“Be with someone who feels like freedom and loves you without chains. Because love isn’t about holding someone back or using guilt to make them stay. Love is freedom, and they freely choose you.” ~ J.M. Storm
On the day of my father’s death four years ago, I wrote this about a man I loved, only a handful of hours before I received news that my father had died. I loved this man, but, simultaneously, I found I hated the relationship I was in. Today, I still love this man… and somehow, somewhere, forgot that the relationship is volatile at best, and vicious at worst… He still loves me, which is not consolation, it IS a prize. I could leave, but would be empty. I must stay, obliged to stay, though he feels no obligation to me.
Non-attachment… it is a constant theme in Buddhism, and though I am not Buddhist, it is a concept I try to incorporate everyday. Obligation is smothering. Love… is love.
I re-post these old words to remind myself, that on that day, when I was told my father died, what pounded through my chest about this man was not all of the ways he failed me, not all of the disappointments, and waiting, and wondering, and insecurity, but love. My knowledge that my loving him gave me more joy than sorrow, and that despite his lack of worldliness, and unfortunate immaturity about many things, he is an incredible old soul and his love of me is simple and sincere.
I chose the elevator ride with him, chose the ups and downs. Some days, the ride is without interruption. Some days, other people get on, and distract us from each other. Some days, the elevator breaks completely, and one or both of us leave the confines of the tiny space to find another way to get to where we need to be at that exact moment. And yet, despite this, or maybe because of this, we find ourselves back to where we must be, together. I am still consumed by love, I let it devour me and nurture me.
I choose. I can push the buttons, I can take the stairs.
I choose him.
Some days, I get on an elevator, and I forget to press the button. The doors close, but I stand there, inert, waiting. I wait, and nothing happens. Sometimes, a person from the outside will press a different button, and the tiny box-carriage will rise or fall and I don’t realize where I’m going until I arrive at someone else’s destination.
I fell in love with a man I met outside an elevator. For the entire ride, I felt this sense of strange anticipation, as if something powerful was about to envelop me, conquer me, maybe consume me alive.
In the world of odd couples, there is not a worse possible match. There is no man, that on paper, could be any more wrong. But I fell in love slowly, cautiously, stupidly. I protected myself for as long as possible, steeled against love at first sight, tried with mighty force to throw myself in the path of other, more appropriately designed men. But the force of love, of passion, of need for this particular man was more than I could stand. Eventually, it was as all love is for me… entrancing and devouring.
I don’t believe we choose love; love chooses us. This love chose me because I was weak and unable to be immune to the power of someone so raw and ill-designed, I was raptured by something outside my control.
But rapture ends when reality creeps in. I can no longer ignore the actions of someone who forgets me too often, who can promise me he will regrow my heart only to eat it whole…
Someone else pressed the button on the elevator. It’s time for me to get off.
- If it comes, let it. If it goes, let it.
- As long as your actions are reactions, someone else is still in charge.
- Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
- A tether, my love. Not an anchor.
- There’s a difference between pursuing your goals and being in a constant state of chase.
- Love hard or not at all.
- Brain-space does not equal wordspace.
- Success = The Best Revenge.
- Loyalty is not free. Allow it to be earned not given.
- Don’t let them change you. Others will conform if you set the norm.
- Love exists for the subject, not the object. The love you give is for you.
- Expect nothing, live frugally, on surprise.
- If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.
- Eggshell Plaintiff Rule.
- One dreamer, one dream.
- Never say “no” without a reason. Never say “yes” without knowing why.
- Comparison is the thief of joy.
- Not everything that needs to be told should be heard.
“How long have you been awake?” He looked at the ceiling as he asked.
“Five minutes, maybe?” I lied. I hadn’t slept well. Twenty-four hours of fighting and making up and talks that circled back to the past and into the future was exhausting. Being trapped on vacation also meant there was no escape, even if we both sought reprieve. He reached over and touched the side of my face. I looked at him and smiled, just a little.
“I’m going downstairs to make a phone call and get something to eat. Do you want anything?”
“Coffee.” I said with an emphatic period.
“Okay, baby,” he said as he tied his shoelaces and refused to make eye contact.
