|A friend asked me if she could interview me for an assignment for a writing class. She sent me questions via email, I responded, and this is her edited interview.|
| Date: Tue, 17
Oct 2000 15:48:57 -0400
From: Eden Sofine ...
I finished your interview, here it goes:
[with editorial corrections - RL]
It's a love story not many people can tell. You know, some people don't even have one to tell at all. 54-year-old Robert Lund has a love story he tells with such a mix of both fairy- and cautionary-tale style, it has lasted with him in his life for 24 years. It has only just hit him again - he is now recently single after "a long torturous ending to the most intense love affair." Currently residing in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, he is unemployed, but is working in and around the downtown New York City rock and roll scene, making and enjoying music from all decades. He uses a neon [tangerine] colored iBook to record music from the Internet and then plug-in at the DJ booth at clubs like Meow Mix so he can play songs for the crowds to dance to. Robert has got shoulder length bleached blond hair that swings when he is seen go-go dancing at venues like Don Hill's and Manitoba's, two night life venues in Manhattan. He is of average height, on the lean and mean side. Robert can be seen wearing all black James Dean style black jeans and a black T-shirt, but has been known to put together some wonderfully wild ensembles, including button-down shirts with patterns or patches on them, a boy scout shirt or tight leather pants [I've got no leather pants!]. Dancing is a big passion for Lund, he is known around the scene as the "Number-1 fan", hence his ever popular and much anticipated appearances at rock concerts, events, parties and other happenings. It almost seems as if without his presence then a show is not really a show. This is all because he just knows what's going on.
Well, I've made a few, but one stands out in my mind as feeling particularly momentous at the time, like I knew this was a big one and went ahead. When I decided to continue seeing the woman I had fallen in love with, despite the fact that I'd been married to her best friend for 5 years.
How did this situation build up, at what point in your life did this begin?
I had liked these two girls, Suzanne & Jean, when I was 15. My best friend went out with Suzanne, then told me to take her ("she's too crazy for me"), so he went with Jean. Both couples got married five years later, and the four of us hung out together for five more years. They had two kids, we had one.
You were only 15? Talk about young love.
Yeah, it's a real soap opera, all right. It was, of course, no fun to live it. My time with Jean was the first time I'd really been "in love" as an adult - I started going with my wife at age 15, and hadn't been with other girls. So we had "grown up" romantically and sexually together. It felt pretty special while it lasted, but it wasn't any proper way to grow out of adolescence into adulthood.
Where did it take place?
I lived in Brooklyn. It wasn't so much the neighborhood, but our lives revolved around the Lutheran Church, and all the Norwegian families knew everything about all the others. It was in Bay Ridge, kind of a Norwegian ghetto at the time. I was organist/choirmaster at a church, and Suzanne would attend and sit right up front, singing extra loud so I had to hear her voice - trying to spook me with guilt in front of everyone since I was moving out and all.
How old were you when it came to a head?
I was 26 years old. I went to see Joe Cocker with Jean instead of Suzanne in Sept. 1972 and we fell in love, amazed that it could be so "nice" to be with another person (one you'd known for 10 years).
What brought about the realization that you wanted to be with Jean?
We actually drove out to Bayonne, but the concert was canceled, so we went to Manhattan and saw "Midnight Cowboy" instead. Seeing that film with someone you could relate to was pretty amazing after years of being married to the wrong people. They had broken up in '66, she got pregnant during a painful goodnight, and they got married to "make a proper family".
How about your best friend? What was his name?
His name is Robert. The girls used to hang out when we were married and talk about "your Robert" and "my Robert". He was born one day before me. My mother, a French war bride, and his mother, a German war bride, both married GIs from Brooklyn over there, and they were the only two non-Norwegians in their little ladies' groups at the church. They're also both pretty zany, so they were best friends. I met him when I was 8, since our parents were friends.
What were the emotions that you felt because of your decision, and how did you deal with them?
My wife wanted everything to stop, to keep the marriage together. I was torn by responsibility and guilt, and the desire to follow my heart for the first time really in my life.
How did the process of your decision work itself out?
I sat in the park, mulled over all the factors deeply, and arrived at the conclusion that I had no choice but to do what was right for ME.
At any point, did you think you were going crazy? Or did you know you could handle it?
I was pretty frazzled and stressed, but crazy, no. I've always been confident that I could weather any developments (so far).
Did you have a gut reaction right away? If you did, did you go with it or not?
I vacillated a bit, but I decided to follow my gut.
Jean, Suzanne and your best friend, how did they affect you and your choice?
Well, it happens that my best friend had wanted my wife for years, and had started trying to get something going with her. When they finally "made it" after a few weeks, all hell broke loose, and there was no more deciding to do.
