The Two Week Solution
Her name was Diana, and I had not stopped thinking about her since the moment I saw her. I am not one to believe in love at first sight, or at all for that matter, and I cannot say what force gripped me those first few moments and refused to let go. I cannot say what attracted me or what held my interest. It was not her beauty since I had long ago steeled myself against such things. I cannot identify in any detail any one quality that held me prisoner. If I could, I would have isolated and exorcised the offending demon. Her attraction held its power in the fact that it was so indefinable.
I still remember the first time I saw her. She strode (not walked) into the conference room as if she owned it. We had a very serious discussion about … what, I do not recall and did not pay attention to in the first instance. I was focused on the intensity of her gaze, the outline of her face, the fullness of her lips, and the thousands of thoughts she could convey without saying a word. I knew right then that I was looking at perfection and when I asked her at the first opportunity to lunch with me, I hoped like hell that she would say no. I knew then that one meeting would be too many, and a thousand would not be enough.
I had an ideal life until then, at least to the outside world. Everything I touched turned to gold. Everything I wanted was mine. Everything in my life had gone according to plan. Yet she touched something deep inside me and made me feel as poor and wanting as a beggar. It was an unfamiliar hunger and one that I would give anything to quash. Would and did. I gave up everything I had, or ever would have, for her and I do not think she knew or cared. At least, that’s how it felt.
That was then, many afternoon trysts and long memorable nights ago. We lingered over coffee for hours, never able to exhaust our exploration of each other. I thought it could never end, but it did, in the worst way possible. One day she informed me that she wanted to be “just friends.” What exquisite torture is inflicted in those few words. From then on, I was neither alive nor dead. I was a man dying of thirst in an ocean of salt water. I could get close, but not drink. I could never have the thing I needed most, the thing that would quench my thirst and restore my life. The man on the raft will eventually die and end his suffering. She would not let me die.
I tried many times to free myself from her grip of “just friendship.” The last time was the most painful, and the most comical. I practiced my farewell speech in front of a mirror. I would say “Diana, I cannot just be your friend. I am afraid I can never talk to you again.” I knew I had to have the lines committed to memory, to deliver automatically, or I would falter and they would never leave my lips. I felt weak as I delivered the lines, fully expecting her to say, “Well then, if that’s how you feel, goodbye and good luck.” However, she did not say that, or anything like that. She simply instructed me not to abandon her as a friend, and that was all it took to destroy my bravest effort. It was no use, she held me irretrievably in her power. She simply was not yet done with me.
Two weeks is all it takes. Two weeks is my magic number. Never in my life has there been a problem that two weeks could not solve. I could write a scholarly article, prepare for a talk or close a deal in two weeks. I could leave a lover, or a wife for that matter, with two weeks notice. When my last relationship failed, I immediately booked a trip to Asia that would last (you guessed it) 2 weeks. By the time I returned, I thought nothing of my reason for the trip. All I have ever needed in life to solve any problem is two weeks.
My two week solution happened quite by accident. On my 12th birthday, my parents had my lame dog put down. My parents did not intend to be cruel, they simply forgot that it happened to be my birthday. It is the last time I remember crying. They thought I was crying for my dead pet, but many years later I realized that I was crying for having parents that would take the thing I loved most on the most important day of the year. I have long since gotten over that, but what stays in my mind is that my funk lasted two weeks, to the day. I know this because it was on the 14th day that I reeled in a 4 pound white bass, and that brought me back to the world that 12 years olds should live in. I suppose I could have just as easily developed a “white bass solution” but, for whatever reason, I settled on a two week solution. And throughout my life that solution has never failed me.
It is not easy to remove someone from your mind for 2 weeks, especially when you work together and are accessible 24/7 by email, sms, text and voice. So when I realized that she was not letting me go, I thought that there was perhaps nowhere in the world that was remote enough for me to apply my two week solution. When I was younger, I turned to the mountains in times of difficulty. I remembered those days, when the grip of fear and the threat of death would purge me from whatever collection of Waller Street annoyances had built up during the previous 50 weeks. I no longer had the desire to challenge death, but I need the seclusion of the mountains now more than ever. I thought about Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa. “Kili,” my old climbing buddies assured me, was a non-technical walkup, but high enough to keep me fully occupied for at least two weeks, away from internet access, telephone reception or any other connection with my life at home. I was lucky enough to find a guided tour on short notice through my connections in the climbing community, and before I knew, it I was on a plane across the ocean.
Climbing was more strenuous than I had remembered. To my relief, the physically exhausting days did not allow me to lie awake at nights, as I had done at home, wondering where she was and what she was doing, but from time to time during the long days I would wonder if she thought of me. Maybe she had changed her mind. Maybe I should charge down this mountain and call. Fortunately, the guides would not allow me to abandon the trip and return to base barring a medical emergency, and I soon accepted that a broken heart did not qualify as an emergency. I would be on this mountain the full ten days.
My climbing group was generally amiable and, thankfully, distracting. Eventually, however, we exhausted our supply of small talk. Eventually the conversation turned to the questions of what brought up to this mountain in the first place. In the company of these strangers, I was finally free to talk about what had haunted me for months. If the hiking was liberating, the comradery was cathartic, but would it be enough? That brute thought haunted me during my sojourn. Would two weeks be enough? I did not know how I would feel at the end of the trip, which started two weeks ago.
I am writing this now from the air plane. As I peer out the window I can see the San Francisco Bay come into view. We are landing now. The clouds are parting and the land is in view. I can see the bridges, and downtown San Francisco in the distance. I can see the major highways, and I orient myself to the 101 and, further west, the 280. I consider where my house is from here. The wheels are on the ground and we are slowing to a stop. Soon I will be back in my day to day life. Soon I will not be able to avoid her. How do I feel? I have not been home in two weeks. Two weeks.