The unexpected side effect of running into an old friend from college on the subway and falling deeply in love with Him, for me, has been a renewed interest in my past. I can’t tell you definitively why this is. Maybe it’s because I knew Him in college, and re-meeting Him after 16 years gave me a new lens through which to view my past self and understand her better.
My hunger to reconnect with my past self started with the hint of a memory of a photograph of the two of us from college. In my mind’s eye, I see it: Me and Him sitting next to each other in his dark, dorm room, both of us dressed all in black as we did at the time. Me: black dress, black fishnets, black leather jacket and heavy, black eyeliner. Him: oversized black pants, a black baseball cap, black hoodie. His arm around me. Sitting on top of his extra long twin bunk bed. Top bunk.
I’ve convinced myself that this photo exists.
Freshman year of college, we lived in the same dorm. There was a period of about six months when a group of us (including me and Him) hung out almost every night. On these nights we would congregate in one of the crews’ rooms (never mine or His) and listen to music. In my memories, we are listening to Portishead’s Dummy and The Beastie’s Boys’ The In Sound from Way Out! Sometimes we are dancing, sometimes are smoking and drinking, and sometimes we are just sitting around, waxing philosophical about the meaning of life in the way that only 18-year-olds can.
It was during this moment in time that I’m sure my past self had a crush on Him, although I don’t remember ever wanting to go so far as to act on it, as odd as that sounds.
One night, during the time of my brief, unrequited crush on Him, my best friend and I ended up in His dorm room — just the three of us. It was my first and only time in His room. He was a photography major in college and so was my best friend, and we were in his room to look at his photo portfolio. (This is the night when the photo I’ve convinced myself exists was taken.) He remembers this night as well. He recalls, as I do, a barely recognizable spark of attraction that kind of, maybe passed between us. We’ve decided that if our past selves ever would’ve dated, it would have started that night. Over the years, when any thoughts of him popped into my head — and they did a few times — I thought of that night. I often had this intangible thought during my many years as a single person that I should have paid more attention to the guys in college because I missed someone. These two thoughts were always unrelated.
I’ve found myself wondering, quite a bit lately, now that He’s in my life again, what if that night had gone differently? What if my best friend left us alone, or I forgot my leather jacket in his room and had to go back for it? What if we had been alone together long enough to recognize that spark? How would the trajectory of both of our lives have been different?
The weight of this possibility led me directly to my memory box, determined to find that photo. I thought that if I could see it, I would have some kind of proof of SOMETHING. I can’t name what that SOMETHING is, but it feels significant. I found a handful of photos from college in my memory box. He wasn’t in any of them. The mythical picture of our past selves together has yet to surface. (I haven’t searched through the huge, cardboard box in my parents’ garage yet, so there’s still a chance.) In my failed search for the photo, I found something even better: my dream journal from 1997, the year we knew each other.
I’ve always had insanely detailed dreams, and sometimes they’ve been prophetic. This is not something I talk about very often for fear of coming off like a lunatic, but I’ve had a lot of dreams about things before they happen. Sometimes these dreams are related to my life and sometimes they’re about people I know, or even barely know. For example, once I had a dream that a friend of a friend was pregnant. When I told my friend about my dream, she said, “Holy crap! How did you know that?”
This is one of the reasons I write my dreams down — so I have proof. The proof is just for me, but it makes me feel less potentially crazy to have it. I also write my dreams down so my future self can go back and look at them with new insight. A dream that makes no sense at all to my present self may end up being easy to interpret when my future self looks back at it.
So, back to my dream journal from 1997. In addition to this mythical photo, I vaguely recalled having a dream about Him back then. I didn’t remember what the dream was or even if I had it or just imagined that I had it. I committed myself to the task of reading through all my dreams from that year and looking for His name. Considering that, at that moment in my life, I had ample time to write my dreams down each morning, there were pages and pages of dreams to sift through. It took me three days, but finally my pulse started to surge — I saw his name there, written in the handwriting of my past self. Here’s an excerpt:
“I went to go visit *Him* He was sitting in a dark room and took his shirt off. His arms had been chopped off at the forearms and you could still see all the blood and veins inside. He said ‘we don’t need hands’ and I thought it was weird that I never noticed he didn’t have hands .. We started to kiss. He was such a good kisser … I was so in love with him after only one day.”
What I read, I knew immediately, was what I was searching for. It was better than a picture of us. It was proof of something even greater. Of what, I still can’t say. Of chaos finding a way to organize itself? Of the world having an intelligence of its own? Of our ability to — for even just a moment — tap into this intelligence? I don’t have any answers. But to quote my past self, in one of the very first pieces I wrote five years ago for the The Frisky about soul mates, I said:
“No matter what anyone says, I still refuse to believe that love lacks some measure of magic. I still think that there are no coincidences in life and that miraculous things happen all the time and that things are meant to be — good or bad. Fingers crossed that lasting love (with a totally imperfect guy) is one of them for me. And even though I don’t like to admit it, there is a small, secret part of my heart that still skips a beat when I see a guy on the subway, or one sitting across from me at a coffee shop and I feel a spark of recognition between us and imagine the possibilities.”
[Photo from Shutterstock]