stories >> 1998 - 11 - 10
Back at the end of last summer, I was ready to swear
off of relationships for awhile. I had just gotten through a pretty rotten one
that had ended in a pretty rotten way, and I was in no mood to get involved
again. At the time I laid the blame all on her, and I'm sure she laid it all
on me, but you're older-but-wiser now and you realize that, just like the song,
it's your own damn fault.
C'est la vie. C'est la guerre. C'est la mode.
To top it off, that was when Traci finally started dating someone seriously for the first time since we split up, more than two years ago now. Some part of me was saying, "Hey, bubba, she's your EX-girlfriend, you should be happy for her," and I knew that part was right, but lay off, okay? Yeesh. You can't tell me you don't get a little jealous when you think about that girl you went to prom with... a joke:
Bill says to Hillary: wow, how would
life be different if you married that guy you went to prom with?
Hillary says to Bill: well, I guess that *he'd* be President now.
Hyuk, hyuk, anyway, at the time I needed something
to occupy my mind and keep me off the streets, so training (and of course, good
old cold smoke ) provided ample opportunities
for both. I hatched out a plan to run consecutively longer races throughout
the winter, culminating in, hopefully, an 18 miler in January. To do this, I
needed to beef up my long runs of the week, starting with seven milers and working
up to the eighteen. At the pace of the Golden Tortoise, seven miles is about
an hour, and twelve miles is two. One hour of running will calm you down and
drive all thoughts of anything else from your mind; two hours of running puts
you into a dizzying, numbing mindset; and two and half hours (my longest training
run of 14 miles) puts you at peace with the world. And the endorphin jags from
those long runs last for hours, and let you get to sleep, and make it all worthwhile
(I have waxed poetic, or at least loquacious, about this before).
All in all, it was exactly what I needed at the time, so I dove in with both
(flat) feet on unbended (but sore) knees.
On and off, off and on, I occasionally go running
with other people. Jim and I have put in our short milers together, Julie and
I have run long and hard, and various people that I've met along the way have
become one or two times running companions.
One of these companions was a fella' named David, and another was a friend of his named Jong.
|Coming soon: The Clock Radio vs. the Gaussian Blur!|
Well, "Traci's friend" is being a bit disingenuous.
I met Jong through Traci, and Traci met Jong through law school. Or to be more
particular, through a mentoring program in law school. As in, Traci was Jong's
mentor. The first time I remember meeting Jong was when Traci, Jong and I went
to eat Chinese food one time at a place called Pao's (great food, but whenever
I went with Traci, they explicitly ignored me, Golden gaijin Tortoise,
and would literally only talk to Traci. It was extremely frustrating). Jong
insists that we first met at an old hippie kind of Austin Chronicle kind of
place called Martin Brothers, and as I type this now I can, yes, vaguely remember
seeing her there. I remember because I always hated Martin Brothers, so it was
unusual to go there, and I remember how Jong stuck her tongue out when she laughed...
which is actually a much more flattering habit than that sounds.
So I remember seeing her around for a few years. Just one of those people who's a bit of an acquaintance, someone you know well enough to stop and talk to at the super market, but not someone that you'd talk to on the phone or send an email to. She was year or two behind Traci in law school, and she was good friends with David, who knew someone that Traci and I went to undergrad with, and who knew someone that I worked with at my first job out of school, and isn't life just like that sometimes.
Oh, did I mention that Jong's a knockout?
Fast forward back to the start of fall from my rewind
to the middle of summer, and we find the Tortuga gutting his way through these
increasingly longer weekly long runs. Tuesday, for whatever reason, was Long
Run Day, and I was starting progressively earlier so that I wouldn't be running
in the dark. So at 4:30 on Tuesday afternoons, I would gather up my gear and
tell Chuck (remember Chuck? ), "Hey
ya, Long Run Day, off I go for a run!" And boom, boom, boom, I was out on the
trail, cruising along with my thoughts and my knees.
One night I come home from a night of drinking with Cantone, and there's a message on my machine:
"Uh, hi, this is Jong.... uh, Traci's friend... and I was wondering if you'd like to go running sometime?"
She rambled on for another minute or so until my machine cut her off (oh, how I love that my machine cuts people off in mid stride. Keep it concise if you're calling old Al) and I thought, "Hmm, that's strange." But sure I'll go for a run with just about anyone once or twice, so I jotted down her work number so that I could call her the next day at a reasonable hour. When I did call, I got her voice mail, so I left her a message:
"Hi, this is Alan... you know, Traci's friend..."
And eventually we got back in touch with each other and made plans to go for a run. On the phone she said, "Traci never told me that you were so funny." Hmmm.
Off for the run.
