Deadlines

2003 was a hard year for me. People were still running from the ill-will that surrounded my divorce. I went through four jobs in twelve months, and ran down the money I had set aside from the payout of the equity in the house. My business associates had involved me in negotiations for a start-up that sounded like a bad divorce. I was still running on about six hours sleep a night, and trying to keep my children together on a trying custodial schedule. Something had to give.

I set a New Year's deadline. It had the effect of clarifying our minds.

At some liberty in my schedule between recruiting interviews, I was down in West Hollywood once or twice a week. I found a street there that felt very comfortable, and a particular house. After identifying it, she called me down one evening, and I got out of the car to walk around the neighborhood. I was called to the door, but didn't know how I would explain my presence if she wasn't there. Fear gripped me, fear of losing my children. I knew that people were manipulating my apprehension of the interaction, and without physical evidence of her presence, I was unwilling to risk exposure. I got in the car and drove away.

Several evenings later, she called me again, telling me to bring my bills down with me. I discovered some acorns in my jacket pocket that Kevin had given me when he was two. As I passed the house, I dropped one on the lawn by the tree, then walked around to the back side of the lot, perhaps two-tenths of a mile. There was the blue sedan. I put two of the acorns on the seam of the trunk and on the grille under the windshield wipers. I turned to walk away, but noticed a remote entry console by the locked gate. I was urged to press the button, and struggled again with my fears. I started to walk away: why the charade? Why didn't she just open the gate and let me through? But I caught myself and went back.

Nobody responded to the signal, but the fear lightened somewhat. I was urged to head back on out to the Bodhi Tree. After parking the car, I walked down the west side of Melrose. When I got to the corner, I noticed that I was noticed. Several cars went past, then the last in the line stopped. It was a female security officer. She stared at me meaningfully. Crossing the street, my attention was caught by a woman standing in the doorway of the Bodhi Tree meeting hall. I couldn't feel Jewel anywhere. I was expecting her to take me by the heart, the only impulse that I trusted at that time, and bring me to her. I stuck with my original plan, and went into the store to pick up some parenting books.

As I was buying the books, I received a message to come outside right now: she was getting into her car to leave. But I hadn't completed my purchase. I finished the transaction, then went outside. No sign.

You can search the tabloid headlines on this one. They are unflattering.

Later that holiday season, I went back to the house. There was a party going on across the street, and a group of young men skateboarding on the hill. Talk to them, came the suggestion. About what? I kept moving: I had been warned earlier about not looking like I was casing the houses.

Finally, she told me to come by in daylight: she would be waiting on the street in a limousine. I drove down, and finally felt her pulling me through. Then, a mile up Sunset Boulevard, came the question: "What are you going to do if I'm not there?" I couldn't believe it. My first response was uncharitable, then I steadied, and said that I would take lunch at the Urth Café and head home. To bring the matter to closure, I parked on a cross street and walked past the house. Every parking spot on the block was occupied. Gardeners and cleaning ladies stood out on the lawns and balconies. I kept moving. The next block was nearly empty, except around houses under renovation.

I was beginning to understand.

In spite of this ignominy, some positive things developed. She tried to arrange my presence at her opening prior to Christmas, but my imaginings of the event were too extreme. I still thought of her as mine, free and clear, but it wasn't that simple any more. She asked me to teach her to still the air, and I did. That night, I watched a movie alone, and felt an enormous surge of sexual energy in my lower abdomen. I couldn't believe that this is what she went through on the red carpet. The media press gushed about her the next day, but the photo made me grin. She looked like how I felt when just learning to do Happy Chatter: somewhat disconnected from events around me, and big in the forehead.

The opening a success, I began to have intimations regarding the second half of Winter break. I had recently enjoyed the Japanese Pavilion at the Thousand Oaks Gardens of the World. She asked whether I wanted to spend New Years at the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo.

Again, we didn't connect. Getting a bag packed, heading down to LAX and asking whether a ticket was waiting for me: there was no cover, no story. She was also half-expectant of failure.

I did have some beautiful dreams over the next few days: walking in the grounds, picking up stones and twigs, and creating a mixed media collage for our host. It was unexpected - a gift without reservation - not something the royal family receives very often.

And she was given help. Everything had been focused, to this point, on her yearning to be a mother. She came to me one morning, and simply gave to me. I felt guilty - our sharing took us so much deeper. But it seemed something that she needed to do. She was working her way out of the fear, out of other people's expectations of her, out of their imaginings and into the expression of her love.

But I had had enough. If she could trust me to teach her, she could trust me to trust her heart. I had already been through the continuity of wellness learning curve, and had used it to walk through fire on more than one occasion. She knew how it worked. Why couldn't she thread enough moments together to find a place where she could step into the open with me?

The answer came in January, and broke my heart. When she wanted to bring me up-to-date, she'd post something out on the internet. When the impulse came through, I couldn't get any hits except on a German web site. She seemed to have largely disappeared from US circulation. I pulled up the photos, and there she was, clinging to the arm of her manager as she walked down the street in the open, hair flying every which way, a look of panic on her face.

She was trying. They had programmed her, deep and hard. I understood the paparazzi for the first time. A system of control.

Her fear of being in public was a fear that I couldn't walk into. I was still trying to clear myself of the fear that surrounded my private life. I couldn't bring myself to march into hers.

One of the lessons I took away from 9/11 is that you don't negotiate with terrorists. You define terms, and walk away if they refuse to comply. Jewel and I made that decision in February of 2004. We weren't going to play the game with our opponents any more. She decided to have her children.

The announcement in the tabloids paralleled my decision to seek work at LLNL. I moved back to Livermore over Memorial Day weekend, leaving my relationship with my children completely up in the air. It was a simple matter of financial survival.