August 12th, 1979
It's so boring back here in my room in Winnetka. The weather's fine and I'm just sitting at my desk watching my mother through an open window as she tends her roses. Fifty, maybe sixty miles south there's Joel. Is he thinking of me? Most likely he's with some other girl. She'll be dark skinned like him and very pretty with big brown eyes. He's probably forgotten kissing me already. But I haven't.
I should be telling you all the amazing things I did at Literature Camp and all the new friends I made but really all I can think about is last Friday. I'd seen him before but I wasn't sure he'd seen me. He was tall and lean with frizzy black hair and a lanky, effortless way of moving. Then, as we cleared away the breakfast things, he came and stood next to me. He asked if I'd like to go down to the lake with him, and of course I said yes.
We talked all the way down there. We sat on the grass and talked more. The sun was hot and he'd brought a picnic. We talked about books we'd enjoyed at the camp, and ones we'd studied in High School. His were different to mine but they sounded so interesting!
And then, as the sun started to go down, we walked back to the camp. We stopped to look at the view - hills, fields, all very peaceful - and we stood side-by-side. Then he moved around to stand in front of me and bent his head to kiss me!
My heart almost stopped but I could feel it pounding at the same time. Then he stopped so I reached up and kissed him back. And we went on like that. And then, well then we continued back to camp, arriving just in time for dinner. It was so magical, like something out of Wuthering Heights. And now I don't know if I'll ever see him again.
October 20th, 1979
I don't think I'll sleep tonight. I'm meeting Joel tomorrow! At the entrance to the Chicago Art Institute at 10:30! We've been writing since school started back. Keith teases me every time a letter arrives from him and Mom tells him to stop. He writes so well too! And he's so interesting! God, I can't wait to be looking into his eyes again. And, dare I say it, kiss him again. Oh God I'm insane with excitement!
April 13th 1980
I am so angry right now! Just furious! I want to scream and shout and at the same time I just want to bury my face in the pillow and sob. It seems so wrong! I'm 18! They can't tell me what to do.
But they can really, that's the thing.
Joel says when he gets angry or frustrated he writes, so that's what I'm doing now. Oh God Joel I'm so sorry. I'd never seen him cry before today but when I got on the train back from Chicago there were tears on his beautiful brown cheeks. Cheeks I'll never see again. God I'm hurting so much inside.
Dad says I'll see the sense in it when I'm older, that I'll see it was just teenage infatuation, but... well I love him. There, I've said it. I should have said it to him but I was too scared.
He told me. We were in Grant Park, by the fountain. They'd not long turned it on and we were looking at the huge white jets and he turned to me and said, "I think I love you."
I feel so stupid now. I didn't know what to say, so that's all I said, "I don't know what to say."
Then he said, "I don't think, I know."
I was speechless. It was so beautiful and he was so kind and gentle. And then we walked to the station.
And that's it. That's all. I'm done with journaling.
September 12th, 1982
Oh what a day. Poetry Society picnic at Prof Hubbard’s idyllic place on Lake Cayuga. His ranch there has these fabulous lush green lawns that run right down to the water. There were maybe thirty of us, there to welcome the freshman members. Seven or eight girls and two boys, Seb, (I think he prefers boys to girls,) and Nicolas. Nicolas definitely prefers girls, you can just tell by the way he looks at you.
Nicolas has the most beautiful brown eyes and when he smiles, which he does a lot, they twinkle in a roguish way. We were all sipping the wine Petey had brought along in a hamper, but I don't think that was what made me blush. Nicolas is just so charming yet at the same time you just know he's consumed by the most devilish desires. And then, at the end of the day, he asked if I'd like to have coffee with him!
Would I ever! But of course I tried to play it cool. I think he knew though. So tomorrow at 10;30 in the Union. Now I must decide what to wear!
June 13th, 1983
It's been just over six months since I last wrote in here. Today I finally found the courage to sit Mom down and tell her what happened with Nicolas. Her face!! And then she hugged me. She hugged so hard I thought my ribs would break. And then we cried.
She understands now, she gets why I couldn't go back after Winter break. I couldn't bear the thought of seeing him, I couldn't take the chance. Just to think of him like this makes my stomach churn. Without thinking of what he did.
