Part 12 of a serial, "Sex Love Enlightenment." Previously: I bond with Sally, and she dumps Billy.Click here for past installments.
After my dinner with Sally, I buried myself in work, which helped take the focus off Billy. I was writing a pilot for ABC, a drama series based on my book "Leap!" Marta Kauffman, who created the TV hit "Friends," was collaborating with me, and Goldie Hawn had committed to star in the series. We'd already written a dozen drafts, based on notes we kept receiving from the "suits" - executives at ABC and Warner Bros. Then the Writers Guild had gone on strike and we'd been unable to work for months. Now the strike had been settled and the top gun - the president of ABC -- had given us radical new notes and a five day deadline to complete a total rewrite. We hoped that if we turned in a draft he loved, he would put the series on the air.*
While I was writing, Billy sent some chatty, superficial emails, and I told him I had a deadline and to leave me alone. Marta and I worked day and night, barely sleeping, and turned in the script the last minute before it was due.
An email arrived promptly at the end of the fifth day: "Are you going to talk to me ever again? With tender thoughts, Billy."
I called Sally and read it to her, like an alcoholic calling her sponsor when she's tempted to drink. "Tender, my ass," Sally said. "I hope you won't respond."
But I did. I knew that by answering him I was engaging again, but I couldn't help it. I was like a smoker who knows cigarettes will kill him and can't stop lighting up.
I emailed Billy repeating that I would not take part in his dating roulette. Then I pulled the pin on what I expected would be a grenade. I informed him that I'd had dinner with Sally, and we'd found discrepancies and deception in his stories.
Billy wrote back that he was happy I was keeping the lines of communication open. But he had his own story of how things had gone, a story in which he was honest, blameless and did nothing wrong. He was sorry Sally and I had been hurt, but not sorry about his behavior. In fact, it was my fault. "I feel you seduced me for the purpose of staking claim to me and making me feel suddenly obligated to you, after rejecting me for months."
I responded that I had hardly seduced him, he was the one who kept suggesting we go to bed, but "you did not twist my arm," I said, "even the good one. I threw caution to the wind, and I take responsibility for that. And I confess, I did hope that would lead to a one-on-one relationship."
He fired back: "I do wish to date one person, with hope that the relationship leads to marriage. I thought Sally might be the person I could do that with. She came to me at a time when you and I had nothing and expected we never would. If you and I had not made love, a relationship with Sally might have been possible. She and I went to one concert, a movie and breakfast. We never had the private time together to gain any realization of whether our attraction was a dream or a reality. You and I did have that time for discovery, but then I found it such a difficult decision that I could not allow you to hurry me into it. The irony is that my attraction, respect and admiration for both of you has resulted in you both hating me. After your meeting with Sally, she asked me not to email her. If you talk to her again, you have my permission to show her this letter."
I forwarded it to Sally, who was appalled. "He sends me a love note through you? That's sick."
As we were talking, another email landed from Billy, telling me he was watching "High Noon" and thinking about me. As if he hadn't just told me he'd wanted Sally!
I banged out a reply: "Don't contact me again." I was glad I had Sally on the phone to back me up. "Send it!" she said.
Relief washed over me. I kept repeating those four words to myself: "Don't contact me again." Good riddance to bad rubbish, as we said at Berkeley in the 60s. I wished I could add those words to the Paul Simon song about the 50 ways to leave your lover.
Then, of course, came the crash a few days later. It had been 8 years since I'd been with a man who loved me and whom I loved in return. In 8 years, I'd dated five men and met dozens of others and hadn't experienced anything close to that deep, nourishing connection. I can go for long periods and be just fine on my own, but after Billy, because I'd taken a bite of the apple -- tasted again what it feels like to have that juicy energy running between you and a partner -- I felt bereft.
I had the old pain in the chest, as if ribs have been broken and it's hard to breathe. (The physical pain, I would learn later, is a sure sign of addiction. The pain comes when the desired object is withdrawn, and the rational mind is helpless to quash the pain or the longing)
I called Sally to talk me down from the tree. "When I sleep with someone and it's great, I get screwed up. Meditation, psychological insight - nothing helps. Buddha is in the temple and won't come out."
"You spent a lot more time with Billy than I did," Sally said. "You had more invested. I feel like I dodged a bullet."
TO BE CONTINUED
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*The series based on Leap! is not to be. ABC killed it for "budgetary reasons" after asking us for several more rewrites.