After you finally found him online and arranged to get together a few months later, when he was in New York, how did it feel to see him again?
It felt so sad and so tragic. And we’re sitting on a bench in Central Park eating sandwiches and talking and catching up over the 20 years that we hadn’t seen each other. And I felt nervous, and like I wanted to cry, and my marriage was in the tank at that point. And I wasn’t really able to admit it to myself until that moment where I thought, “Oh yeah, this is something I don’t experience anymore in my marriage, this feeling of love.”
Did that spur you to end your marriage? You were separated at the time, right?
No, I was still in my marriage, but I was miserable. John Doe lived in California, and I lived in New York. He became a repository for my thoughts; I would call him and talk. And we had an incredibly tight emotional affair that helped me see the toxicity of my own marriage. At the same time, it helped him see how good his marriage was. When he would complain about what was going on with his marriage, I would say, “Oh, come on. That’s nothing. That’s fixable.”
So it helped him return to his.
What did he think about the essay when it came out?
He sent me a note of congratulations saying he was touched that our relationship from 1989 could somehow stretch forward in time and touch Justin’s relationship in 2015 or ’14, whenever it was.
To change the course of Justin’s life, really.
To change the course of his life. And when I had that realization, it was soon after seeing Justin and Kate together. These kind of … I just sort of imagine it as tossing a pebble in a calm lake, and those waves reverberating out. And I pictured this broken relationship between me and this old lover as reverberating into the future and somehow affecting a stranger’s life, who just happens to be the C.E.O. of a dating app.
I know. That’s a little too perfect. So what has happened since? This was published not even four years ago.