I have had this mental image building ever since I found that card in the basement, linking me back to the very beginning of our time together as I cleaned up the last debris of that time. It came into focus last week, once again in a song. This one is from “The Last Five Years”, an off-Broadway musical from 2002. Jason Robert Brown wrote the music and lyrics, basing it on the rise and fall of a relationship.
Brown chose an interesting device to tell the story: The couple go through the events in opposite chronological orders: The opening number is Catherine singing a song titled “Still Hurting” about the end of the relationship, which is followed by Jamie singing a song about the “Shiksa Goddess” he just met. The focus continues switching between the couple as she goes backwards and he forwards until they meet in the middle of the show for “The Next Ten Minutes”, where they are briefly in sync and exchange marriage vows. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, because we already know the marriage is doomed from Catherine’s arc to get there.
The piece ends with Cathy singing “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” a beautiful number that captures the breathless anticipation after that first date where you feel something big is about to happen. Jamie joins in from the end of the timeline with “I Could Never Rescue You”, as he packs up the apartment and moves out.
The circumstances are not at all the same, a breakup of a five year relationship has very little in common with a death after thirty years together, but there is something resonant in the images of him looking back from the end, juxtaposed with her looking forward from the beginning, especially with me finding that first card on the last day at the house.
There I was at the end of it all, looking all the way back to her at the beginning, seeing her anticipate all our tomorrows…
So goodbye until tomorrow!
Goodbye until my feet touch the floor
And I will be waiting
I will be waiting!
Goodbye until tomorrow
Goodbye until the rest of my life
And I have been waiting
I have been waiting for you
Waiting for you
Waiting for you
I had been waiting for her too. That card brought back the memory of a date that lasted until 3am on a work night when I had a 45 minute drive back to my apartment and a staff presentation on my project to deliver the next day. I thought I was going to be a zombie, but amazingly, everybody told me it was a great presentation. I had found my muse.
But all her tomorrows are all our yesterdays to me now. I have spent over a year of yesterdays alone looking back at her already. I started out thinking I could somehow package all I knew of her, all those bits and pieces, that ability we had to finish each others’ sentences, into some kind of lingering presence of her in my mind, a continuing version of her voice providing a running commentary on my life. After a while it became apparent that was a misguided idea. All the conversations are one sided monologues, just wishing she was still around to hear me.
But I could never rescue you
No matter how I tried
All I could do was love you hard
And let you go.
So here I am at the letting go part, the hardest part of all. I sold the house, I spent the last year trying to build a bridge to something next. A whole lot of people helped to get me across that chasm. Now I have to step off and find a life on this side.
No matter how I tried
All I could do was love you
God, I loved you so
So that’s how our story ends. For months I have been trying to figure out how to close this epilogue, but in the end it wrote itself.
Her 51st birthday is a week away on May Eve. On May Day at sunrise I start the second year with my team. Last year I danced with grief, in my year of fallow fields, but the Morris is fundamentally about Spring and the return of growth.
One for grief, one for growth. It took a lot longer and was a lot harder than I anticipated, but last year I cleared away the rubble. This year I plant, and look forward to see what grows.
Just close the gate
I’ll stand and wait
We didn’t want to end that first date, stretching it until 3am, but eventually we had to say it…. and now, after the last 500 days, even though she never said it, I know I have to…