Twenty-One Years

I was headed for the bank. Every afternoon, if we were lucky enough to get any payments, I make a deposit at B of A. I was passing La Tienda, an indigenous people’s art/craft store. Like all the other businesses in Ballard they had wares out as part of this weekend’s upcoming Seafood Fest.I heard a baby fuss. I always check out babies fussing. Babies are like cats. I like all of them. I want to know what’s going on.

And there she was. The last time I’d seen her (in person) was when Rae and I passed through Seattle back in 1993. I doubt I left much of an impression then. Rae and I were busy breaking up at the time though we (or maybe just I) didn’t know it yet.

Alaine and I met in 1983 on an AYH tour of Europe. We were Ellen, Alaine, Perry Ann, Jane, Debbie, Charles, Roy (our leader) and me. Strangers (except for Perry Ann and Jane) on a bicycle tour of Europe.

I saw her briefly again in 1984 during my East Coast Avoidance. She offered to help me get established in Maryland. Being an idiot, I didn’t take her up on it.

I vaguely kept in contact until 1993. Gave up after that. Keeping in contact anyway.

Thing is – I’d told her that I loved her. Not – “I’m in love with you” – though perhaps I said that in a letter. I have a vague memory of that. I’d said I loved her. That’s a commitment from me. If I tell you I love you I’ll stalk you for the rest of your life.

So I’ve known where Alaine is for a while now. I was able to recognize her from her photo on the Birth and Family Clinic’s website. She’s changed a bit since ’93.

Except for driving all over Edmonds until I found her clinic (back in 2000, I think) and sending her an invitation to the Seattle Wedding I haven’t tried to cantact her. In ’93 she’d talked about how unusual it was to be friends with someone for a decade when there’d been little contact between the two friends. Given remark and that I’d thought I made a poor impression on her then, I pretty much left her alone.

But I’d signed my letters “Love David” so I couldn’t just forget about her. When I got internet access (and understood how to use search engines) I looked her up. Because “Love” is a commitment. “Love” means a lot of things. First and foremost it means “I will not forget you”. I know how to find everyone I’ve ever said “I love you” to.

Beyond that, “Love” means that I’ll watch out for you. At least, I’ll try to. I fail at this far more than I’d like. But watching out for someone means watching over them. To watch over someone you’ve got to know where they are. Or at least where to start looking.

So I’ve known where to start looking for Alaine for years.

And there she was at La Tienda with her baby daughter fussing in her baby carrier. I looked at her a few times until the Regret Factor set in. The Regret Factor says that I will regret any signifigant action untaken. I knew that if I didn’t say “hello” to this person that I thought was Alaine I would regret it.

So I asked “Alaine?” And she looked up.

I know we shook hands. I think we hugged. I can’t friggin’ remember. It’s all a blur at that point. She introduces her baby. She says she’s got a three year old. She asks where I’m living, what I’m doing. I tell her about The House, Aged Mother and CreativeTechs. Briefly. She says “Wow” a lot. I don’t know what that means. Is she amazed? Pleased?

Then I tell her that I’ve got errands to run and I say goodbye. I walk away.

I love Alaine. I will always love Alaine. And her life is her own. I’ll always try to know where she is. Just in case. But I have no illusions that she thinks of me when she’s lonely. Or thinks of me at all. I have no idea what she thinks about.

I’ve made a commitment. I’ll do a lousy job of fulfilling it. And I’ll never forget it.