When I was 55 I went to live with Laurie in her little house out in the country, on a big hillside in Danby overlooking the beautiful Inlet Valley south of Cayuga Lake. The house was surrounded by fields and faced the valley on the west. Beyond the valley was the long range of hills that was the setting for many spectacular sunsets, like waves of flame rippling across the sky on summer evenings. .

For some reason that I could never figure out, Laurie thought that I was cheating on her with another woman, or even several other women. The first time she hinted at my “other woman” I thought it was so absurd that she must be joking. But eventually I came to realize with a sense of alarm that she was quite serious. Alarm, I say, because it was becoming disturbingly clear to me that, for all the intimacy we’d had, she did not really know me at all. She seemed to see me as some kind of sneaky, scheming playboy, which is so far from the kind of person I actually am that the discrepancy between how she saw me and how I saw myself was mind-boggling, almost surreal. Why can she not see me as I am?, was the question that began to haunt me.

But then I couldn’t see her as she really was either, at least not in the beginning. Even when it became clear that things were going to be difficult between us and that for reasons I did not understand she had adopted a rather paranoid persona, perhaps permanently, I still always had the feeling that there was a deeper, hidden aspect to her personality, that deep down she was a vulnerable person who had suffered and who craved the closeness of human connection, as I did. It was that deeper self hers, which I really only imagined, that I still loved.  But perhaps I was wrong about her all along. Who can know what a person’s “real” self is anyway? I wasn’t even sure that I knew what my own real self was. I remembered the lines from T. S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party: “Can we only love something created in our own imaginations? Are we all in fact unloving and unlovable?”

I wanted to feel close to Laurie but it is hard to feel close to someone who views you with suspicion. Over a period of several months I went from being totally devoted to her and feeling confident of our relationship, to feeling as if I had completely lost my emotional bearings, adrift in my own life. And that even though we were living together, the truth was that I was alone on that hillside, terribly alone in a beautiful place, under that shimmering sky.