ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷
pjammer

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Alethia, G.A. - Caroline Aftermath

Note: for new/casual readers, the following will not make much sense unless you have some essential elements of context. Please read first: Sandy Ego. Caroline. and Alethia, G.A. (in that order) before proceeding.

Velocity.

A one-word answer to Alethia's question: "So, what happened?"

It's a word that bookmarks entire conversations we had years earlier on the topic, untouched until recent events brought them to the surface. We talked at length about 'velocity matching' in those days, she was the one person whose ambition and drive matched mine, and the future I envisioned for us revolved around us chasing our respective dreams at full speed, fueling and recharging each others' reserves in the quiet moments between, mending battle wounds as the occur. We would offer each other encouragement in moments of doubt and defeat, and a one-person cheering section in moments of triumph.

Instead.

"Velocity," I said as Alethia nodded her understanding. "I kept going and she fell to a different orbit."

"It's strange, you know. Everything I loved about her has died or faded except her physical beauty; I had dinner with a shell holding the ghost of an person I kept loving that was long gone, kept alive, frozen in time, in my memories."

She leans forward. "Look, if you're going to write about me again, shouldn't you at least start from the beginning of this dream?"

Ah. meta humor.

But fair enough - I guess this would make more sense if I started from the beginning.

December 26th, 2007

I'm at the seaside coffeeshop again, tasting a light salty breeze through its antique stained-glass windows in my nose.

Odd.

My seat - our table is front of me, but my G.A. is not there. She's always early, waiting for me, always with a full spread of files before her that I am forbidden to peek.

I take my seat and wait. It's a strange how tightly we associate certain places and smells with certain personalities, and how the absence of one of those things dramatically alter our experiences of them.

I take my coffee and sit, waiting - slowing noticing details of the place that escaped my attention in previous encounters - the grain of the wood on the table and the scars it accumulated in its time. A scrap of parchment-like paper on the table, folded over once. Why didn't I notice it before?

I unfold it - it had just two lines in fountain-pen style script:

Behind you.

- A

I turned and there she was, sitting behind a silver laptop computer with an evaluative look on her face.

"Christ, you scared me! What are you, Batman now?"

She fixes a quizzical stare at me.

"Oh no. No no no, you're not going to pretend you don't recognize BATMAN now, I know you better than that."

"You got me," she raises her hands in acknowledgment, grinning mischievously. "I've been reading a lot more of your books and graphic novels since I took over your account - I quite like them."

"So."

"So."

Just as I was about to point to her new computer and ask 'what's this?' she spins the laptop around and beats me to the words:

"What's this?"

On the display was my original journal post about her.

Her expression was impossible to read - I can't tell if she's upset, amused, or ... something else. A pregnant pause, as she's expecting me to respond.

Crap. Did I just get busted?

"I ... uh ... "

She let the moment hang for a moment longer before bursting into a sly smile.

"Quite amusing. I see you edited out a few things."

Relief. I nod, not saying any more.

"Wise enough to begin, then. So now that we're all caught up, let me ask again: what happened?"

Flashback humor. Great.

"Velocity," I said as Alethia nodded her understanding. "I kept going and she fell to a different orbit."

"It's strange, you know. Everything I loved about her has died or faded except her physical beauty; I had dinner with a shell holding the ghost of an person I kept loving that was long gone, kept alive frozen in time in my memories."

"In her time - in our time, she stood at the precipice of greatness: brilliant mind, fiercely ambitious, intellectual curious, at the nexus of infinite possibilities. She traded it for security with an older man half her IQ and a tenth her ambition but I hoped, (foolishly now, in retrospect) she would keep that best part of her regardless."

"Oh?"

"Her clinical research during medical school was exceptional - she applied for and won offers for fellowships and residencies at Harvard, Johns Hopkins to practice cutting-edge medicine with the best minds of her generation, but she turned them down for an internal medicine job nearby, so it wouldn't disrupt her husband's shitty mid-level management paper-pusher career at some anonymous cubicle."

"Maybe she did it because she loves him?"

I flinch inwardly a little bit at that.

(Ok, maybe not just a little bit.)

"I'm sure she does. But if he loved her, how could he possibly accept such a pointless sacrifice? If it were me, I would sacrifice my career in a heartbeat and start over in another city so she can flex her wings fully."

"But it wasn't you. Wasn't your sacrifice to make or accept."

I sigh and nod.

"Now? Now she now lives in a world of $50,000 kitchen remodelings, comparison-shopping of Lexus SUV mommy-mobiles, overpriced package vacations to Europe. Domesticated. That spark that I loved flickered out years ago."

"I can't help but wonder: if she had stayed with me, would her transformation into this have happened regardless? Or was this ... this entire thing the consequence of her choosing security over me?"

Alethia spread her hands out in a half-shrug. And she's right - it doesn't matter. The path untaken is closed, and no amount of speculation can change the course of fate from when our two roads diverged.

