It had become a running joke. It wasn't a particularly original concept. People in New England routinely compare impossible situations to the Red Sox winning the World Series. It was always pretty much a given that whenever you went up against impossible odds, someone would speak the line.
"The Red Sox will win the World Series before the two of you ever get it together," my friend Martin used to always say.
It is strange and amusing that the two events managed to occur almost simultaneously. The last time the Red Sox were close, up two games on the New York Mets in 1986, I attempted to shift streams. My friend Martin, who began the entire curse, started to believe it was going to happen. "Maybe it is possible," he said before I told him I was quitting. I was with someone else now and she was giving me everything I could possibly want in a partner. Lisa was going to be my girl always. After more than a year of being told by The Muse it would never work out between us, I told Martin, with the Red Sox up 2-0 in the Series, that I was giving up. The Mets went on to win in seven games.
The Red Sox were down two games to none to the Yankees when I arrived in New Hampshire. They lost game three the night we fumbled around, trying to decide what this was. Were we now just two old friends getting together for one more reunion visit or was something else happening? The night we stopped fighting, the night we decided to clear out all the dead wood in our shared history, the night we decided we were going to finally do this, the Red Sox won game four against the Yankees. It was the start of eight straight wins and a World Series title. I suppose I should consider it a coincidence.
The particulars of my return to New Hampshire also relate to the end of my self-imposed exile in Florida. I moved here in October of 1997 in order to "start over." There had been many changes in my life and changes in who I was. The depression and hopelessness that led to my suicide in 1994 had given way to a new approach to life. I no longer became depressed. I no longer felt things were destined to fall apart as soon as I became involved in them. I had gained faith in myself and my ability to pursue my dreams and goals. Those who had known me had trouble adjusting to this new version of me. Many of them left or faded into the background. What remained was a person so unlike the person they had known, it was difficult to impress upon them that I was the same person. It was easier to start over somewhere new, with new friends and associates, than it was to sell the new me to those who had known the shy, retreating and sad Keith for years.
There were also lessons. Dreams had guided me to Orlando. To go where there is no snow. To find the beautiful blonde woman who called to me in those dreams. She would give me an answer. Why was I still alive? Where was I to go in life to justify, to myself, this second chance I had been given. The Three Queens would be symbolic, a step by step demonstration of the pattern I followed in life. I would give up too easily on what I truly wanted, settle for second best, stumble into unhappiness and disenchantment and would need to be rescued. While many patterns I followed prior to June 6, 1994 were broken by my changed approach to life, this one was altered but unchanged. The lesson was simple, in the end. I gave up too easily on the things I really wanted in life and I settled on second best too easily. As a result my life was not what it could be. My depression before my suicide and my wandering quest after were both fueled by the same pattern. I never truly committed myself to what I really wanted, although I had gotten very good at convincing myself that it did not matter. While it was most obvious with the women in my life, the pattern stretched across all aspects of my life. Easier to settle for second best and act like you're king shit because of it.
At the heart of it was the one dream I held onto, the one dream that never changed no matter where I travelled and where I sought the path. The dream was more than constant, it was with me every day in such a way that it made substitution almost impossible. In the years after my death I became a strange sort of Don Juan. There was never a shortage of women in my life, and as time went on they became younger and more beautiful. Some were satisfied with the temporary nature of our involvement and with the friendship that evolved from it. Others wanted more. They wanted to be with me in a lasting and fully committed way, and they would grow frustrated with my inability to give myself completely. The two longest "relationships" of my life were both three and a half years long, the first being with Lisa, who betrayed me and snuck around with other lovers. The second was my marriage, which only recently was declared over except on paper. While both women had their own issues and problems within the relationship, a big part of the problem was that I could not give either of them all of me.
It took my years to realize the frustration involved with trying to be my "girlfriend." I've heard it said that Don Juanism is a cover for repressed homosexuality. In my case it was a cover for unexpressed and unrealized love for someone else. For nearly twenty years the problem was always the same. When it came to the point where we became serious about "being together," things would fall apart. Some people have a problem with commitment because they aren't ready to handle it, but I had a problem with commitment because my heart and soul were always with someone else. It was a strange kind of loyalty. It did not keep me from meeting and dating women. It did not keep me from sleeping with them, living with them, or even marrying them. It kept me from giving them my heart and soul.
Almost as if someone was trying to scream the nature of the pattern I was following, as the women in my life got younger, they all started to have the same name. Christine. Tina. Christina. Kristy. Kris. Chris. Christina. Kristina. Tina. After a while they all started to look like substitutes for each other. They all started to blur together. They were almost all waitresses. They were never women I wanted to build a life together with. They were little more than women I just wanted to spend a few enchanted weekends with, showering them with glowing praise and passionate appreciation. It was getting old, and when Kristina stopped working at the bar I sometimes go to, she was replaced with a new waitress named Tina. I'd had enough. Stop screaming in my face. I am out of this game, I've already played it.
