|“Sweetheart pin cushion” by Ksbrown – Own work.
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –
We were early practitioners of the bi-coastal relationship. In our case, the distance was often greater than that from east to west; for instance, one of us was in Australia while the other was in Chile. It may seem proximate when I was in Hawaii while he was in Alaska, but there was a bigger difference in realities than if we had found ourselves one in New York and the other in California.
During our many years of marriage, we were in the same place only about half the time. In some ways, the separations meant that our reunions were fresher and more passionate. Even our time apart was amorous, what with late night phone calls and languorous chats.
At first, after each separation, the reunion was like a honeymoon. We were sometimes shy, sometimes bold. As the years went by, whenever we met again, we did not meet as strangers; familiarity set in, but it was not of the day-to-day variety, but of the well-worn simpatico kind.
Work sent us scurrying to different corners, but our relationship still thrived. All those years spent far from one another, meant that ten years felt more like two in a marriage. For us, when we said it felt like only yesterday, sometimes it actually did. And, yes, we knew that being apart may have contributed to our staying together. We did not quarrel over undone dishes or forgotten groceries.
Bi-coastal couples are more common today than they were when we first undertook our experiment in long-distance loving.
Whenever we could, we stayed put in the same place as long as possible. Something always called us away again. Our time in the same place was never routine. We couldn’t take it for granted. Most often it was simply a gift, and we treasured it, Of course, the precious days we could cherish were relatively few. Since they were not always expected, but popped up unannounced, we used them to create little ceremonies.
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The memories of these days were carried off to far off locales. The time we had spent together was our keepsake, and the token of our love.
Despite the long distances in our relationship, neither of us was ever tempted to stray. Our reunions were too important to be sullied or even complicated by the opportunities that come to single marrieds. We not only did not look, we did not respond when a chance crossed our paths.
Insteasd, we waited with happy expectancy for the day we would reunite. The phone was an instrument for our togetherness. Conversatons were long, loving and expensive.
At one time, while he was in Paris (sigh), I was in San Francisco. I was in Argentina while he was on assignment in Austria then Poland. Both of us were briefly back stateside, in Minnesota and Mississippi respectively.
Then we landed city desk jobs in Jersey and Westchester. Not the most glamourous placements, but it meant we would live together as man and wife at last. Finally the chance to settle together in a new home, where we could both stay!
We did not hesitate as I thought we might. Change is powerfully threatening, and habits are comfortable. Nonetheless, we undertook the move with light hearts. There were pleasures yet to explore after all the absences. Our marriage was still young. Our love was ever green.
We found our home to be pleasant and carefree. It was centrally located so we could each commute with ease, and be home as much as possible. We came and went as we pleased, but it pleased us to find idle hours to alone with each other.
Who knew that this would be our test? Some would say it was inevitable.
For a full year, we settled into our new lives. One or the other brought home dinner and cooked. We walked to a nearby park to spend hours watching the ducks run in circles through a pond. We sat and drank coffee at a cafe on the corner.
In winter, we trudged with our big boots for walks in the snow. During the days, we went to work from opposite sides of the city. That felt familiar.
What happened? Boredom seems to have set in. We missed our long phone calls. We missed the longing that built up when were apart. We could reach for each other any time during the dark, soft nights.
There were no surprises, hideden in our embrace. When we were apart, we were so close. Together like this, we drifted.
I was the first to go, at least emotionally. I did not act on the attraction I felt for the colleague I met.
We were neither of us young anymore, of course. Romance seemed silly, but there it was. The feelings were mutual, even if we remained chaste.
In the meantime, my husband had begun deceptions of his own. He had indulged in a series of trysts with women he was flirting with around town. He was sure that these infidelities would be less damaging to our marriage than a serious fling.
He was most likely right. I had broken our trust more deeply and irreparably than he had.
Confessions were just around the corner for us. They came with tears and self-recriminations. They ended with an attempt at reconciliation. Most couples who have been in a similar place know that reconciling after a breach like the one we committed was an illusion.
Eventually, I took a job far far away and he stayed with the fading memories of our years apart. My new office romance fell apart as soon as my husband and I tried to make a go of our marriage again. I was ultimately left to indulge my solitude.
I heard he remarried and sent him a congratulatory note. We never met again.