On the elevated balcony – after the howling release of coupling – we took in the panorama as pleasant hormones raced around our bodies and the intimacy of lovers lowered our resistance. We had that conversation – the one we had to have.
“Do you love me?” I asked, emboldened – somehow unafraid.
You closed your eyes, titled your head back and exhaled slowly. “Anything but that goddam word,” you intoned – incredibly soft and sad – like a gentle shower. “That word has been ruined for me.”
“But what about the feelings?”
“They got scrambled,” you explained. “The people who said they loved me were cruel. The said I love you as a kind of apology, like something to cover up their disappointmernt. I only let them down because they loved me.”
It was a story we both knew – the common tale of love being a veil for ownership, for control. Yours was about a clever, introverted young boy who could have studied law or medicine but fell in love with dance and then the circus. Mine was about a girl who had the temerity to become a woman. And both of us hid ourselves away – you in sublime safety of the sky, me in the denialist world of fashionable spirituality.
“I got into my body because it seemed like the best way to get out of my feelings,” you said. “Or maybe that’s just some smart thing I like to say and really I’ve got no idea.”
It made sense to me though. It explained our immediate attraction. You embraced what I eschewed. Your flight to the flesh was my escape from it.
No wonder we fucked so intensely. Not fast and hard but slow and vulnerable. With you I came from somewhere deep in the core – in waves that eradicated the ego – that melted me into you. Into everything. And when I looked into your eyes and saw you shuddering with quiet ecstasy, I could sense that you had joined me in that great and unnameable river that carries us all back to zero.
For a few moments at least it did not matter that you were leaving.
But the ego returned – and with it wanting and fear and desperation. “Do you think I only loved you because I knew you were going away?”
You smiled. Leant forward and took both my hands. Held them intently for a few beats. Ran your fingers over the veins on the backs of them. “Maybe,” you answered. “Maybe that’s why I let you.”
On the edge of sobbing I asked you why and your answer still rings unusually clear in my recollection. “I think we were both just checking in to see if what it was that was so scary was really that frightening after all. And it was – but not because it was awful – because it was far too beautiful – and beauty – beauty is the killer you can never deny.”
It’s true. I loved you because it was the end of denial. And when denial ends everything is swept away.
That’s why I flew a thousand miles to spend that wonderful/awful weekend with you – knowing you would leave me behind. Because I wanted to be overwhelmed. Humbled. Forced at last out of lies and into the clean and minimal truth.
I wonder if you remember it that way.
Like I wonder so many things about you.