Through the miracle of facebook my wife re-connected with her old girlfriend from high school, who coincidentally (perhaps not) used to be my first girlfriend in high school, before I knew my wife, whom I met through the girlfriend. She was my first SERIOUS girlfriend, if you put two and two together.
We met for the very first time as I was surfacing from the Croton Reservoir. I had just jumped about 40 feet off the railroad trestle on the abandoned “Old Put” train line. It was something we used to do for fun, although in retrospect it would have been a lot more fun had I worn a cup. Chris had brought her swimming, and we hit it off immediately once I climbed ashore. She was artsy, vivacious, kind of Carole Kingy. I wasn’t that artsy, but at least I wasn’t that fartsy.
It was amazing to see what divergent paths we took after high school. She embarked on a wild ride that took her from the Northeast to the Southwest to the Northwest. It’s obvious she didn’t suffer from a lack of direction. I remained in the Northeast, although every once in awhile I drifted to the north Northeast, the south Northeast, or the east Northsouth. Usually due to holding the map upside down.
It seemed that she remembered things, details of our short relationship that my porous mind could not hold onto. I know some people that live in the past, and they remember everything from years and years ago. Some people live in the future, Captain Kirk for instance. I tend to live in the present, which means by the time I get to the end of a sentence I have forgotten what the beginning was. I don’t have the memory that she does, nor do I have the memory that she does.
Although we dated only for a year or so, back then it seemed like a long, long time. I guess if you have only existed 16 or 17 years, each of those years ages you disproportionately. I believe that the first two years of your life you age in squirrel years, which have a life expectancy of sixteen years. Then after you learn to talk but before you get married you age in box turtle years, which live a hundred and forty years. After that the time really flies, and a whole year goes by as you are cleaning out your garage.
One thing that was obvious from our talk was that if we did not have parents, we would have no one to blame our problems on. I usually tell anyone who blames me for anything that my dad was an alcoholic, and that I came from a broken home. The last part is true, since our basement always flooded after the flimsiest rainfall.
Now that I realize what a negative influence parents can be, it’s a wonder people allow them into their homes at all. It possibly started with Jesus- his father, God, is Mr. Perfect. Knows everything, sees everything, infinite wisdom, blah, blah, blah. That’s a lot to live up to, and it’s a wonder Jesus didn’t turn to drugs, drop out of school and become a total fuck-up.
Anyway, she got into Wellesley, and a few other good colleges, but her mother and stepfather couldn’t wring out the money to send her. She ended up hitchhiking across the country, sleeping in cars, the side of the road once in awhile. Dumpster-diving now and then for lack of money or inertia. She married young, divorced young, had children she wasn’t emotionally ready to throw herself into. But she did what she wanted to do, on no one else’s command or behalf.
Then she asked what we’ve been up to. We have spent the last 36 years moving slowly up the Harlem Line, with higher school taxes hot on our heels. We couldn’t think of much that compared to the excitement of her post high-school days, although we did see an episode of “The Office” recently that we hadn’t seen before. Our days are fun and eventful to us, but a side-by-side comparison reveals that life is full of choices and compromises. What I have given up to have a healthy 401K is a treasure chest full of experiences you can only collect once upon a time; there are many different ways to be rich (I missed being Rich by one letter).
Had I remained with her, I wondered what it would have been like for her, trying to concentrate on our next meal, with me saying things like, “do you think we could dumpster-dive for a toenail clipper?”, or, “It was really nice of that diner to give us this food for free, but that looks like a mushroom- do you think I can get this without?” Or would she have been satisfied traveling the world in one-week-a-year increments?
It was great to see her again for the first time after all these years. Back then you could jump right into a lake not knowing was underneath. A freefall straight down, with unfailing confidence that everything would be fine when you landed. I wouldn’t try it now…. But she seems happy, content, at peace with her past, and willing to share her feelings honestly, including the fact that when we broke up, her mom missed me more than she did….
Incidentally, the abandoned New York Central Putnam Division rail line is now the North County Trailway bicycle park. From the late 1800s to the 50s and 60s trains carried freight and passengers to New York City. Since there was only one track, I assume it left them there, and they should be back soon. One spur connected the “Old Put” to the Harlem Line, and ran through Lincolndale to a depot 3,000 feet from my house. The freight trains carried milk through now defunct NYC tracks directly underneath the Sheffield Milk processing plant on the west side of Manhattan. The railroad owned the right-of-way and the milk plant owned air rights above the tracks. The milk plant is now the CBS Broadcast Center, where I have worked for the last 30 years, and evidence of the railroad connection are still visible in the videotape archives of sub-basement floor “A.”