Hello Goodbye/Goodbye Hello

“Well, you said,
He’s better off dead
You think that I might have heard a word
but I was much too young
and much too cool for words
Look at me now”
Rock and Roll Ghost
The Replacements

I’m getting older now. Most of the time I don’t mind.

The body can ache a little more, creak and crack a little more. I’ve got more gray and am a little softer in the middle and on the inside, thankfully.

I suppose like most people when I do look back on relationships (not very often) I say “I wish I had done that differently” or “I wish I had handled that better” or “I wish I had treated that person more kindly“.

In those cases, if you are anything like me, you hope for the day when maybe, just maybe, you’ll have the opportunity to correct some of those wrongs, apologize or just find some way to reconcile your own shitty behavior.

But that hope is lost when you find out they’re dead.

About a month ago, some weird stuff started happening around the apartment. My glasses (certainly my least favorite part of aging) were chewed up, which is easily attributed to one of the two moronic dogs.

BUT more interestingly, they were folded nicely and put on the corner of the bench in the entry way. Now, I don’t sleep walk and without the benefit of opposable thumbs, it seems unlikely it was a dog.

It sure as hell wasn’t the cats.

One week later, my wallet went missing for a bit while I freaked out in the morning. After a quick search the wallet turned up, chewed to bejesus, in bed. Here again, that would be one of the morons. However, what was interesting is that placed in the very same spot, on the very same bench, that I had found my chewed up glasses, were two credit cards and my MetroCard (albeit with a couple of tooth marks in them).

Now, I’m typically not one to believe in all of that sort of ghosty stuff. I believe more than I don’t butcome on. And the apartment is in an old factory, so it is possible (well, probable) that someone died in this factory at some point. Still…come on. A ghost?

Given my messy nature it certainly would make sense that if I were to be haunted it would be by a tidy ghost.

That just seemed too odd to be a simple coincidence but I didn’t think too much about it. It certainly left me scratching my head.

I dated a girl wayyy back when. Back when The Replacements were still together, R.E.M. was still an independent band (for real) and MTV played music videos. We dated for about 14 months and told ourselves we were in love.

And then we broke up. I don’t remember why we broke up, it’s been well over 25 years now. I recall it being bad and painful, which is to say, normal.

I wasn’t entirely faithful. Wait, how is one not “entirely faithful”. I cheated on her once (and no, I didn’t divulge that to her). That said, I suspect she knew anyway. Women know these things somehow.

Nonetheless, I think most of the pain surrounding the breakup was around my own selfish guilt about cheating (I can be a wee selfish). Certainly her ending it with me was a giant whack to my ego and didn’t do anything for my rejection issues, but hindsight being what it is, I am sure the pain was more around my own guilt. I can be kind of an asshole.

Over the next few years I saw this girl a couple of times from afar. And seeing her would make my jump a little as it did/does seeing an old lover. I wanted to go up to her and apologize, say I was sorry. Sorry for hurting her the way I did, but I didn’t. I just turned and walked away. Coward.

I suspect deep down she didn’t want to see me anyway and as time wore on, I began to realize any apology I made would have only been self-serving. What was done was done.

Over time, I had learned to forgive myself and sometime in my early 30’s I realized that by living a more honest life, I could come to terms with the shitty stuff I had done in my past. I’m a late bloomer, what can I say.

In the back of my head though, I never really have been able to forgive myself for the way that relationship shattered.

Throughout the years, I would periodically promise myself if I ever had the chance again I would find a way to apologize to that girl. If I couldn’t do it face to face, I would find another way.

Sometimes I would close my eyes and throw an apology out to the universe hoping she picked up on it.

Eventually, the Internet came along and I would periodically look her up. Never did any cyber stalking or anything like that, just a quick Google search.

About six months ago, I did one of my quick searches for her which led me to her name in reference to the company I work for. So I looked her up and, lo and behold, there she was in our company directory. Even stranger still was that she worked in a department where I had friends. But I never found the time (or courage) to ask them if they knew her. Actually, I probably didn’t wanna know if they knew her.

I figured maybe if we continued working at the same place our paths would cross. I’m fairly certain they would have.

A few days after the glasses and wallet incidents, I went to Florida to visit my parents and my aunt and uncle. Maybe it was the fact that I know my aunt was dying of lung cancer that made me do this but when I came back, I did a search for her again on Google.

To my shock, I saw an obituary from her hometown newspaper. Surely, this wasn’t her. She was a few years younger than I am…and I’m not that old.

Sadly, it was. She had died suddenly. The obituary didn’t say how. I called a couple of the friends I knew who I thought may have worked with her and, lo and behold, one of them knew her quite well and worked with her very closely. In fact, she passed away holding a teddy bear had had given her in the hospital.

They both told me she died of a stroke of some sort. I was floored. I felt the tears well up and went down for a cigarette. Nothing made sense to me for about ten minutes.

I gathered myself together and one last time, I tossed an apology out to the universe. I wanted her to know I was sorry. Truly sorry.

And if you have made it this far, you’ll probably wanna know what it is I feel I need to apologize for. What it is that I carry with me to this day and still struggle to reconcile.

That’s between us.

She passed away on September 10. The date that my glasses were chewed and left perfectly on the corner of that bench in the hall of the apartment? September 10. The wallet incident? The next week.

An odd coincidence to be sure.

Something tells me she may have heard my apology this time. I haven’t encountered any unusual tidying up.

Goodbye __________.
I’m sorry.
With Love,