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A face from the past

Posted by Adrienne. Comments (8).

OK, so here’s a dilemma.

A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco to attend a conference. I stopped into a toy store in “Pleasant Valley,” as Laird calls the suburb where I grew up. While I was looking at Brio trains, I became aware of a guy standing next to me holding a chemistry set. I got the impression he was checking me out. For the longest time I stood there, unable to turn and face him — maybe because in my subconscious I already knew who he was. Finally I turned and, sure enough, recognized my brother.

If “brother” is the word. I’m not sure there is a word for someone you live with for several years because your mother and father have married his mother and father in an illegal ceremony.

He was taller than I remembered, and he has lost the hexagonal glasses he had as a kid, and grown a fuzzy beard. But he still has the same blinking stare, like he is classifying you in a taxonomy of his own.

Anyway, that’s “Matt” in the book Fallen Lake. Seeing him, I felt as if I had stepped into an elevator shaft, plunging me into the basement of my recollections.

I had an impulse to run out of the store, but he said my name and in a moment he had his arms around me, and I was squeezing him back and crying a little bit.

We must have stood there talking for over an hour. He is married, which to anyone who has read Fallen Lake, may come as a surprise. He does research for a gene therapy company. I’m a doctor, so for a while we chattered shop talk. Then my phone rang. One of my patients was in cardiac arrest. Matt signaled that he had to leave and was gone before I hung up.

But since then, and especially since Fallen Lake was published, I’ve been thinking about giving him a call. I want to know if he remembers those events the way I remember them, or the way they are in the book. Most of all, I want to know how he overcame the condition he was diagnosed with as a child. But how do you even start a conversation like that? If anyone has ever been in a situation remotely like this, please give me some advice.

8 Responses to “A face from the past”

  1. JC

    I have never been in that situation, it looks like maybe my kids someday will, we shall see.

    Anyway, my advice would be that most likely Laird has contacted him as well to interview him for the book. That could be where you would start the conversation. Call him, ask him if he has heard from Laird or seen the book. Then you can begin to talk, to remember and to process some of these things from your past.

    • Adrienne

      I guess pretty much no one has been in my situation. That’s part of what makes it so confusing. I am having a weird hesitation about calling Matt. There is part of me that doesn’t want to know what he will say, and part of me that’s dying to know.

      I’m interested in hearing your story, if you are willing to share it.

  2. Frau

    How much therapy have you done on this? A lot? Too much? None? Think about a therapist if you haven’t, talk to one about this if you have, and if you can’t stand therapists b/c you’ve already done too much, then go and talk to “Matt.” You’re ready.

  3. JC

    I can tell you that my partner and I are involved romantically with another couple. Each couple has two children. We have not fully integrated households at this point.

    This is why I am fascinated to hear your story and to read Laird’s book. Yes, I understand that it doesn’t fit what you remember but I would like to get the story from as many perspectives as I can.

    • Adrienne

      Wow. I didn’t know people were still doing this! How old are the kids?

      • Laird

        The movement kind of went underground after the ’70s, but it is slowly resurfacing. I think most people involved refer to it as “polyamory.” There are websites, conferences, forums, a magazine.

  4. JC

    They are elementary age

  5. Barbara

    JC — I think you should be very careful of this relationship with another couple if you have kids. Look at what happened to Adrienne. Obviously she’s a pretty fragile flower.

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