THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Last week’s column about Burl Jr.’s pursuit of love started me thinking about what might’ve happened if he hadn’t followed his heart. If he’d stayed put and married Ashley. And that started me musing about all the men I know who’re pining over women they let get away.
Paulie, my old friend from high school, told me one day—on the eve of our fortieth reunion!—that a week doesn’t go by when he doesn’t wonder about his high school girlfriend, Lois, and what’s going on in her life. Did Paulie go to the reunion to find out? He did not. “I remember her exactly the way she was when we were eighteen,” he said. “Why would I want to ruin that?”
Keith, who I’ve known since we were college roommates, and whom I still talk to once a week, often brings up Suzanne, his girlfriend back in the day. “I love my wife,” Keith always says as he turns to this topic—which is how I know that’s where he’s going—“but I lie there in bed with her and think of how Suzanne felt in my arms. And I wish I was holding her again instead.”
Then there’s Stan. He’s a successful guy. Turned his parents’ record store into a big record company specializing in reissuing oldies but goodies. I’ve known Stan for over twenty years. For the last ten of those years he’s been happily married to Sylvie, a beautiful woman who’s borne him child after child. I think they’re on number six right now.
But one night, while the happy couple was visiting Gwen the Beautiful and me here on the Mountain, Stan confided that, “There hasn’t been a day since we broke up that I don’t think of that crazy lady I dated right before Sylvie. I keep wondering what would’ve happened if we’d stayed together. If I would’ve been even happier than I am now.”
Paulie, Keith, and Stan are the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been shocked by how many of my friends say to me, on the one hand, “I know I made the right choice with my life. This is the best relationship I’ve ever had…” and, on the other, “Remember Marcia, that girl I brought over to your house for dinner fifteen years ago? I tried looking her up on the web last night. I think I found her, but I’m not sure.”
I don’t know what kind of response these friends want from me when they say these things, but usually the rest of the conversation goes something like this:
“Why?” I say.
“Why aren’t I sure? Because I found thirteen different women with that same name.”
“No,” I say. “Why did you look her up on the web?”
“How could I not look her up?” my friend will say. “I had to. I see her face in front of me everyday. I hear her voice in my head. I have to be with her again. I’ll go nuts if I’m not!”
But they never are with them again. Even when they get the information they want. “I’ve got Suzanne’s e-mail address now,” Keith said to me the other day. “I can say hi and tell her how much I miss her whenever I want.”
“And when’ll that be?” I said.
“When I need to,” Keith said. “The important thing isn’t talking to her. It’s being able to talk to her. It’s knowing she’s there.”
One thing my old friends have in common is that they’re all city boys. Now that I’m not so citified anymore I figured it was important for me to learn if the country boys of Paradise felt the same way.
I rounded up the usual suspects, asking Brannigan the Contractor, Dwayne the Earth Mover, and Buck the Ex-Navy Seal if they had ex-girlfriends they were dying to get in touch with again.
“Absolutely not!” roared Brannigan.
“Not a’tall!” announced Dwayne.
“No way!” averred Buck.
As usual, Buck set me straight: “I grew up in this town. All my ex-girlfriends are from here. And they’re still here. Why would I be wondering about somebody I can see every time I set foot on Old Main?”
And there we have it. It’s not love or loss that drives the city boys’ hearts. It’s mystery, pure and simple. And while Paradise has its share of mysteries, what yesterday’s lovers are doing today isn’t one of them.