Once in a great while, I will have a dream about Tom Stucker. I cherish those times since they are so fleeting. One night last week, the sky still black, I woke up needing to pee, but then I fell back into a deep sleep, and dreamt that Tom was unloading a minivan at the Delta departures area at O’Hare airport. The minivan was old and covered with bumper stickers – I remember one read “Piss on Iran.” In the dream, he wore a white T-shirt and he helped a teenager, possibly his son, unload the van of its cargo – Tide detergent, a blue duffel bag with the initials “TAS” embroidered on the side, and a bean bag chair. I wondered in the dream if he had a son old enough to go to college. I need to ask my new court-appointed therapist, Paula, about what she makes of it all. In the dream, Tom looked at me the way he always did – with a raised eyebrow and a grin that said, “I know you still care about me.” But he would be wrong. Even though he is hard to give up, I can no longer care about Tom Stucker, the person who fucked my roommate, the future Dr. Lisa, while I was sleeping the same room, knowing all the while that I had asked him to our dorm’s Homecoming Dance hours earlier. While he was gracious enough to turn me down in a nice way, lying about having Saturday night football practice, his and Lisa’s breathless intercourse still irked me. Paula would say, “What is the point of spending so much energy on someone whom you haven’t seen in twenty years, and who clearly doesn’t deserve your love?” And on this topic, Paula would be right: Tom doesn’t deserve my love. My love is a beautiful gift, and he squandered it. When we lived next door to each other, I thought we were friends. Maybe best friends. We used to study together all the time. But after a while, he started to ignore my pleas to study in his room at odd hours and wouldn’t pick up his phone late at night or answer the notes that I left for him on the dry erase board hanging outside his door, and ultimately he pretended that I didn’t even exist. When I walked into ELit 404, 18th Century Literature, after winter break, and saw him and noticed that there was an empty desk next to him, he told me that he was saving it for a friend. When I asked him which friend, he couldn’t answer, and looked at me helplessly with those big brown eyes of his, waiting for me to let him off the hook. But I couldn’t. I just stood there, frozen, weeping. Eventually, the professor called campus security to have me removed from class. I was moved to an off-campus apartment later that month. Ultimately, Tom changed his major to Psychology and we rarely ran into each other. It’s painful even today to talk about it. Paula recommends that I concentrate more on my reality-based relationships, but it’s very hard. When I come home from work, I’m tired. I don’t want to make an effort to go out and see old friends or attempt to make new friends because I don’t really have any old friends anymore. After Charles left me last year, it dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t meet anyone else romantically in this lifetime. I have a theory: By the time you get to be a certain age, you’ve met all the people in this world whom you were meant to have met. This age can vary from person to person, but ultimately, it gets to be too difficult to find a place in one’s heart for more people to love. I am positive that I’ve hit my limit, and frankly, I am okay with it. Maybe that is why I find myself thinking more and more about Tom Stucker – he made a big impression on me at a very impressionable age and now I can’t expunge him from my life experience, even though I wish I could. Charles used to complain that during sex, it never seemed like I was in the moment, and it’s true that in those moments I would be asking myself, “what could this have been like with Tom Stucker?” Sex has to be different with someone who has long been the object of your unattainable desire. When Lisa Miller and Tom would have sex in our dorm room, I would shut my eyes and touch myself, and after a while, it was almost like Tom and I were doing it. Not the drunken, ugly screwing he and Lisa were engaged in, but passionate, earth shattering lovemaking. But I can’t trouble myself thinking about such things. Tom and I will never make love, and so why dwell on it? Tom sees my name, Cynthia Egbert, often on court documents, but he hasn’t seen me in person in years, and frankly, if someone takes out a restraining order against you, there’s little ground you can make up from there. But his name has been forever etched on my soul, not to mention on my coffee table and on the counter of the Neptune Diner in Astoria, Queens, just to name a few places.
Don’t you love that song “Vincent” by Don McLean? It’s about Vincent Van Gogh. The line at the end where he sings “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you” is just so resonant and so true. Vincent Van Gogh could be looked at by some people as a crazy loon who cut off his ear and sent it to a girl he had a crush on so that she would realize the depths of his passion. But there is a genuine beauty in his desire. Would I cut off my own ear and send it to Tom Stucker if I knew where he lived, which incidentally, I can’t exactly pinpoint because he’s moved at least once since the last time I tried to locate him? No, I would not. It’s unfair because if I behaved like Vincent Van Gogh, I would be considered a crazed stalker who never got over being painfully rejected by the first, and as it probably turns out, the only man I was ever honestly sexually attracted to. But Van Gogh could also paint, and that’s why Don McLean wrote a song about him and not about me. But take away the creative genius part, and Van Gogh and I are exactly the same.
© 2009 Deborah Graber