Elm Street

Tuesday’s walk – 11,847 steps, just over five and a half miles – included a few blocks of Elm Street, over in Urbana.

That’s a residential neighborhood: apartment buildings, and houses subdivided into apartments; mostly for students, but with an admixture of former students & general layabouts.

Somewhere on Elm Street – I have, perhaps to my benefit, forgotten exactly where – is the house where D. lived. She was the friend of a friend, which is how we met, in the spring of 1989.

There were a few parties we both attended, a few afternoons we spent together. We went out to dinner. She borrowed my car, once. There was one party that we left early, together. (And whatever you think I’m implying with that, you’re probably wrong.)

I liked D. I enjoyed spending time with her.

One day I visited D. at her new apartment, in the house on Elm. She’d just moved in, and was still unpacking, cleaning, doing minor repairs, etc., etc. After some small talk – something about a loose floorboard, an injured knee, and dubiously-acquired self-administered antibiotics – the conversation turned unexpectedly serious.

It’s been twenty-five years, but I remember D. looking at me, and asking, “What are you after?”



I was stunned. All this time – I thought something was happening between us – Is that all you think of me? I didn’t say that; I didn’t say any of what I was thinking, didn’t raise any protests or offer any defenses. Would there have been any point?

There’s no response to an accusation like that.

I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember that it didn’t change D.’s mind about me. I didn’t see much of her after that. (Before drifting completely out of my life, D. introduced me to her friend, T. What a disaster that was.)

I wrote most of the above on Tuesday, revised it a bit on Wednesday, then…couldn’t bring myself to post it. Something about it bothered me.

If you stare at a wall long enough, you’ll see the bricks; today I realized: I hadn’t been very fair to D.

It can be hard to tell caution from suspicion, when you’re on the receiving end of it. If D. had learned – or it was simply in her nature – to be wary of men she hadn’t known very long, who am I to say she was wrong?

It’s harder still to think clearly when your feelings have been hurt.

Perhaps the truth of it – a quarter-century too late to do anyone any good – is that D. had her own feelings about what was happening, they were different from mine, and…that’s ok. Worrying over who was right, who was wrong & whose feelings were hurt worse accomplishes exactly nothing.

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