My Labyrinth Moment

One of my many faults is that I’m an out of sight, out of mind kind of girl, which explains why the closet in my teenaged bedroom is still packed full of junk. This hasn’t been an issue until lately. Miss Carolyn, however, has decided to downsize, trading the 4/2-and-a-half with pool for a neat condo not too far away. The house is now disarrayed–boxes and piles and bags everywhere–but that bedroom closet sits, undisturbed, like a time capsule from the early 80s.

I poked my head in today to get the lay of the land. I’ll go through everything properly in a bit, but for now, a quick survey will do. I had to laugh over the neat rows of spiral notebooks containing notes from several key college classes, a collection of John Jakes paperbacks (The Kent Chronicles) that haven’t been cracked open since Reagan was in office, the stack of Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls of the Month in their polka-dot boxes, the commemorative mug and tassels from my high school graduation. And, face down, two framed pictures of the man who broke my heart.

He was my last college boyfriend, and it did not end well. As in one week we’re talking about life after the wedding and the next he’s going to the mountains for the weekend with another girl. Ouch. I passed the last semester of college in a fog, crying a lot and eating not at all. I dropped twelve pounds (I don’t recommend devastation as a weight loss method, by the way.). The world I’d constructed, the one that made sense with its compatibility and storybook ending, dissolved. I knew exactly what Lewis Grizzard meant when he said “They tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat.” He was talking about bypass surgery, but every word was about me.

A fabulous rebound boyfriend, one who would have made the Husband Hall of Fame had cancer not claimed him too early, got me over the worst of it. Eventually I met Mr. Man, the true love of my life, and firmly closed the door on that excruciating little chapter of my life.

Or so I thought. The subconscious can be a nasty bit of business, and every once in a while it dredges up The Creature, as my family and friends took to calling him in the years after The Breakup. He’d show up in dreams, claiming he’d made a terrible mistake, swearing he’d leave his wife, saying the things I’d wished he’d said in those awful months that spring long ago: I was wrong. I’m sorry. Come back. I love you. And I’d wake up newly devastated, sensing a lead apron of regret I didn’t want, but couldn’t avoid.

But dreams are illusions, like some men’s promises. These scenes were vapor only, with no substance–and yet an irresistible pull. What woman doesn’t look back and wonder What if? Or How would things be different if…?” Or “If I had only…”

The same year I graduated college, Jim Henson released the movie Labyrinth. The heroine Sarah’s fantasy world is so strong she conjures problems for herself, including a Goblin King as an adversary. She’s free of his spell only when she realizes that she–like Dorothy of Oz before her–has held the key to her problems all along.

“You have no power over me,” she tells the Goblin King, and her labyrinth collapses, leaving her wiser and more content. I looked at those framed pictures, of that youthful face I once planned to grow old with, and thought the same. Turns out I didn’t need his promises; I got vows. The face I’m growing old with isn’t his. I am content. I chose much more wisely this time. You have no power over me.

Those pictures won’t get packed. I won’t even save the frames, nice as they are. They will go to the curb as they deserve.

There’s something to be said for catharsis.

1 Comment

  1. Great piece and well written. I love reading your stuff – deep and thoughtful with a clever humor. So, you really going to write a book? Or are you building one with these posts?
    Whatever it is, sign me up. I want a copy.

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