Posted on March 5th, 2024

The Soft Core of the Earth – NOLA, Again

I may have said this before, but typically, I write the title first and then a few days or weeks later, I write the article. The reason for doing this is so I think a little bit about the topic before I write. Sometimes I’ll have forgotten what my original intentions were. And sometimes they’ll just change. That’s kind of the case here, but I’m sticking with the title, and it is about New Orleans (NOLA) indirectly, but it’s really about relationships. But I don’t need to tell you that if you continue reading, as you’d likely figure it out on your own…

But this part of the saga does take place in New Orleans in part (but really, its origins began long before this trip). I met her (it always comes back to women for me, somehow) at a conference for the first time, I think in it was February 2017 in Indianapolis. Our interactions were minimal but enjoyable, that year and the two that followed (the conference takes place every February), but we’d apparently had some chemistry or sparks, at least on her end, enough for her to be curious. Come 2020, and just before the pandemic settled over the world, we had more substantive exchanges throughout that year’s rendition, and I followed up with her afterwards to see if she wanted to collaborate on something. Pure and innocent intentions, I swear.

But as these things go sometimes, we sparked up an electronic pen-pal relationship that was, at times, all-consuming. She was three hours from me, and I maintain for at least the first month, I didn’t expect much beyond those exchanges, even though I enjoyed them and looked forward to them every day very much. We told one another everything. We sent at least 1,000 emails over the course of roughly two months. She told me about her broken marriage and how she was thinking about leaving him but didn’t want to hurt her daughter. Then he found out about our little exchanges, and our little situation exploded. This led to her coming to visit me a few times, and an existential crisis developed for her about the path forward – and without taking too many detours or spilling all my guts on it, she ended up staying with her husband for the sake of her daughter, and we maintained contact, but in different ways, and far less frequently. Sometimes she stayed in mind, more often she didn’t. But she was never too far in my mind, and certainly easily summoned in thought…

Through all the crowds and debauchery, you can still find love in the Big Easy. (Photo retrieved here and comes courtesy of Kendall Hoopes.)

The conference was online in 2021 and 2022, so there were no opportunities to see one another in real time and space. We maintained sporadic contact, but she was – and is – heavily watched by her husband. Based on some of the things she tells me, their relationship is much better now, but other things I infer, I’m not so sure. So, in 2023, when we were back in person at the conference, I was eager to see her. As with this year, it was also in NOLA. I first met up with some old buddies that first night on the ground and had several drinks (refer back to a column on this topic from last year), and then met up with her. We had loving but innocent interactions over the span of 2.5 days; it had an air of puppy love about it. But then the conference was over, and I knew I wouldn’t see her again for a while.

So, we started sending each other cards – I had to send them to her work so that her husband wouldn’t be suspicious. In them, we talked about everything, from the everyday mundane things to our dreams and feelings for one another. Those lasted for about 3-4 months until I headed west for two months for the summer and wouldn’t be at a fixed address, so the correspondence stopped. Upon my return, we fell into the post-crisis sporadic exchanges, though, those turned more frequent as I joined the conference planning committee and we had to engage together a lot more. Many others were also involved, so these weren’t one-on-one sessions, but occasionally, we’d innocently fall into a back-and-forth email exchange between just us. And this past week, back in NOLA, it was just like last year: innocent puppy love, and only brief opportunities to be “alone” together, but those instances were mostly within eyeshot of our colleagues, so still muted, unfortunately. As we walked down Bourbon Street on the last night I would see her for another year, probably, we dropped to the back of the pack, holding hands and clumsily fawning over one another. When we all dispersed, the hug wasn’t as affectionate as either of us would’ve liked. We closed the night out in our separate rooms with a few short, but sweet and loving texts, and now today (I am writing this after my flight back), we will go back into hibernation…

The weekend that follows, which will happen after this writing, sees an old girlfriend coming to visit me, someone who I dated briefly, but intensely, eight years ago. We’ve stayed in close contact, though, with a few tristes several summers back, but she’d fallen into a long-term relationship and so she and I just improved our platonic friendship. Though, I remained fairly open about the fact that I also still loved her, but that we were just in different stages of life – and different places: me on the east coast, she on the west coast. But a year ago, that long-term relationship finally gave out, and over the course of the year that followed, she put her pieces back together, sowed her oats or rebounded or whatever she needed to do, and then she said she wanted to come visit. And we made plans for that to happen, and it is. The weekend after I was in NOLA, stumbling through another lost love situation.

This weekend will be much different, though, for many different reasons. I expect we’ll have a lot of fun; I wonder what the sparks and feelings will be like. But I also worry that it won’t be what it once was and that we will be doing damage to what has become a very good friendship. I also think I’m okay gambling on that, but it’s not like I expect it to be anything more than a weekend of fun and companionship. Though, I do also wonder if it will just leave me with the feeling of another girl that will never be in my life the way I’d once thought she would be, or at least hoped she might be. I wouldn’t say I have a lot of heartache over the girls I’ve dated per se, but there are a handful who I often think about if things had been different, could we have gone the distance together? It’s really these two and maybe a couple others, but it could just be nostalgia. It could be simply that I like the idea of what could have been more than I’d like the real thing had it actually been. I likely will never know. I may also like keeping people at a distance, crafting my own narrative of loss and love, as I become more and more of a loner and curmudgeon…

I went out with another female friend the other day, before the NOLA trip, one who I’d met through a dating app – that didn’t work out, obviously, but we’ve become fairly good friends. One of the reasons she said it didn’t work out for us in that way is because I remind her of the worst qualities of her two brothers combined. It’s funny, possibly true, but also has a tinge of sadness to it. But anyway, she’s also had her relationship struggles and pains, and she asked me if I thought she’d always be alone. I said “no,” but I could see that didn’t convince her. I’m far more okay with being alone than she is, but I admitted to her that whenever I see an older man eating by himself at a restaurant, it makes me feel sad, and reminds me that I don’t want to end up like that. But the years keep ticking, and the good times keep rolling, only sometimes, I don’t know where they rolled to…

Marco Esquandoles
“I’ve known a lot of women, but she never escaped my mind.”
Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan

This entry was posted in The Geospatial Times and tagged , Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    The Geospatial Times Archive