I try not to think about it, try to stop myself reliving it, but it comes back. Four a.m. is the worst time and I have to hug my pillow and hope no one hears me crying. Thank God it's such a big house!
I will go back, I need to go back. I can't let this, him, I can't let him take away my dreams. I'll go back in September.
September 2nd, 1986
Deep breaths. I keep telling myself, deep breaths. I'm excited, of course, but so scared too. Silly really because this is what I've always wanted. So at eight tomorrow I'll walk through the front door of St. Hilda’s School for Girls and start my first real job.
God, I hope those girls aren't total brats! I do remember what I was like at 15, and now, ten years later, I'll be on the other side of desk.
Mom and Dad sent a Good Luck card, Keith and Lisa sent one too. My bag is packed and ready for the morning. This is it!!
May 6th, 1993
Disappointment City, as the 9th Grade girls would write in an essay. Didn't get the job. Yes I'm pissed. I've worked so damn hard over the last six years. I'm a good teacher. No, I'm an ****ing excellent teacher, (even though I can't bring myself to use profanity.) But they say they've seen a better candidate. No details though. So unless I want to leave St. Hilda's I'll be teaching under a new Department Head come September. I just hope they're good, that's all I can say.
September 2nd, 1993
So I found out who got my job. Neville Weatherspoon. He's a couple of years older than me and he's English! I'm sure that's what got him the job, his fancy accent. Well that and a degree in English Lit from Oxford. So he's clever and he knows his stuff, but can he teach? I guess we'll find out.
November 3rd, 1997
It's in the Ithaca Journal so I think I'm safe to write it down here. Weatherspoon got fired today! He'd been having a thing with one the senior girls. Unbelievable, or there again, not. He was always a little creepy, looking at my chest a little too often and for too long. I don't know how his wife put up with him. Well maybe she won't. Word is, she's left him.
And as for that senior. I know who she is but I best not write it down in case ... I can't help but feel jealous. I haven't even been on a date in over a year. I feel like I'm turning into a crazy cat lady, spinster of this parish.
Mom said, after his funeral, that Dad wished he could have walked me down the aisle. I'm sorry Dad but...
God now I'm going to cry.
January 5th, 2002
My mood matches the winter sky: gray with nothing to lighten the gloom. We always say, "New Year, New Beginnings," or something of that ilk, yet here I am living the same life I had last year, and the one before, and the one before that.
I'm sorry, I should try being more positive but it gets harder and harder. Writing here helps; it's a form of therapy. Joel said that. Dear sweet Joel. Now I'm wondering what he's doing with himself. Married with kids I expect, maybe teaching English at one of the Ivy’s, a road I'm increasingly unlikely to take. And my dreams of Department Head? Another road closed to me it seems.
God, I'm in such an awful mood this evening. I need to write more. I had resolved to work on my poetry, so it's time to put you aside dear Journal and see if verse helps.
May 24th, 2017
Wonderful news! My little book of poems has been accepted for publication! I opened up the email when I came home from work this evening. First thing I did was to text GG and tell him: he was so excited for me, said we must celebrate. He has the best intentions, but I'm sure he'll be busy with his husband. It's a sweet idea though.
Now, what else to say? Not so much really. Another filling in my teeth, another lecture from my Doctor about my weight. I don't think I'm doing so terribly badly there. I'm little more than 20 pounds heavier than when I turned 18. Well okay, maybe five more, but that's not so bad is it, at my age?
May 7th, 2019
It's been absolutely beautiful today. Trees are coming into verdant leaf, the birds are back singing their merry little tunes and the sky was a fabulous blue from dawn 'til dusk.
Oh yes, I bumped into Joel too.
Literally bumped, not in the Reality TV sense but the true English language sense. I’d gone into Bentley's for my lunchtime coffee and sandwich, as I do most days. I’d just paid and was stepping away from the cashier, both hands full of course, when this oaf pushes his chair back, knocking it into me as he stood up. Coffee went one way, sandwich another. I was furious anyone could be so thoughtless and he just stands there apologizing.
Not just apologizing but staring too. I was looking up into this smooth brown face edged with a neatly trimmed gray beard, and then he speaks.
“Don’t I know you?”
Well it was his voice that gave it away, As soon as I heard him I knew who he was. I might have gasped, and he followed up by saying my name. Yes, Joel.