We used to lay together entwined, his long arm used to scoop me into him, against him, flush. It wasn’t even spooning, so much as one fluid unit. My breathing slowed to match his. He would inhale my hair and never complain. I would smell him on my skin for days, whether real or imagined I never really knew.
A year of absence changed things, altered us. Maybe it wasn’t the absence, but the break that changed things. Though we tried to make everything the same, we weren’t the same, it wasn’t the us we had remembered and craved and resurrected. I think we had changed, independent of one another, and these two new people didn’t know how to fit or if they would fit. Neither of us wanted to talk about what was different or if it was different in the right ways. We’d both already committed… to something.
Maybe we were no longer one thing, but we were something else. He didn’t envelop me the way he had in the past, the way that I dreamt of and cried about. But, he was still him, this incredible thing that was inescapable and consuming. Last night, when the seven inches between us felt like an ocean and I couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t sleep, I scooted away, slowly, tiny bit at a time. I laid there, over-thinking, replaying every piece of the argument we’d stretched over 16 hours.
“You can’t always tell me how I’m supposed to feel about things. You make these assumptions when you don’t fucking know. Can’t you just let me feel how I’m gonna feel?” He’d yelled, with a lot of hand gestures.
“How would I know what you feel? Mostly you just disappear and make me guess.” I dug in my heels to the place we had been so many months ago, when I left, and he did not look for me.
“Just because I don’t have to say every single feeling I ever feel doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. Everyone doesn’t over-talk it like you.” He was right. I was too verbal, loquacious. I talked to fill silence so I could not think. “Give yourself and other people time to think,” he said, as he read my mind. That was always the same, he knew my thoughts before they were even formed.
He didn’t know it, but he was an avid sleep-mumbler-doer. He didn’t sleep talk, didn’t have conversations, but murmured in his deeply intoned voice, and automatically defaulted to common actions. In his sleep, he mimed washing dishes, sometimes, but most often, steering the wheel of a car. His legs would move as if walking, he held an imaginary phone to his ear, texted frequently, as his lips moved silently and his eyelids fluttered. I kept moving toward the edge of the bed, wondering if I would wake up early enough to come back to the bed before his eyes opened. I contemplated the bathtub, I thought about how he would leave me and how we would never be as whole as we once were. I rolled over to watch his face as he slept, soft lips and gentle brow. I rolled to my back, my favorite position to over-think in. I closed my eyes, and as I did so, he left hand intertwined into the fingers of my right. I opened my eyes, expecting him to be awake, but he was asleep. He didn’t release my hand, even as he started the rotation of his legs to take an in-bed sleep stroll. We didn’t cling anymore, we grasped. I didn’t let go.
He was distant in the morning though, and I could tell too much talking had taken its toll. He was exhausted and ready to leave. I needed reassurance, a sign from the Universe that I had not joyfully stepped back into a mistake. Tense was an understatement.
He came back into the room silently. I was folding laundry and packing suitcases and over-thinking and trying to decide how to make him happier.
“Here,” he said and handed me the warm cup. I set the coffee on the tiny glass table as he turned his back to me. “Oh, here,” he said, and turned back toward me, halfway, in profile as he handed me the item. I blinked.
“What’s this?” I asked, surprised.
“Uh, it’s a straw.” A giant tear rolled down my cheek. I always drank all liquids with a straw, always did, I always had, even hot coffee, always with a straw.
“Are you crying? Why are we crying?” His eyes narrowed and he was exasperated. I choked on my tear. I shook my head.
“How did you know about the straw?”
“What? You always drink coffee with a straw. Why are we crying about this? Did you need a specific kind of fucking straw?”
“Baby,” I said and his face softened at my voice. “How did you know that? You know, most people wouldn’t have noticed that… or remembered…” He came back and put his hand in my hair. He kissed my forehead.
“Why not? It’s so easy, you like coffee with a straw. It wasn’t hard to pick up on that shit.” He shook his head, almost annoyed at invisible others.
“That’s what makes you who you are. This is why… I love you.” He looked at me sharply and I realized I hadn’t said it to him yet during the weekend. We had spent twenty-four hours arguing about love and had failed incredibly at just saying it. “Baby, I do. I love you. We’re going to work.”
He kissed me on the mouth and said:
“I’ll always remember the straw, baby.”