In the back of the filing cabinet I came across a stash of old notebooks. Now, here’s a confession: although I am a huge fan of home organization, getting rid of clutter, and taking trashbags of junk to Goodwill, I have trouble letting go of notebooks and day planners. I get a sort of archaeologist thrill flipping through my old pen-and-paper calendars, trying to remember what “6pm Black&White” on May 17, 2002 meant and reminiscing about the days before I used an Outlook calendar, when I used to color-code all of my school, work, and social obligations using purple, green, and black pens. I also can’t part with anything school-related. When I finished my last Master’s class, I neatly organized all my notes and papers and stowed them in a banker’s box in the basement. I stashed the remaining notebooks with empty pages in the back of the filing cabinet to use as scrap paper and then promptly forgot about them. When I discovered them this weekend, I pulled out two smaller notebooks that I thought were empty and brought them in to use at work.
As I flipped the first one open yesterday, I found a few pages of notes scrawled in Joel’s handwriting. All in all there were about fifteen pages filled with college-era scribbles and notes. July 25th marked not only our first wedding anniversary, but also the eighth anniversary of our first date. Eight years! Skimming through Joel’s notes made me feel so nostalgic, recalling the days when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, meeting up after class to eat dinner and watch Smallville, back when Smallville was still a good show. There were some coaching notes on the first few pages, followed by instructions on how to refinish a door. After that was a page with job possibilities listed out and another page with numbers of computer repair places. Finally, at the very end of the used notebook section, I came across a list titled “Things to do this Summer”. It was so cute to read. Baseball Game, Annapolis, Smithsonian, Matthew’s Pizza. A few items were crossed off, and I tried to remember doing them. The Baltimore Museum of Art ($5/person), yes, we definitely went there a time or two. How quaint, we had to pay! Now it's free. Go to DC and do the tourist thing, yup, we have a picture of us standing in front of some memorial during cherry blossom season on our bookshelf, me with my super-short hair and Joel in that blue t-shirt. Try crabs…well, that’s strange, because I know I didn’t have crabs, real crabs, hit-them-with-a-mallet crabs, until last year. I wonder why that’s crossed off? And “beach”? When did we ever go to the beach? I hate beaches.
And that’s when I noticed the year scribbled next to the list title, 2001, and did some quick math. This is 2010, minus 2001, equals nine. We have been together eight years. Eight is less than nine. RIght? Well, let's see: we graduated high school in 1999. So that was the summer before freshman year. 2000 would be the summer before sophomore year and 2001 would be... the summer before junior year. We met at the very end of that summer, and when I say "met," I mean that I crashed on the couch of my friends' house, where JOel had just moved in, for a few weeks before jetting off to Madrid for my summer abroad. Our conversations, if we had any, were not memorable. We did not hang out. We most certainly did not go to the beach together. I realized that this list, Things to do this Summer (2001), was an accounting of fun things that Joel did with his old girlfriend.
Internet, I do not know if I have ever felt such an intense wave of jealousy. This list looked exactly like the kind we make together, except Joel made it with someone else! Some woman who is NOT ME! I was instantly hateful of this stupid hussy, who from the very little I know about her was a perfectly nice girl. I wanted to punch her in the face. I wanted to tell her to stay the hell away from MY man. I wanted her to not exist.
As I said, Joel and I met for the first time in August of 2001. We didn’t say more than a quick hello to each other until I came back from Spain in the spring, and we didn’t start dating for another six months after that. I spent most of my semester abroad (Mom, close your eyes) going out to Spanish clubs and staying out until 5, 6, 7am. Nearly all my friends that semester had left boyfriends back in the States, which left me and my one other single friend responsible for making out with more than our fair share of Spanish boys, a responsibility we took quite seriously. We even had matching pseudo-boyfriends named Alejandro Uno and Alejandro Dos for a few weeks! So it is not only ridiculous for me to feel mad about Joel having fun summer adventures with someone else during this time, it’s completely unfair and hypocritical.
And yet, I cannot look at this list without feeling a jealous fire in the pit of my stomach. I want to find this girl he went to the beach with in the summer of 2001 and tell her, Hi, I don’t think we’ve met, but you dated my husband nearly a decade ago and the two of you broke up before we met. And guess what? YOUR LOSS! He’s mine now, I win, back off, and go back to living what I hope is a very happy life in which you are oblivious to my existence. PS: Stay the hell away from my hunky man.