December 14, 2004

that led to this

Today is the anniversary of my first date with Dan. We met outside the movie theater on 57th and Lexington, stood shivering on line making awkward small talk, and saw The Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford playing the idealistic back-to-nature father of a large brood. We had a late dinner at an Italian restaurant in a narrow space, ate very little and talked a lot. Then he drove me home, back to my tiny apartment in a Park Slope brownstone. He stayed the night and never really left.

That was eighteen years ago. Hard to believe. That encompasses the lifetime of some bloggers out there. It feels like a lifetime to me, too. Feels hard to remember a time before we were together. I find myself trying to inject him into my memories from high school, college, childhood events. How could I not have known him then? How could I have been in the dark about the boy I was to spend my life with?

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, an excellent book. We recently saw The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on pay-per-view. Also quite good. Both movie and book play with the same themes, in a way, or at least complimentary ones: Are people meant for each other? How much free will do we have? Are we drawn to each other because we're meant to be together? Can we veer off course? What is love, anyway?

What if Dan and I had never met? Or maybe we met but he decided he wasn't really over his last girlfriend after all? Or maybe I pushed too hard the first few weeks and he retreated, scared? Or maybe we went to a different movie that night, had a different conversation, didn't get past the awkward small talk stage? What if we'd never clicked? What if?

My life would obviously be radically different. I might not have moved to Los Angeles, might not have had the courage to do it alone. Might not have left editing without the emotional and financial support. My child (assuming I found that life-mate yes! click with someone else) would have had a different genetic makeup, he wouldn't have been the boy I know and love but would have been someone I'll never now know. Different life paths, different identities.

I'll never know. I don't want to know. I may have made mistakes with this life I know I have but meeting and choosing to be with Dan wasn't one of them. He's shaped me, I've shaped him, I've grown into myself in large part because of him, and I cherish all of that and more. But still I wonder. Do those alternate lives exist out there somewhere? If I could go back in one of Damian's beloved time machines, what and who would I see? Could I alter my life path? Would I want to? If I can't, if I was meant to be with Dan, meant to mother Damian, meant to try my hand at screenwriting and fall flat on my face and then turn to other writing with the outcome so far unknown, if all that was meant to be, was my destiny, then why do the choices in the here and now seem so fraught? Is there ever one right answer?

In retrospect it all seems so inevitable. This leads to that, this is your life. But is it? Does it need to be? If it isn't, then it's all random and that's scary too, in a different way. If I think about it too hard, I start to drown in it. But one thing I do know. Eighteen years ago, Dan and I made a choice without realizing it. We chose each other. The rest is a profound mystery.

Posted by Tamar at December 14, 2004 04:57 PM

How romantic...Seriously.

Where in Park Slope did you live? I was on 5th Street between 4th and 5th Aves from around '88 or '89 until '91 or '92...And have we had this conversation before?

Posted by: Tiny Coconut at December 14, 2004 10:06 PM

and i remember getting the phone call, in my apartment in the frozen suburbs, and meeting the shy giant (as I thought of him) not long after. It's been sweet to watch you guys evolve (though at what xsometimes feels like unacceptably long distance), and I now find it almost as hard as you do to imagine things any other way.....

Posted by: Chris at December 15, 2004 04:21 AM

Totally wonderfully romantic. I really relate to your feelings. My partner and I are coming up on our 18th too! January 3, 1987. And I was living in Park Slope at the time - we lived there 4 years together before moving to upper Manhattan.

Best of luck to you two! And thanks for linking to my blog.

Laura K
New York City

Posted by: L-girl at December 15, 2004 11:35 AM