Lately, I feel like I’ve been in a place where I recognize just how few people, especially where I live, are ever going to be ongoing parts of my life again. As time marches forward, and the reality of the situation sinks in, it’s made me a bit depressed. That negative feeling was broken, if only momentarily, last night and it felt wonderful.
As I’ve said in the past, I’m a loner who doesn’t like to be lonely, but since I was arrested back in March 2014, I’ve been living in exile – just as much in my head as in my home.
I know people have short memories, but I also know how prominent I was in my community, publishing the regional magazine and serving on the City Council. It’s been 4.5 years since my arrest, but there are still the moments I’m out in public, see somebody I recognize, make eye contact, and watch them hurry away as quickly as a roach when the lights are turned on.
Because of this, I don’t approach people. I don’t know what people’s true opinions of me are and I don’t want to nurture an awkward situation. I also stay away from places that I know are well-populated. I go out to dinner with my family on Wednesday or Thursday nights, leaving Friday and Saturday for the non-convict crowd.
Last night, I was at one of the two decent independent Italian restaurants in town with my family.
When I was given my seat, I recognized a couple who were sitting with a larger party about 15 feet away. They were the parents of my high school girlfriend. We were together for about a year-and-a-half if I recall, maybe a little longer. I became much closer to her parents than she came to mind.
Family was priority at her house, and while my nuclear bunch were good, these folks had the market cornered on what family meant and they welcomed me into their arms back then. I haven’t had a set of parents as cool since, including my wife’s. When we eventually broke up our junior year of high school, I remember telling people I’d miss her family more than her.
I knew I wasn’t going to get up and go say hi, and part of me hoped that my features changed enough in the last 25 years and they wouldn’t recognize me.
At one point, when my wife and daughter went to the restroom, my ex-girlfriend’s mother came over to say hello.
“Josh, do you remember me?” she said.
“Yes, Mrs. L, I do. How are you? I responded, although I used her real last name.
“How have you been doing?”
“Very well. I’m healthy and keeping everything in balance. This is my son, Kaden,” I said.
“Hi Kaden. Your dad and my daughter were friends in high school,” she explained.
“I think she was my only girlfriend in high school,” I told them both. She was. No thinking needed.
We exchanged a couple pleasantries of a memory she carries about me and where both of us were living now, then she said the most important thing:
“We got your book and read it. It was good. How are things going?” she asked.
“I’m at four-and-a-half years sober from both addictions. I’m working on a new book for partners of porn addicts,” I said.
“We’re so proud of you. I’m glad you’re doing well, give me a hug.”
I hugged Mrs. L and she made her way back to her seat.
My wife and daughter returned and I told them about the exchange. I think my wife could tell it really stuck with me through dinner and into the night.
It’s the first time I’ve talked with anybody who I was once close with, read about my ordeal in the media, made the decision to read the book, and either as a result of the book or my confirmation of doing fine now, literally embraced me back into their life.
I’m not going over for dinner anytime soon. Hell, I may never see them again in my life. But that lifted my spirits in a way they haven’t been lifted in a long time. So much of my life is spent waiting for people to make me feel bad about myself that having someone come and provide a boost of confidence is unfortunately foreign.
I know Mrs. L doesn’t realize just how much that meant to me, but I hope that I can return the favor to someone else someday.
The manicotti was good, too.