Very rarely in life do you get the opportunity to write an alternate ending. Those kinds of fairy tale-like occurrences are usually reserved for romance novels and Hollywood movies. And, of course, in our occasional flights of fantasies unfettered by common sense.
In the real world, Cary Grant-as-Nickie continues to misunderstand Deborah Kerr-as-Terry’s distance, and he never gives her the second chance to prove her love like he does in An Affair to Remember.
James Darcy would wind up marrying the snotty Natasha thinking that Bridget Jones has sided with the cad Daniel Cleaver, and Bridget would be left alone wondering if maybe the loathsome Daniel is better than no man at all.
The lovelorn Gigi having fallen for her wingman Alex, who has seemingly been giving her mixed messages, would have easily scared him away by her desperation and her broad assumptions. Alex would have ignored the light bulb going off in his head that Gigi had unwittingly endeared herself to him, and he would keep going through women like a bull through Pamplona, making Gigi believe once and for all that “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
Even when it seems like the door has been closed to a romance, when it seems as if you really have to mourn the loss of what you truly believed was the flowering of new love, there are times when deep inside your gut you can’t stamp out that flicker of hope.
Reason tells you to just give up, to move on. So you try. You get back out in the dating world. You fill your days and nights as much as possible to decrease those moments of weakness when you shed some tears for the precious possibilities left behind. You wonder what all that beauty and joy was for just to have it pulled out from under you without any warning at all, but what else is there to do but look ahead.
And yet…days pass. You meditate and have epiphanies about yourself, “us” and life in general that you feel only he would understand. Emails begin to pass back and forth. He surprises you by calling again, so eager to see your face on FaceTime and smile at every expression and show of excitement you share.
You mention a big event you are hosting in a few weeks, and he asks when and where. “Can I come?” he asks. Your first temptation is to fire back, “Why?” but you nod your assent. He asks if you’ll sing one of his favorite songs, “I Will Always Love You.”
He talks about how much he wishes he could make the drive to see you that weekend if he didn’t have to cram full days of work throughout.
The still cynical side of me says, Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I see it.
When you begin talking about looking for jobs in big cities again, he asks if they are closer to where he lives, which is an hour and a half away. You admit that they are not. He suggests that you consider looking in his big city. “There are publishing companies here too,” he says.
Then, maybe three weeks after you thought it was over forever—though it’s felt interminably longer than that—you get a text message from him that says: “Do you have plans tonight?” After I respond that I don’t, I see the following on the screen of my phone:
I am leaving here in an hour to come to Connecticut…that is if you want to see me.
Well, slap my cheeks and call me Sally. I definitely couldn’t have predicted that one coming. I rushed to clean up my house and myself, running on autopilot, my head still reeling in disbelief. People were talking to me as they were leaving for the airport, friends were calling, and I was barely paying attention to what they were saying.
When he finally arrived, I opened the door and was immediately swept up in the biggest, longest hug. Ah, I missed this more than I realized, I thought to myself. We let him drop his bags and take off his coat, and then we resumed our embrace.
Our visit was full of talks, dream building, hugs, laughter, food, film, meditation and more. It felt like no time had passed at all since we’d last been together, yet something was quite different. “You seem so free and open with me,” he noted. “I like it. I want you to share everything with me. What you like, what you don’t like. How you feel.”
My first temptation was to protest that I was always open with him, but he was right. I had changed in the weeks we’d been apart. I had allowed myself to become more in touch with myself again, more grounded and centered, less fearful of being exactly who I am. And I wasn’t afraid to share any of it with him, no matter how he did or did not respond.
As he left almost 24 hours later, heading back to the lab and work, we hugged for what felt like a half hour, and he once again urged me to apply to jobs in his city. I said nothing, made no false promises that neither of us would keep, but just held on to him tight.
I knew this visit was conditional. It might very well be a single moment before he once again changed his mind about us. But. It. Didn’t. Matter. I was living in the present and enjoying every second of it, every look, touch and word shared.