities, new interpretations – lodged in my awareness. Uncomfortably. Yet I didn’t want to let them go. I needed them – to remind me of where we were and where we weren’t. Of who I am, and who I cannot afford to become.
How odd, when a few words lead you down a dirt road and into a thicket. Then you’re stuck, needing to call for the tow truck.
It was a relationship issue of course. But I had come at my understanding of our status from a place of self-protection. He, on the other hand, seemed at ease articulating his feelings.
We hadn’t known each other long. I was vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable, suddenly cognizant of how readily I trust. I was opening – too quickly. I needed to hang on to my focus. My perspective. My necessary balance.
I felt myself tugged by the currents of committment, by the persuasive power of idealistic beginnings. I needed to pace myself, especially as our situations were different – my working life is such that I am always in a precarious position; assuring sufficient money to make house payments, put food on the table, fulfill my responsibilities as a single mother – none of that is a given.
Romantic involvements? Lovely, when they happen. But my vulnerability comes at a price and not just an emotional one. I pay in time not spent working toward goals. Money-making goals. Survival goals.
It’s not personal. It’s economic.
It’s opportunity cost.
But he was right. An idea was stuck in the forefront of my mind and it would sit between us for a time. I would have to nibble on it, gnaw through it, chew and taste and decide whether or not I could swallow it and even how much I wanted the weight of it to be hauled away – with its reminder of the price to be exacted in any investment of my heart and my energies.
Relationship, even more so.
* * *
In the dream, I am being chased through a parking lot and then a series of tennis courts, my heels kicking up the dust of a red clay surface.
The French Open.
I am agile and swift; I am younger and though I’m frightened I am strong, and nothing hurts as I dart and bend and evade my pursuer. I don’t know who is after me, but I sense that if I can just keep going, I have a chance to get ahead.
I duck back into the lot alongside a Deux Chevaux for a breather, and I’m startled when a woman leans out the open window and speaks.
She is fifty-something and blond, pretty and thin. She is unfazed by my presence.
“Do you know the way to Normandy from here?” she asks.
This might be a means of escape, I tell myself. I need to explain that I can guide her to Normandy but she will have to offer me a ride.
“I must be there in four hours,” she specifies.
Impossible, I think. The courts may be clay, but this is New Jersey and not the outskirts of Paris. You cannot navigate from New Jersey to Normandy in four hours no matter how hard you try.
I hold my tongue. I settle into the passenger seat beside her.
I will show you the way, I say, knowing it is a temporary escape, a way out of the lot. A way out, nonetheless.
* * *
You can accelerate the pace of physical tasks, of learning, of getting to know someone – or so you imagine. You can change goals or change routes – but you cannot bypass the time it takes for certain paths to be traveled.
Waking, I am aware of what needs to be accomplished, the determination required, the concepts that are still forming.
Waking, there is an idea parked in my head and I do not want to call for a tow. Rather, I need to exercise patience. To look in the mirrors. To maneuver the tight space toward an open horizon – prepared for smooth stretches and traffic advisories, winding roads and crowded highways, potholes and repair crews.
I must discern when to slow, when to cruise, when to speed, when to stop for rest.
I must recognize when to ask for assistance.
From one I can trust, one who may choose to navigate beside me, one who understands that I need my reminders and that none of us can reach Normandy in four hours if we find ourselves far from her pastoral lands and her bustling cities. No matter who or what may be chasing us.