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Often when I spend time with ShirtlessRoland I feel like I should bring along trail mix, binoculars and a notebook. It usually feels like I’m observing an entirely different species that should be cataloged. For the most part he does exactly what other men do; he just makes it look easier. It is possible I’m simply captivated that life in general seems so effortless to him because of the time served with someone for whom every aspect of life was so damn hard. But more likely, I think, is the fact that ShirtlessRoland lives in The Zone. You know, that magical karma bubble that encompasses some people and greases the skids for all of their endeavors – or at the very least, keeps difficulty and frustration at bay.

Ah, I’m kidding. While there is ample evidence that ShirtlessRoland does inhabit The Zone (and that I can vacation there simply by standing near enough to him), it is not accurate that difficulty and frustration are kept at bay. Not all of it, anyway. Yes, he still occasionally ends up stuck behind the motorist who has no business driving in the left lane. And being the mere human that he probably is, more seismic events occur in his life, too. What fascinates me is that nothing bites his ass. I don’t mean in the literal, rabid bull dog sort of way or the literary Forest Gump in the jungles of Vietnam sort of way – though I don’t think those examples apply either. What I mean is in the everything-rolls-off-his-back kind of way.

I want to be like that and last weekend he gave me an unexpected lesson in Letting Things Go. His instruction was lifted from Nike: Just Do It. I found this utterly unhelpful. If I could Just Do It, I already would have. ShirtlessRoland said that though the time involved may differ, the process is the same for the big stuff and small stuff alike. He repeated many times, “You just let it go.”

But it’s not the same, I tried to argue. I can get on with life after being stuck behind a slow poke in traffic. Sure, I’ll be the first one to suggest unchaste things about his mother but it’s not like I memorize his license plate and hope to someday cut him off in traffic. With bigger issues it’s different because in addition to years of the well-practiced behavior of bottling things, I have this itsy bitsy fear that letting go of the transgressions means they weren’t really that bad in the first place. That maybe the transgressor wasn’t really so wrong. That maybe if I let it go that means they actually did the right thing and I should stop praying for alligators to devour them. But traffic – hey – I am behind a slow poke today, I was behind him yesterday and I’ll be behind him again tomorrow. Once I’m around him, I’m over it. It doesn’t matter that he’s always going to be an idiot. I’m still going to get where I’m going.

I’m glad I said that out loud, because the light bulb over my head seems to be voice activated.


Sitting around the unlit fire pit with a couple of friends Friday night, I was a little surprised when ShirtlessRoland offhandedly, but matter-of-factly stated that I am afraid of commitment. This deserves the same kind of overanalyzing I bestow on Lady Gaga lyrics and what to have for dinner, don’t ya think?

Technically, I’d already started overanalyzing about a week before he uttered that statement. Lately I’ve been taken with Jeanette Winterson and have not been able to move past her quote, “As your lover describes you so you are.” Granted, this passage was tumbling around in my head in the context of how I’ve described my past lovers. And generally, after the last of the gooey newness of a coupling has washed down the drain, my initial description of them has turned out to be as wrong as that last metaphor. Until Friday night, I never once wondered how my lover might describe me. And then there it was. I am, in his eyes, afraid of commitment. Even though that didn’t sound accurate, I thought it best to obsess over it before broaching the topic with him later in private. Here’s what I decided:

I am distressed that I hold on to commitment long after I realize I was wrong. Or worse yet, not realizing I was wrong just so I could hold on to it. I am weary of chasing it. I cannot remember a time I didn’t place more value on being in a committed relationship than, well, anything else. I am embarrassed how many times I’ve been wrong about another’s commitment to me. I am broken hearted by the number of times I have confused sex with commitment. I am exhausted, beaten down and at times incapacitated by commitment, but I am not afraid of it. Clearly, this points to a learning disability but I stand firm that Jeanette Winterson is still wrong.

So late, late Friday night, once the back yard was cleared of friends and empty bottles, and as we were laying our heads down for sleep I said in my own attempt at nonchalantness, “I am not afraid of commitment.” I was counting on him wanting slumber more than conversation, so I thought I had this one in the bag.

He paused before the titter. “I meant when it comes to things like band, and dance, and karate.”

He may have had a point, but suddenly I wasn’t as committed to having this conversation.

Sometimes, I think, friends come into our lives and serve a very specific purpose and then have to leave. Even if we know them for only a very short time, their mark can be as lasting as those left by lifelong friendships. On my last birthday I received the last e-mail from such a friend. A song was attached.

Today is the 7th anniversary of my 5 year death sentence. Traditionally, I have marked this day in gratitude of what one more year has allowed and in timid hope of what another might bring. It would be easy to say that the last year has overwhelmed me beyond words, and easier still to understand if I have learned we can’t predict what lies one year ahead. But I don’t think that’s really why tonight as I settle in to peaceful and quiet reflection my own words will not come. No. I think it’s because that friendship reached through time and touched me again, with that song, when I needed it most.

Thank you.