Six years after Julie and I had mutually botched what we knew was our last chance to be together, we somehow found ourselves together in bed on Labor Day weekend in Wichita Falls, Texas. OK, that’s a tad oversimplified. In those six years, Julie had left her first marriage to wed our college English professor, who had subsequent;y abounded. I had also – and was still – married. We had each relocated at least twice and were ensconced in careers far removed from those degrees in English we were pursuing when we met. Until she wrote me a few weeks earlier, we had been completely out of contact for three years, and neither of us had any idea where the other lived. Most importantly, we had both been smart enough, sensible enough, and mature enough to know that holding onto the illusion that the two of us would somehow, someday be together was not only unrealistic, but emotionally treacherous. Consequently, we had each surrendered that fantasy. We did not, after all, live in a fairy tale of the sort which features children who mysteriously disappear only to be serendipitously reunited with their parents years later or a cheesy melodrama in which twins separated at birth discover each other’s identity when they happen to ride the same subway car and notice they are wearing matching lockets – or a mythical universe in which lovers reunite after living disparate lives for six years. No, this was not a rom com; this was real life. On the other hand…
Anyway, it turned out that it took Julie and me eight years to get from our first meeting in Joplin, Missouri to our first kiss in Wichita Falls.
To get from our first kiss to our first home together took four months.
Well, it was a pretty good kiss. (For more about that Wichita Falls episode, see Willie, Waylon, Jerry Lewis, Julie, And Me)
In those four months before we finally moved in together in Chicago, we exchanged letters (in that benighted pre-email era) daily.1
An excerpt from one of Julie’s letters written during our long deferred, highly compacted long distance courtship follows. This selection is unfair to Julie, whose epistolary style abounded with wit, allusions, nestled references, double entendres, wisdom, depth, insight, and, of course, salacious suggestions, none of which are included here. It is, in fact, a tad goofy – not Julie’s style at all.. Nonetheless, it still moves me.
Dear Wonderful Allan,
I want, need, and deserve to see you (I’ve been such a good little sick girl). Therefore, I will see you. This is a variation on the glad game, much in vogue with N.V. Peale and his ilk. (You, of course, being absolutely and totally unique in all the world, are ilkless.) …
Where, oh where, has my cynical unromantic attitude gone? I fear it has forsaken me for good (or ill). I’m ready to spend my life in a terminal case of cuteness (or sweetness), sipping banana milkshakes together. …
Carly Simon is singing “Lovin’ you’s the right thing to do.” How odd, to have a song seem to apply to us. “I know what I think I’ve known all along.” Ah yes.
My mail today contained “Handyman” magazine, an anniversary gift from [the ex-husband], an exhortation from my mother to have a little talk with Jesus ([sister] ratted on me and told her I was trying to raise my consciousness) … and a clever card from [a friend] saying “One thing about that operation of yours/It’ll make you forget about sex” (to which she added “for about 5 minutes.” My friends know me).
Now Carly doesn’t have time for the pain. Lucky Carly.
Allan, Allan, Allan – I am infatuated, smitten, head-over-heels, name your cliche (and I do hate cliches. That’s how low you’ve brought me). Why is it getting harder to be without you instead of easier? Why couldn’t I remain detached and calm? Why are you proving, after all this time, irresistible?
Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman with whom I had a outrageously wonderful marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a brilliant scholar, the mother of our two sons, and a prize-winning author. Many posts on this blog are about her and still others consist of her writings. Julie’s Story is the account of our unlikely romance, Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ.
- The built-in USPS delay resulted in three or four parallel mail conversations. The response to a joke mailed today would arrive perhaps four days later; in the meantime, two or three notes responding to other letters would arrive. One had to be on the ball. [↩]