When I was young, I believed that once love came to my life, everything would fall into place. That whatever the trials it brought, whatever the lessons, love alone would be enough to sustain, a sort of glue that would bind two hearts in perpetuity.
He came into my life on a breath of wind from the desert. The first time we met I was so disoriented I got lost on my drive home. I described him to my friends as the most interesting man I had ever met, and qualified it with the statement that I would never date him. After all, he told me he was going back to Africa in 3 years, and when he spoke of his homeland, the love he felt for it filled all the spaces in the room. I was searching for a partner to share my life, so I decided he would be my friend. He decided the moment he looked at me that I was the love he had been waiting for. He texted me daily with morning greetings and evening good nights. It was strange that it didn’t irritate me. I thought it was kind of sweet. A few weeks after we met, I ran into him at a bar. I was with another man who I had just met. As soon as I saw him, all thoughts of being just a friend vanished. All I wanted was for the guy I was with to disappear (he did), so I could be with this most fascinating man. He is tall and strong, with quiet confidence. And when he put his arm around me that night I literally melted into him. When I kissed him I was completely lost. I don’t get overcome very easily, though I write about it in poetry, it’s always a feeling I want to experience, not one I AM experiencing. Yet here I was in the so desired state of bliss, with the comfort of those who have known each other for lifetimes. I felt like I was dating the most interesting man in town. Maybe even the whole state. Possibly the world.
I did what I do so often in relationships. I excused what I knew didn’t work for me, painted over it with all the parts that did work. I vowed never to date a smoker, a huge trigger for me from a childhood of watching my father die slowly, always with a cigarette in his hand. Here I was loving a man with a pack a day habit, listening to him tell me he was going to quit and believing in the strong mystique of his tribal fierceness that for him it would not be a problem.
I love to talk about life and emotions and what makes us the way we are. I love to extract the gems from the depths of our beings. Rabbit holes are my favorite hang out spot. Yet here I was loving a man who preferred not to speak at all, and when he did they were nostalgic stories. Fascinating stories, the stuff of dreams that were his formative years as a desert nomad. I clung to the moments of storytelling, living without any dialogue about our present states, who we were, who we wanted to be, what works for us. I dissolved into the exceptionally affectionate arms of a silent warrior. I felt protected. I felt like love was enough.
I believed that I was with a man who loved me as I was. Who never asked me to change. I felt guilt for all the things I wanted to change about him. I did ask for what I needed, and spoke candidly about what I wanted in the beginning. It was met with a firm ‘this is not who I am’. And I stayed, not honoring my needs, until I finally realized that while he did love me, it really wasn’t for me as I am. I chose to silence myself, until resentment built, until I no longer craved his embrace. When that moment happened I knew I could no longer explore the land of silence, it was time to talk about us.
The agony of anticipation wrecked my nervous system for a week. Delaying the inevitable until the timing was appropriate created a space for stories to be told, outcomes divined, nerves raw and stomach roiling in the unknown land of limbo. I did my best to center myself and finally believed I was okay with any outcome. I arrived at his house in a state of resolve, and none of the scenarios I played out beforehand were even close to the reality I encountered.
He too wanted to talk. For him, it is the inevitable leaving. Whether it’s because he is a desert dweller in a northern forest, or simply the nature of a nomad, we both know he is not happy living in my version of paradise. The desert he loves makes me sick with heat. The rain I love drowns his happiness.
As we talked and the layers of discontent were peeled away I found that the only thing left was the love we had for each other. I was somewhat surprised to discover my heart broken, shuddering tears as I left his arms. He asked me to stay, wanted me to stay, yet the feeling I had when he held me while I cried was the same solid strength and comfort of the beginning of our romance, and it burdened me with a torrent of grief. We resolved to be friends always, which mostly comforted but also left a residual ache. A wondering if we might get it right in the next lifetime. If we might arrive with what it takes to make love survive. For love alone is not enough.