We did the normal four miler, and Jong kept up a good enough pace, but one thing I've been taught is to never really punish people who are just starting out running. We kept a talking pace, and Jong told me about her trip to Korea, and how she had just broken up with the guy she had dated in law school. She was enjoying being single for the time being, and felt like she needed time for herself. "Lord Nose!" I told her, and gave her my brief and biased account of my recent tribulation. I thought one of the big problems with that last relationship was that I was more focused on the relationship than the girl, that is I was lonesome rather than in love, so I was going to wait a while now for someone who I really liked to come along.
Very reasonable, we both agreed, oh yes. Jog, jog, along, and I'm telling myself, "My, how adult I am that I can be jogging along with this gorgeous woman and we're discussing, like two rational adults, our disjointed and disinterested love lives, and we're not interested in each other as anything more than just friends."
So that weekend I call up Traci and we get to talking,
and she asks me how the run went, and it all went good, and I get kind of quiet
and Traci, bless her heart, always knows when something is up. So she says,
"Well, Al... what's going on?" And I tell her, "Hmm, I kind of like Jong."
Traci and I talk some more, and I tell her that I don't plan on pursuing things very hard. "I mean, we kept talking about how neither of us wanted to be in a relationship. I just like her, and maybe if I wasn't still screwed up over this last thing, then maybe I'd be after her, but whatever. You know? What. Ever." I could hear Traci agreeing on the other end of the line, and I could see that annoyed look she gets when she thinks that she knows me better than I know myself. "I'll just ask her out on a run again, how about that?"
"Don't you go and hurt her Alan. She's my baby, you know."
Sure, Traci, it's just a run. Neither of us wants a relationship, didn't I tell you about that part?
So I called up Jong, and we talked for ten or twenty
minutes, and I suggested that we go for another run the next week. She was up
for it, and we set the date for the next Tuesday. I'd have to sacrifice Long
Run Day, but hey, life's about flexibility. The one sticky in the wicket was
that David was coming along on this run.
We agree to meet down at the Garden Escape office on Tuesday evening. At work that day, my buddy Michael (whom I worked with back at Apple, and happens to be the one that David knew from high school or some such, and isn't life like that) calls me up and invites me to the Poetry Slam that night at the Electric Lounge. The Poetry Slam is something all to itself, and if you don't know what it is, I'll have to explain it at length at some other time...
So Jong and David show up and we head out for the run. After our first run, Jong and I had gone with lucky Jimmy and Ezell over to the Chili Parlor for dinner afterwards. I figured that I would work the precedent and suggest that the three of us eat dinner afterwards. Which I did, and we went to Frank and Angies for the "great freaking pizza." During dinner, the Poetry Slam came up and I told her that I was going to go. Would she like to go?
"I don't think that there's a Poetry Slam tonight," Jong tells me. "DJ Spooky is playing tonight at the Electric Lounge."
Hmmm, well, okay, I was still planning on going, to see my man Michael and just hang out. Would she like to go?
"Well, I actually really like DJ Spooky... and the slam might be neat. I have to go home and change."
Well, great, I'll be there, and if you show up, that'd be great.
"Great, great," she says.
David's staring at me with disbelieving and disapproving eyes. Why is that? What? We're just two adults... who aren't interested in a relationship... maybe going to the same show....
"Great, great." I beam.
|My God, man, it's SPOOKY and the Return of the Gaussian Blur!|
Back inside, and Spooky's on stage now, and he's
pretty good, but it's getting really late for a school night. Jong and I dance
a little now, holler at each other some more, and decide that it's time to get
out of here. Jong offers me a ride home since it's about forty degrees outside
and I gratefully accept. We stop by Garden Escape to get a glass of water, and
on the way home I end up pouring it all over her. As we pull into my apartment
complex, we're both laughing as Jong tries to dry her hair and I spin the little
disco ball she has hanging from her sun visor. I'm thinking to myself that I
just want to go upstairs and go to bed, but I'd also like to sit here and talk
to Jong some more. But the bed is calling, and Jong seems like she wants to
go home, too, so I figure it's time to go up. I thank her for the ride home
and start to get out of the car.
Jong catches my arm and says, "We have to talk."
So I pause, and ask "What about?"
"I think we need to talk about Traci. I really value her friendship... I would never want to hurt her... What would she think about all of this?"
I look at Jong for a second and then tell her, "Well, when I talked to her about it on Saturday, she said it was kind of weird, but that she was all right with it..." I watch her closely, trying to decide if I've just said the right thing or not
Jong blinks once or twice, and then she asks, "You've already talked to her about it?" and I could hear the relief in her voice. In the dark, I started smiling that wide, idiot grin of mine.
And in the dark, I could feel her smiling back.