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I initially wrote, and published this in the fall of 2010, and although it was written as an excerpt for a piece of short fiction I thought I'd include it in this collection.
The Invention of the Relationship
I caught up with her at the station. The train was idling, as if it were waiting for something, a steam was clearing while friends and families were embracing: they were chatting, and crying, tears for loved ones leaving, and for others returning. I nearly lost myself in the crowd looking for her, worried that I missed her.
The train whistled, a warning that she would be leaving soon, I pushed through the crowd now with an anxious brutishness. She was sitting on a bench hugging her bag when I noticed her. From this distance it looked as if she were crying—I had hoped that I would have learned from my assumptions, but I am constantly taken back by my lack of intuition, for someone who has been wrong as often as I should likely have been right by now, even accidentally—she was laughing, and not at all surprised to see me, in fact, she was expecting me, and had been considering whether it would be more “fun” to watch me chase the train as it left or to wait, to witness, first hand, the look on my face as she walked away; she then stood, and left.
I sat on the bench at the station for a while and watched the sun slowly set in a distance, until the light had faded, and disappeared. I thought about the invention of the relationship, and couldn't escape thinking about what it is that really makes a relationship work, and what it means exactly to be in one--it’s not always better late than never.
I thought about expectations, and how easily they can direct and influence our relationships; the expectations that we accepted mutually and were capable of working on, those we tried to compromise on, as well as those that seem to separate us. It occurred to me that there are only so few of our expectations that we can communicate to one another, the rest are conditioned and latent such as the influence our parents relationships have on us, the general opinions we form subconsciously from our experiences, and those that develop, subtly as a result of our cultural, religious, or political affiliations. The only way to work through these is a willingness of continued sacrifice, and really getting to know and to feel comfortable with our significant other.
We find ourselves making the subconscious presumption that because we have been conditioned with certain, distinct expectations, everyone has. It almost seems too obvious to mention but we really do have to learn how to communicate to each other, as well as how to be as honest as possible while communicating; it's easy early in a relationship to want to say what you think the other person wants to hear, but don't do that; we did that, a lot of people do that. Be honest.
I remember several years back we were sitting on a bench in a park in the center of town, near a gazebo that we had carved a heart and our initials in one afternoon on impulse, and we laughed about it and held each other. We sat there talking about our future, and our dreams, and we revised them, a little, to include each other, and then we latched on to some common interest and we simply ignored everything else. It may seem too early on, when all you want to be is playful, to talk about how serious a relationship you are looking for: who you want to be, what you want to do, having kids, etc., but starting this conversation early just makes it that much easier to have later, as well as anything else that you might want to talk to about, and it’s OK for everything to change, no one should expect that conversation you had months ago in that relationship to bet set in stone, but continue to talk about it, and other things. When it came to that point, we didn't know how to talk to each other, simply because it wasn't something that we had developed. And, then we just forgot to know each other; I did realize this, and still I couldn't say anything, I just didn’t know how, we didn’t know, because had never developed it.
And then one morning, I woke up to a note left on the fridge, I ran to the train station to catch up to her, and have since been sitting alone on a bench watching a train disappear in the horizon. I would, every few minuets, quiet my thoughts thinking that I heard in the distance a train whistle. I sat silently for a while until I realized it was only my imagination. I think I tried to hard to grow with her. I had this idea that in order for us to work we needed to grow, closer, you know, to, essentially, become one, but, thinking about it now, it seems ridiculous to expect that. If I was going to expect anything at all I should expect us to grow independent of each other, not away from, not towards, just near. We should have grown independently, together, and shared that with one another.
One evening we were taking a walk through town talking about any number of things that we could fathom between here and there, and we disagreed about something, and you would have thought it was the end of our world, I felt compelled to apologize just because I thought differently. Having generally similar interests is not something that many people are thinking about, at least beyond having like interests. What I mean is that obviously having common ground is important—especially to her in this situation—nevertheless it isn't something we think about because it’s, just, a common understanding, having the right shared interest, but the thought is incomplete, you also need to have the right contrast—the right differences, as well. Everyone is familiar with the idea that opposites attract, but do we really consider what that actually means, though? Our differences are just as, if not more, important in a relationship than our similarities.
Firstly, it means there is still a degree of self, meaning we haven't spent this time slowly becoming the same person. And, secondly, we’ll have something important to continue to talk about. It is easier and more interesting to have a conversation with someone about something you think differently on than something you agree about. This is, after all, how we learn. And it might allow you to come to similar conclusions via different means, and how amazing is it that you can continue to learn about one another, even after having spent so much time together? Also, you can see how well you react to one another when you disagree. You will agree on some things, but not everything, and when you do disagree are you capable of being accepting of that. Can you discuss it without arguing?
Regardless, I've been sitting here for hours, the warm evening air has now turned cold and damp, a full moon distracts me from being...distracted. I'm still, however, just as confused now as I have always been, and even if I did have some profound moment of enlightenment it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference next time around, because the rules change. It's all general. I'll hope next time around that what I've learned: to try and communicate as well as possible as early as possible, to not assume that everyone thinks and reacts the exact same way I do, and realize that it probably isn't personal will help to make sense of our individual feelings. These relationships are something that we cherish, and will continue to cherish, they make a difference in our lives; when you don't have one you want one and when you have them sometimes you catch yourself questioning your sanity. You know you'll get hurt again, but we believe its worth it, or at least that this one will be different, and it will be, but, how?