Was there money involved? What kind of job did you have and did it get in the way of your problem?
Not at first - of course, I started sending my wife money weekly after I left to live with Jean. When I found out that my friend had slept with my wife (before I had slept with his!), I kinda flipped out and took off in the car "for California". I guess you could call that "going crazy". But work interfered, as my boss told me by phone in Pennsylvania that if I didn't get my ass back ASAP he couldn't save my job for me. The car had broken down anyway.
So how did it end up turning out?
Jean and I lived together for 2 years. My friend moved in with my wife a little after Jean and I. It was the best of times, and the worst of times. The stress of weekly visits to switch kids and the insecurities of being with each other's ex's made everyone just a bit high-strung. We all broke up after two years and went our separate ways.
What about the kids involved?
They had a son in February of '67 and they had a daughter in April of '69. Our son JP was born in November of '68. The kids all knew each other from birth since we spent so much time together while we were two married couples. When we were cross-habitating, we sometimes switched kids on weekends, and other periods we took turns having all three kids in either home, giving both couples alternate weekends off without kids. It was hard either way, because Robert and Suzanne acted like one big happy family, whether they had all three kids or just JP, whereas when I had JP, I'd go off to do father-and-son things with him, leaving Jean at home either alone or with her two kids whom she had all week.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
I might have taken a bit more time separate from my wife before living with her friend, to get a handle on who I was. As it was, I was working out too many new things at once.
Do you have any regrets because of it?
I only regret that I let my wife manipulate my guilt to the extent that I didn't give Jean the security she needed. It might have worked out had we done it right. If there is a "right" way to do that.
So what's your story now?
I'm now 54, and after living for 24 years in Manhattan, where I moved when I left the Park Slope apartment where I lived with Jean (we left the old neighborhood to live together), I moved back to Brooklyn for financial reasons. I happen to have taken the apartment above Suzanne's mother, where her grandparents used to live, since they bought the house in 1922. It used to be my son JP's apartment. So I've unbroken one of my life's circles. I've lived with a couple of other women - 2 years and 11 years (my deceased wife Zoë) since, and I'm single again after a long torturous ending to the most intense love affair (lasting 1-1/2 years) since the one with Jean.
When was the last time you spoke with any of the other parties?
Jean has wanted nothing to do with me for years - she "only remembers the pain". I speak to Suzanne more often than I used to, since she's the co-executor of her father's will and watches over her mother's home and tenant situation. (Great, an ex-wife for a quasi-landlady!) I've been friends with Robert through the years, visiting him in LA whenever I'm out west, where he moved in 1981 to try to start a new life. I'd listened to him pine for Suzanne ever since they broke up in 1975, even though she married a young Iranian in Paris in 1981. Her marriage ended a year ago, and while Robert was in NY for Christmas '99, they had dinner. Next thing you know, they went away for a weekend, rediscovered the love that had brewed since they were 14, and she moved out to California this Spring to live with and marry him, once her divorce goes through. A real romantic tale and I'm SO happy for both of them. Of course, it will be more than a little weird this Christmas, as they plan to stay in the front half of my apartment when they visit town.
What was the most profound aspect of your final choice on you as a person? Do you think you are better or worse off because of it?
In the end, the main effect was to get me out of that relationship with the girl I married far too early. I have never regretted that, whatever it took, as it permitted me to finally start "growing up" once I was out on my own - better late than never.
What kind of advice would you give to someone you found out was in the same boat?
Think about it a lot, but in the end, go with your heart if it speaks to you consistently.
UPDATE 2004: Suzanne and Robert did get married a couple of years ago, and are living happily outside of Los Angeles. I still live in the old house upstairs from Suzanne's mother and sister. Jean and I are friends again, as time has allowed some of the pain of the difficult years to subside, and we continue to cherish the good times we did share way back then.
|UPDATE 2006: Suzanne and Robert wound up bringing her aging mother out to live with them in California in early 2005, and when the old house was finally sold last summer, I had to move out. All my belongings (7 rooms plus a basement full) went back to storage, and I'm staying with a friend in Greenpoint while I try to find a job and another place to live. Despite the difficulties of this interim situation, it feels wonderful to have left my childhood neighborhood behind for good!|
|UPDATE 2008: On my cross-country trip last year (2007), I got to see Suzanne's mom Helen (to whom I had become quite close over six years) in the hospital out in L.A. just before she died; and I got to see much of her family whom I hadn't seen in years at Helen's funeral in Brooklyn early this year. I visited Robert and Suzanne out west again this year, and it's great to have maintained relations with this "extended family." And of course, Suzanne and I share the special joy of two wonderful grandsons by my son JP in Texas.|