Jack is marrying Gwyneth.
It’s not a dream. It’s not some weird hallucination or some silly rumor. It’s true.
Jack is marrying Gwyneth.
Brad is the one who told me, God love him. He emailed me today while I was working and said that there was a rumor going around that I wasn’t going to want to hear, but that I would probably want to hear from him before any other way, and that he was probably going to have to tell me on the phone. I asked him if I would need vodka.
“I think you’ll probably be okay but you might plan on a glass of wine.”
Pfft. It’s like he doesn’t know me at all. “I always plan on a glass of wine,” I replied. “That just means it’s Tuesday.”
Of all the things I couldn’t imagine it being, this was nowhere near the periphery.
Jack is marrying Gwyneth.
Brad told me the word had gotten out after Jack mentioned his “future wife” at an event the other night. Apparently then the Facebook chatter started – chatter I never saw because I’m not friends with either of them now. Apparently they’re not engaged officially, but are getting engaged officially soon.
Apparently a lot of things.
I was in my car when Brad told me this and I had to adjust my rearview mirror to see my own face. This is not an overstatement: nothing in my life has ever shocked me as much as this. Nothing. Not even when a boyfriend got married to a woman he had barely known before me, who lived a thousand miles away, less than eight months after breaking up with me. And I literally fell over when I heard that.
Jack didn’t want to get married. Ever. To anyone.
Jack spent years telling me I was his ideal. I thought if he would ever marry anyone, he would have to at least date me first. I thought Gwyneth was just the latest part of his pattern of almost loving someone and then walking away. I felt a little sorry for her. I thought, when he told me in September that he wasn’t capable of sustaining a substantive relationship, that he must be right.
Jack and I haven’t spoken since then, when he abandoned our friendship entirely after heartfelt and honest entreaties from me to save it for what it was – ten years of something truly extraordinary. He told me he knew he had caused me great pain and would take steps to repair it when it was no longer so painful for me.
I knew then that I would never hear from him again. But I never, ever could have imagined this.
She’s 22 years younger than him. He’ll be 50 next January. Could that be why he’s doing this now?
What was I – his trainer?
How long had he lied to me? One morning when I woke up in his bed, in July of 2011, and saw a t-shirt lying near my feet that I hadn’t seen the night before, and asked him where it had come from… when I thought for sure she had worn it, somehow, months before I knew they had some sort of relationship, I thought it for sure, and he said it was just a shirt he sometimes wore to bed… when I smelled it to see if it smelled like a woman before he came back into the room… when I knew he never wore t-shirts to bed… had I been right, all the way back then? A year before the last time I saw him? Almost two years ago now?
How long had he been spending nights with both of us?
How could he?
Years ago… how many years ago? eight?… I remember sitting across from him at a table outside our regular hangout. We had never touched beyond a hug goodbye. I loved him already, but it was controlled. I remember thinking that if I put my hand on his chest, he would disappear. He would fade like vapor under my palm, before my eyes.
Six years later, I knew how solid he was, how real. It seemed impossible that he could disappear for me now. Even if he changed, even if the touch went away, he could never disappear for me now.
And now it’s like he’s vanished. Like none of it was ever real at all. Like it was never more than mist, mirage, oasis. Like it was someone else’s life. Like that movie, “Midnight In Paris,” as if I’d gotten into a car at a particular time in a particular place and found myself in another dimension, not to be believed… but so very, very real, and so immensely pivotal to my life.
He has been past-tense to me for months. I don’t remember exactly when I fully accepted that I would never hear from him again, but it’s been months. I thought I might be finished crying.
I still dream of him. I feel a sting at certain times during Mass, times when I always used to give his name to God, times when I always used to think of holding his hand.
It’s terrible of me to think that this is only happening because he’s nearing 50, because she’s cute and blonde and 27 and likes to run, because her mother has cancer and his mother died of it when he was 17. It’s cruel of me to think the connection is that cheap, that it is built on something so easily found with a million other people. When what we had was so…
What? What was it?
Was it anything?
Did I spend ten years in love with someone who wasn’t real?
It’s cruel of me to want to send him a message with three words: “Is she pregnant?” when I don’t want to know. It’s cruel of me to want to send him a message telling him nothing has ever shocked me more and no one has ever hurt me more and I have never loved anyone more, and then telling him to never reply.To want to ask him how long he lied to both of us and whether he still lies to her. To ask whether she knows about me. To ask her whether she knows about me.
None of it matters. And I know, if I were her, I might think that, after all, I‘m the one who gets him, swearing to God and all who are present, to love, to honor, to cherish. That, after all the decades of love and loss, I’m the one to whom he has promised himself.
Somehow, now, I have become the vapor under his hand.