"So there's nothing left to hold you?"

"No."

"So you are finally free."

"Yes."

She reaches out to hold my hand "Merry Christmas then, darling."

"Likewise."

And then I awoke.

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  • 13 comments
hugs! can't wait to see you.

we can talk of pretty traps and things :-)
so you didn't hit it.

Anonymous

December 28 2007, 21:33:12 UTC 10 years ago

you have a one track mind. LOL
But if he loved her, how could he possibly accept such a pointless sacrifice? If it were me, I would sacrifice my career in a heartbeat and start over in another city so she can flex her wings fully

Ah, timing... if she loved you, would she accept such a sacrifice by you for her sake? I have a friend that went from being an electrical/instrumentation and control engineer to an Army housewife... I think she may be teaching now, but she had the brains, talent, etc., but it after a taste of the "good life" it wasn't what she wanted... perhaps your Caroline is/was the same.

I understand the velocity... it took me a while to understand that other people have different goals or drives and it's not good or bad to be less driven, it's just different... I once dated a guy that at age 25 had a job doing some relatively repetitive mundane task that he could continue doing for the next 30 years of his career... but he was in a city that he enjoyed and didn't have to put in much in the way of overtime, had good benefits, friends, and that was ok for him. As far as I know, he's still doing the same things...
but it after a taste of the "good life" it wasn't what she wanted... perhaps your Caroline is/was the same.

You have to understand, the esteemed Mr pjammer is a west coast urbanite.

They believe that success in greed and credentialism is the high orbit, and success in love and friendship is the low orbit.

No, I don't understand them either - but they do make nice chocolates.
If you really think that little of me, why are we friends?

And why do you think that I believe success in love and friendship is 'low orbit?'
I think that little of the people you are around. Your post shows you seem to agree

In the beginning of your post, you wonder why she would trade an interesting career for a personal relationship. You consider that it could be an economic trade - an interesting career for a secure economic situation.

By the end of your post, you decide she did it because she loves him, and in the long run, that matters more than careers or security.

Or so I thought your point was.
Wow... I guess I'm coming back in to the conversation a day late...

I've only virtually 'met' pjammer within the last several months here on LJ, I don't know all of his background or your interactions with him, but from what I have read of his journal and the few comments he and I have exchanged, I suspect that he may have an outward yuppie-like facade for casual acquaintances, but there's a lot more depth and feeling (or a desire for success in love and friendship as well) than what initially meets the eye... or what is expressed to many.
He's a yuppie, but not one to ever flaunt a material object. He has no great desire for "stuff" - he's certainly less acquisitive than I am. He desires, more than anything else, connections with people. But that's enough armchair Freud for me. I'm gonna buy myself a cigar.
"So you are finally free."

Freedom is a good thing, right?
Mel Gibson in Braveheart would agree. :)

I just now read all of these Caroline/Alethia posts for the first time. The one from June 2001 affected me deeply.

Do you ever watch the game show Deal or No Deal? If not, here it is in a nutshell: 26 numbers on the board, ranging from a penny to a million dollars, and the contestant is trying to get rid of the low amounts and hang on to the big ones (because the banker will make offers based on the numbers left on the board). His chances are based solely on luck, and the only skill involved is the common sense that tells him when to quit and take the money he's being offered. Contestants often gamble six-figure offers and leave with virtually nothing.

It's not shown, of course, but on the trip home the loser is wishing he would have stopped at $216,000. Or $142,000. Or $68,000. I used to feel bad for him, until one day, when I realized:

He had a $110,000 offer. All he had to do is hit the red button and go home, but he traded it for a suitcase that he knew contained either $1,000 or $200,000. That's not even double or nothing. And my smepiphany (an epiphany, but smaller) was ... it doesn't matter. He was going to piss it away anyway. Guaranteed. It's his nature. That's why he gambled all that money and left the game with next to nothing.

I'm not emotionally invested in Caroline, so I can view her decision from a detached point of view. (Don't get me wrong - your 2001 post about her was heart-wrenching for me, because it brought up old memories from my own life.)

Caroline traded three things for the sandbagger: you; a much more promising career; and the possibility of helping countless numbers through the research that might have come from following that career path.

I see only two possibilities here: either the sandbagger is an incredible guy in ways that you're unable to see, and she's deeply in love with him, or ... she's self-destructive, and whatever happiness the two of you built in the alternate reality wouldn't have survived her ability to waste.

What's significant from my point of view is not that she told the story of the thread and the souls at her wedding, but that she told you that she told it. Again, either very much in love with the sandbagger, or she finds love easy to waste. If the latter is true, she may have saved you much more grief than she gave you.
i wondered from reading these entries: did Caroline feel the same as pjammer at one point, as intensely in love and illuminated by that love --- or was she not as engaged as he? because if she DID feel the same depth of affection and THEN proceeded to mention discussing the threaded souls at her wedding, then you are correct: pjammer dodged quite the bullet.