And here, she’s acting happy
Inside her handsome home
— Harry Chapin, “Taxi”
I don’t know who the email came from. He or she claims I don’t know the sender, so I have no idea what the motivations were. But I’ve been thinking about it for days.
The message was short. It was about a woman who used to love me. Someone who I’ve loved very much — but someone who didn’t choose me when I wanted her to.
After a brief introduction, the writer got to the heart of the matter.
“You don’t know me, but I know all about you,” the message said. “She’s unhappy and depressed, maybe suicidal, though she hides it well. She acts happy and fakes it well most of the time, but I’ve seen through the cracks and she’s about to fall apart. She’s too proud to change anything, but I’m scared about what she might do. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I thought you should know.”
And I’m left to wonder why I should know.
I won’t do anything about this message. I have no place in her life. She’s married to someone else. If she had chosen differently, she would have been married to me. But she didn’t.
Even so, I keep coming back to the question. Why would somebody think I should know?
The woman in question is smart and competent and successful. If you met her, you would assume she would be running the world if she put her mind to it. But others rarely see what’s inside her — and I eventually came to wonder how well she really knew herself. How much she actually liked herself. Loved herself.
But I don’t even know her anymore. When did I last hear from her? Maybe she’s changed. Time and experience can do that to a person. I have no way of knowing who she is today.
Part of what I feel is resentment. I know that’s petty, even as I feel it well up within me. I wanted her to marry me. I think we would have been happy together. And I’ll never understand why she made the changes that she did. She never explained.
So part of me feels resentment that I didn’t get what I want. I feel selfish to say that. If she’s really unhappy — miserable and possibly even suicidal — maybe I should put my feelings aside and think about whether I can do anything for her. But there’s a hurt part of me that wants to say, “See? You should have chosen me!”
But the truth is that I can’t do anything. It’s not my place. She has other people in her life to whom she could turn. Definitely not me. But if she wanted to, she knows how to find me.
And still, I wonder why someone thought I should know about this. What leads someone to believe I’m relevant to her thoughts or feelings? To her head or her heart? And that lack of knowing kills me.
Late last night, I unexpectedly heard Harry Chapin’s classic song, “Taxi,” and it struck me in a way that it never had. I’ve always seen it as a poignant story — this ballad of two old lovers running into one another under strange circumstances that don’t really resolve themselves — but I somehow saw certain lines differently in light of the recent cryptic message.
“And here, she’s acting happy, inside her handsome home…”
Even though I don’t know her now — and even though she’s married and even though she didn’t choose me — there’s a part of me which still whispers, “Don’t kid yourself. You still know her, probably better than anyone.” And that part of me has suspected — has known — some things for a long time.
Most of the relationships I’ve had end with no lasting consequences. But this one? A love that was fated which I somehow missed? The one who got away? I don’t know. Anything I come up with sounds ridiculous. Cheesy. Like something from a bad romantic film.
But I can’t quit trying to put some feelings — warm and powerful and even painful feelings — into words.
Still, I can’t answer why I should know if she’s unhappy. The choices between us were hers. I have no place in her life anymore. She knows where I am if she wants something. Needs something.
There’s a part of me that’s always wanted to be someone’s hero. I’ve always wanted to be the cavalry riding to the rescue. The white knight to rescue the fair maiden. The hero to save his love from a burning building. So something about this tugs at an old need in me.
But you can’t be rescued from something you’ve chosen — and something which you haven’t asked to be rescued from. Nobody has the right to intrude into another person’s life that much. And after all this time, well, it’s just not my place.
In truth, I do think she’s unhappy. There. I said it. I can’t prove it, but my heart somehow knows. I think she created a luxurious but unpleasant prison from which she no longer feels she can escape. And it’s not my place to try to give her help she hasn’t asked for. And would it even be smart after the choices she made?
But through all these jumbled and confusing thoughts, I keep coming back to the question. Why is it that I should know about what might be going on with her? What don’t I know?
My head cooly says it’s none of my business, but my heart is inflamed all over again — and my spirit wonders if there’s something else which I really ought to know.