For someone who has had so many women in his life over the years, it is hard to explain how there is only one in a class by herself. It isn't easy to explain to people who know me that this isn't another one of my dances with danger and passion. It is easier to explain it to the women who have known me intimately. I've never tended to be with women who are jealous and possessive. I think this is because such women are immediately repulsed by me. Christina H., who died almost two years ago now, used to tell me, "You have this glow and any woman can tell they aren't the source of that glow. You're in love and not with me." The women I've known tended to like a challenge. They tended to be wild, crazy and uninhibited. Most of them had a sense that they could be the one who erased my memory and won my heart, and as sappy as that sounds, there is no better way to describe it.
The Muse always had my heart and my soul, even as she claimed to never want them. In the early days I did not understand why it was that women who were neither jealous nor possessive would react so strongly to the mere mention of her name. In 1987 I was with Lisa, who did not mind when I went to lunch with other women or talked about other women at all, but when I said I was delivering booze to The Muse's house for her high school graduation party, she did everything in her power to stop me, including throwing the only angry and emotional fit I ever saw her throw, culminating in, "If you do this, I will leave you." As always, I chose The Muse, even though I would not so much as see her. I would just make the delivery to her brother and come back and convince Lisa it meant nothing. It was the night we stopped being a couple and became little more than fuck buddies. In 1992, when I was engaged to Justine, The Muse wanted to see me and needed to talk to me about something serious and difficult she had to deal with in her life. Justine, who generally hated coming to the house I was living in, stayed there for three hours. She sat at the kitchen table, ignoring my roommate Martin, and as he told me later, she just sat staring, watching the clock and anxiously waiting for me to come home. She wasn't in any way jealous or possessive either.
"You'll never be happy as long as I am around."
"Well, there is an alternative."
"That is never going to happen."
I could have been anywhere, with any other woman, and it would not have fazed any of them. That was the whole point. I've always been with the Two Queen, the substitute, the second stringer, and they've always known this. It is okay as long as the One Queen is away and out of the picture, but when she comes around, it sets something off. The reason this is such a huge moment in my life, more so than any other, including my experience with death, is that it is the first time I will not be with a substitute. I will be with she who has held my heart and soul since the first time I kissed her in April of 1985. For her part, she stood the test of time, through very bad moments, very good moments, and long periods of complete separation. No other woman, no matter how beautiful, how smart, how interesting and how wonderful they were was ever able to touch the parts of me she touches without any effort. This means something.
I don't know where the journey will take me now. This is a period of adjustment and change, a crossroads bigger than any crossroads I have faced before. It was important for me to know that she wasn't just surrendering. This had to mean as much to her as it does to me and even though she is The Muse, I could not submit myself to, "I'm bored and lonely and have nothing better to do." The trip I took up to New Hampshire was about that and I came away realizing it had always meant as much to her as it did to me. For her own reasons she had to believe I would not give up on her, that I would never stop trying to find her and trying to convince her to stay in my life. I asked for nothing more, and all I expected was that we'd keep in contact with regular phone calls and emails. Then I find myself looking into her eyes as she tells me, "I think it's time to find out if this thing really works. I'm ready. Are you?"
She was the one who convinced me, undoing all her speeches to me over the years about how she either wasn't worth caring so much about or that it could never work between us. I was resigned simply to the hope that we would keep talking and that she wouldn't disappear again. She actually had to work hard to convince me it was time for more than that. After years of blaming her for being too afraid to let it happen, I realized I was more afraid than she was. It was like playing the last card in your hand and knowing you now have nothing in reserve. She spent years hoping I wouldn't give up, relying on my constant efforts to contact her to remind her that there was someone who truly loved her. Her only fear was that she would be unable to live up to the image I had of her, that once we were together I might realize I was confused and deluded and she wasn't who I thought she was at all. I spent years knowing that no matter what happened in life, she always existed and someday it just might happen. I wasn't ready for it to be someday, but in a lot of ways I was beyond ready.
"Okay, there were two ways I could explain this to my friends. The first is there is a unemployed, married guy with no money coming here to have sex with me. The second is there is this guy who has been in love with me since I was sixteen and has never given up on me and now we're writing a happy ending. The first is really creepy and the second makes me want to throw up. Which one should I go with?"
My novels tend not to have happy endings. I consider them trite and disappointing. My novels usually end with a puzzle you need to put together before you can really understand the ending. The Muse describes our last twenty years as being "like a movie without an ending." The endless searching, the abbreviated reunions and the tragic circumstances that either brought us together or pulled us apart were what defined us. Maybe there are happy endings. This sure as hell feels like one. I'm going home. All I ever asked for in life has been given to me. Maybe it is more than a happy ending. Together we've always made a great team and together we've always been able to do anything. Now we really will be together for the first time ever. Maybe it is a miracle.
The last line of her novel, the story of a woman who goes on a journey through life to find herself, is simply, "I just took the long way home." I don't think any other line could come close to describing the here and now between us. It only took twenty years.
The fact that the Red Sox did not lose a game in the playoffs after we decided to come together is just... weird. It was like a reminder that the impossible is possible and everything happens in its time. The best advice I can give anyone now is to determine what really matters to you, what you really believe in, and never give up on the dream. Just be damned certain it really is what you want.
Eventually I might even come back down to earth, but I am in no hurry. For years I only imagined what this would feel like and it is better than I ever imagined it could have been. Sometimes dreams come true. It is now time to move forward.