My novel, Crossing the Bridge, is about many things. It’s about the burdens families place on one another. It’s about how a dramatic loss can throw someone completely off the course of his life. It’s about the unique relationship that brothers have. It’s about many other things as well, but, at its center, it is about encountering an old lover and trying to decide if you have a future together.
I’ve had exactly one experience with the meeting-up-with-an-old-lover thing. A very long time ago, I had a brief, intense long-distance romance with a woman (let’s call her Linda) I met at an educational conference. Our relationship started in a very collegial way and then exploded into something much more passionate. Over a few months, we spent a handful of days together, attempting to bridge the distance (we lived nearly a continent apart) with phone calls and soul-baring correspondence. In the end, though, the space between us proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome. We both had very strong reasons for staying where we were, and that therefore meant that we had no future together. However, the intensity of the time we shared was such that I wondered for years what things might have been like if our circumstances had been different.
Years later, I received a note from her entirely out of the blue. She was coming east on business and wondered if we could have a drink together. We met at Windows on the World, the one time I ever visited that fated New York landmark. The view was mesmerizing; I’d never seen Manhattan from this perspective before. Yet I barely glanced outside. Seeing Linda after this time had passed was breathtaking. She had accomplished a great deal, exuded confidence, and she looked sensational. We picked up old conversations and started new ones. And as we talked, I realized that, were it not for the cruelty of geography, we might have spent all of these years together. Circumstance wasn’t going to be any kinder to us this time, though. She’d been seeing someone for the past six months, and from the way she talked about him it was obvious that they were serious and that this delighted her. A little more than an hour later, we said goodbye for the last time. Within a year, I was married, my first child was on her way, and thoughts of Linda receded.
I’ve spoken with other people who have met up with old lovers. Their experiences tended to be far less pleasant than mine, ranging from revulsion (“he was a fat drunk”) to recrimination (“she made me feel nine inches tall”) to regret (“we wound up in bed together and couldn’t even face each other in the morning”). I’m glad my moment with Linda was nothing like this. Instead, it was a lovely little coda. And it some ways, it inspired a portion of Crossing the Bridge.
Michael Baron is the author of several bestselling novels, including the recent national bestseller Leaves. He is hard at work on the followup to Leaves, which will be out in 2014. You can learn more about Michael and all of his books at our website.