Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Extreme olfactory triggers and strange nostalgia

I’m in one of those strangely nostalgic moods that only happens when you combine an extreme olfactory trigger from the past with an old CD that strikes a nerve. I’m burning a candle that smells like 1993 to me, and the CD was Rush – Counterparts. It reminds me of someone from a long time ago that I probably shouldn’t even be thinking of anymore, but I still do.

I was talking to my shrink about this on Friday. I’ve been getting through the emotions and problems of my last couple of relationships, trying to figure out where I went wrong, or if “wrong” is even the right word to use, or whatever. It would be much easier for me to say “my ex is a bitch and it’s all her fault” when I break up with someone, but they usually aren’t at fault, it’s just my reaction to the situation, or I’m at fault, or… well, whatever. The problem is, my last couple of relationships have been very long and involved, and there were many factors involved. These were people that were my friends, lovers, partners, everything, and it’s hard to pick apart the issues about what’s going on when you have so much all wrapped into one package. I don’t know if things would have been different if I never moved to New York, or if my work situation was different, or if I owned a car still, or whatever. It gets confusing fast, and it’s hard to analyze, especially when you’re still in the middle of it.

But way back when, things were different. I had a relationship that only lasted from March to October, but it still haunts me. And it’s because it was so fantasy-like in so many ways, just in the time it happened, how it all went together, how we met. There was no real-world component – it was just pure infatuation, pure fairy-tale. And then we spent the summer apart. And then school started, things wavered a bit, and then it was over.

One of the reasons this is so important to me is that it’s almost mythological. I was depressed as hell, and this innocent little 18 year old wandered into my life like a puppy dog, and we were in love. It ran its course, it hit the ground, and it was over. It was like when they take a brand new car and smash it into a wall. There are no other factors to consider, like tire wear or a drunk driver – it’s just the car and the wall. And that’s what this is, because when it was over, I couldn’t reason with it in any logical matter, or place blame. I was forced to feel loss. And for a guy who has spent his whole life using logic to avoid feeling loss, that’s a major fucking beating.

So here I am, in New York City, 7 years later. I don’t even remember what her voice sounds like. I can barely remember what she looks like. The idea of being close to her – or anybody – seems so remote to me. I’ve been in two relationships that, combined, lasted five times longer than the time I spent with her. Yet it still bugs me. I don’t obsess about her every day – I’ve got enough shit in my life going on. But it seems like I’d be able to forget her and move on with life.

I think part of it is that I think I will somehow repeat what I had with her, but make it all happen right again. I’m convinced that I made a couple of dumb little mistakes, and if I meet her again, the 30-something version of her, and I don’t fuck up, I will have the perfect woman and I’ll do everything right. I think every relationship I’ve had since, every first date and failed encounter has started with some sick fantasy that this woman would be as perfect as her. Not that she was a supermodel or anything – I mean that everything would dovetail nicely; that we would be a nice match and the atomsphere would be incredible and everything else.

It’s silly for me to continue this discussion, because I’m not going to say that wanting something spectacular is a bad thing, and I’m not going to say it’s helping me out, either. I guess that’s the rub. Either I’ll figure this out someday, or I will be in the right place at the right time again.

Not much else. Time to go to bed.