So we sat down together. He bought me a new sandwich and coffee. He looked good. Trim, hair thinning of course and mostly gray, but the same deep brown eyes I used to gaze into at 18. It’s been 39 years, almost to the day but I think my heart was racing like it did back then.
I did notice a groove on his ring finger, an indentation where his wedding band would normally live. Casually as I could, I asked if he had family, and then rather wished I hadn’t. Apparently his wife passed about a year previously.
Anyway, bottom line: I said I’d meet him for lunch tomorrow. He suggested dinner but I confess to feeling hesitant, so lunch it is.
May 8th, 2019
I’m confused, puzzled. I’ve spent half the evening talking about it with GG and now I don’t know what to think. GG finds it suspicious that Joel would appear in my life like this, a bit too Rom-Com he said. Coincidences happen, but is he on to something I can’t see?
I met Joel, as we agreed, nowhere fancy, just Bentley’s as I had to be back at school in 50 minutes. He was already there. I look into his eyes and it’s like we’ve never been apart. At the same time we’ve spent our whole lives apart. How well did we really know each other? (GG asked me that.)
He’s an aerospace engineer, (not what I expected at all!) Lives near Seattle. Has two adult daughters. So why was he in a Lincoln Park coffee shop in on a weekday in May? He said he was just revisiting some old haunts. Hmmm, what to make of that?
Anyway, I did agree to dinner tomorrow night.
May 10th, 2019
I can’t quite believe what I’ve done, yet I’m absolutely sure I’ve chosen the right path. I went to Joel’s hotel this morning and talked to him about it. But before I get into that, perhaps I should summarize our dinner.
He had offered to pick me up but I wasn’t sure about that, so we met at Ba-Ba-Reeba. (My choice as he doesn’t really know Chicago.) We reminisced about the days we spent together all those years ago and compared notes on what we’d been doing since. He said he honeymooned in Chicago, which was why he was back in town: it would have been their 30th anniversary this week.
I asked him about his work and his daughters. He asked about what I was doing. When I told him I went to Cornell he laughed. “That was your dream wasn’t it? An Ivy!”
I’ll admit, I did have a few glasses of wine, so by the end of the evening I started telling him about my book of poetry being published and that was when I started to get the strangest feeling. Rather than being surprised or impressed, (not that it's very impressive,) it was as if he already knew about it. Well it is up on the school website, so as GG had wondered, maybe he was Googling me and found that. Then he just staked out the coffee shop.
I did ask how he’d come to be in Bentley’s and he seemed rather evasive. Then, while he was paying the bill I started wondering where the evening was going. Lord, I’ve been on enough dates to know there’s usually some kind of invitation. Thankfully though, nothing. Though he did write his email on a napkin for me while I waited for my Uber.
So this morning… wait, I should finish last night first.
I had the Uber drop me at GGs. He'd already poured a glass of wine for me before I stepped into the apartment he and David share. Anyway, I recounted the whole dinner conversation and he just listened. Then he pulled out his laptop and showed me what comes up when you Google my name. Cecilia Hammond isn't that common; I suppose it would have been harder if I'd married, but never mind.
Anyway, I had no idea how easy it would be to figure out where I worked. I don't pretend to be tech-savvy or use social media, but, well I was shocked. I left GG's with a lot to think about: was Joel bumping into me really such a coincidence, and if not, what of it?
So, a sleepless night ensued. And as the sun came up I knew exactly what I had to do.
Just after seven I was sipping coffee in the lobby of his hotel. My turn to be the one doing the staking-out! A little before eight he came out of the elevator, dressed jeans and an untucked polo shirt, as if he was going for a walk in the park. Or maybe to pick up a coffee. Anyway, I stood up and called his name.
His jaw dropped open when he saw me, then he started to smile. Oh that smile! And then I gave him the napkin he'd written his address on.
"I don't need this Joel," I said, trying to keep my voice strong, "I don't need you in my life. You're a lovely man," I went on, "And I have very fond memories of you, but that's what they are, memories."
He just stood and stared. Deja-vu, it seemed to me.
"If I let you back in, those memories, everything really, will change. I'm sorry."
And then I turned and left. He didn't come after me.
Oh Lord! What have I done?