A lesson I keep having to learn no matter what life I'm in: you can't control other people. You'd think, having dated Todd, I would be used to the idea, but it was something that often frustrated me. People are gonna feel what they're gonna feel. It's hard enough to control yourself. Other people? Forget it.
I was chaperoning a dance with Cathy last week. Teachers are obligated to put in a certain number of extra responsibilities, and sometimes I'm okay with them, sometimes not. By that token, dances are a bit easier to stomach than, say, PTA meetings or parent-teach nights. The PTA is a bore, and parent-teacher nights have largely been a train of parents asking why their kids aren't doing so well (admittedly, their teacher is an under-trained novice, but I've gotten better.) Some parents can handle themselves, others decide to forget that I'm a human being and just let loose all their frustrations on me.
So dances. Yeah, that's a bit easier to take. All I have to do is stand around and enjoy the snacks while the kids paw at each other, and make sure they know they're being watched.
By some strange twist of fate, the dance Cathy and I signed on for was the "90's dance." I'm not some old lady, but I grew up in the 90's, and it was trippy to see my youth re-purposed the way people did the 80's when I was young. Nobody dressed up in 90's clothes or anything, but the music was a pretty dead on recreation of what was around back then, ranging the entire decade:
List of artists who were played over the course of three hours: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Guns N Roses, Soundgarden, Metallica, Boyz 2 Men, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Brandy, Monica, Eve 6, Smashmouth, Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind, Fatboy Slim, Beastie Boys, NSync, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, Blind Melon, Jamiroquai, Beck, Cranberries, Barenaked Ladies, U2, Rob Zombie, Cher (Believe), Aerosmith, Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, Seal, Chumbawumba. Yeesh. Talk about hitting all the bases. The 90's were one effed-up decade, in retrospect, as far as popular tastes were concerned.
Cathy, who is about Rob's age, was similarly nostalgic for all this, although she has very different memories than I do, obviously. I was in grade school, and a little bit of high school, for all of this, so my earliest school dances would've had Britney and boybands. Also Canadian groups like The Tragically Hip, Great Big Sea and Moist got their due, but I'm getting off topic.
Cathy and I rehashed the stories of our youths, me sort of improvising on the spot to account for my age and gender. I mainly let her do the talking. When the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" hit, she couldn't take it anymore and led me out on the dancefloor for an "awkward high school slowdance."
I had my hands around her waist, she reached up and rested hers on the back of my shoulders. Suddenly I felt like I was back in a time before all this, way before Rob Garcia and the Trading Post inn and even before heartbreak and angst over Todd or the stress of University, when you could just be with someone and feel awkward over something so simple. And I looked down at this woman and she was clearly thinking the same things, just enjoying her flashback, and then she drew closer and closer, and I didn't mind so much, even when she pressed herself against me and I very clearly had an erection. She felt so small in my arms. Then at the end of the song, she turns her face upward and kisses me in the cheek, then again closer to the lips. I pull away in shock.
She glares at me in... shock? Disappointment? Embarrassment? I don't know. She wasn't pleased with either of us, because she just walked off and didn't talk to me for the rest of the night.
I caught up with her the next day and she was still cold. "I'm sorry about that," she said bitterly, "I guess I just misread the entire thing. I'm an idiot, okay? don't hold it against me." It was half a sincere apology and half pure anger. I know, because I've used that tone.
"Cathy, things are really complicated, and I don't think..."
"No, shut up. It's not complicated at all, you idiot. We're grown-ups. You don't have to act like every little thing is a tragic romance. You have to let yourself have a little fun. I mean Jesus, what did your wife do to you that you can't even just... enjoy things?"
And that was that. I'll never be able to explain exactly why I can't be with her. I was trying very hard not to get close enough to anyone that this sort of emotional reaction would happen, but I guess no matter how hard you try, people can't be taken and packed away like that. Now I've hurt someone without meaning to, and made things awkward with the woman who had pretty much been my closest friend here. I shouldn't take things like this personally, maybe, but I can't say "it's not really my life" because it really is. I did this.
I don't think I was wrong, but I feel bad that it came to this. I wish I could just crawl into bed for the next month and a half and wake up in Maine, but sadly, this is the real world, and I have work to do.