I am posting this here because it's nothing to do with Christmas, and I don't want to ruin that node. Those thoughts here, had today, will not have changed tomorrow. I'm sorry. Something has happened, and everyone is gone.
I am not interested in your wisdom. The benefit of your experience is nothing to me. There is no story you can tell that I cannot change, no anecdote you can relate the relevance of which I cannot deny. Say whatever you want. You’ve been there or you haven’t, you care or don’t, I’m not doing this for you. You cannot show me the way. The choice is mine.
I’m asking anyway, because I'm scared and do not know.
I spent Christmas Eve face down on the floor. Jewish, you know—that takes some of the sting from it. A crumpled mess, not a man. Cell phone held loosely to an ear, spit snot and tears spreading out in a puddle that soaked the ends of my hair and clogged my nose. Whimpering into the receiver, unable to make a sentence or think a thought until I managed to press End. Moments later a beep I lacked the will to answer, so sure I was another would follow. It did, I picked up, and we spoke for hours over questions and doubts, so far that I am still uncertain if we separated or not. You likely know the course. Uncertainty, remorse, disbelief, panic, tremendous desire and that desperate, final lust, all atop a nauseated shaking and cold before the cycle repeats. I see no future with you, nor any without. Do you love me? I do. I do, I love you, you love me. We love each other.
Is that enough.
Necessary but not sufficient. Her time here is running out, and her age makes demands I don’t know if I can meet. A child, in four years’ time. A baby. I see the words on the page and cannot conceive of the notion, the awesome responsibility of what that would mean. It is beyond me. Will it be beyond me then? Between twenty-five and twenty-nine, will something happen that prepares me? I cannot see it. But I would not see it. The future is best guesses and lies. What do you believe, and can you believe you will not change?
I wailed. I rocked and pulled at my hair, stood from the floor dizzy and crying, crying, crying. She tried to comfort me. The old jokes between us, moments over which we had always laughed in the past, the things that make me love her marched out in terrible new clothing. Where will you seek comfort now? She told me all the reasons she loves me. She told me I am smart and quick, I make her laugh, and can fold her in my arms. The way I look at her when I think she’s mad, my arrogance about proper syntax. My wit, my affection, the shortness of my legs. My writing. She tells me I am beautiful.
"I will call you tomorrow. Not until after ten, your time, or it might have to wait until I get back to ________, my mobile isn’t very good on the motorway. Will you be all right?"
"I will be all right."
She clicked off, and I threw up.
This has been long in coming. The question of our ages and the different places we are in our lives has wanted an answer since we first decided to ignore it in October 2000, when the future bore no real consideration. Easily put off, a three year reprieve and a deadline that began to loom just this past September. It was after the newness had worn off and before the shadow stretched out over us that I fell in love with her. I am in love with her still. Far from perfect, I have come to love her for her flaws. Congreve’s words in The Way of the World. The Way of the World, I read it four years before I met her and thought, "yes, remember, this is how it must be, this is one of the ways you will know."
Is that enough.
Doubt endows the mundane with unusual significance. I found a strand of her hair—I am always finding strands of her hair—and wound it three times around the ring finger of my left hand. I slept and showered, and looked down to find it gone. How telling. She called three times and each time I could not hear; I called at least as many but could not get through. Ah ha. The commercials have all had children in them, two shows in a row showcased wedding dresses. A pregnant Barbie doll on the shelves, news at five; news at six, pick the sex of your child. Synchronicity they call it; always there, nothing has changed, you’re only more attuned. But what of God’s mysterious ways? If He answered your prayer for a sign would you know enough to read it, and read it correctly? Or—read further. I noticed the ring was gone. I kept redialing the number. I got through. That should mean more. The Great Lord Therapist, answers questions with Questions to help you find the way.
Whispers in the dark. You shouldn’t need to think so much about it…when you know, you know…there should be no doubt. There has always been thought and doubt, and I have never known anything so well I did not question it. I am afraid, you see. Afraid. I have always been afraid. The step ahead is a deep one. To turn an ankle on it—the length of the fall terrifies me. To turn from this course or run its length, which takes the greater courage? I recognize my cowardice. It sickens me, makes me small in my own mind and cuts across my belly. I have always failed myself. Recoiled and retreated, conservatively retired from every adventure and risk, each opportunity to risk my pride for something better. Keep your brass rings and Holy Grails. I’ll just stay here and guard the castle. Let me know how it goes—so I can imagine myself there from the safety of my own tiny room, how great I would have been.
What does such a man deserve who dares to turn his back on this? And for what? To enflame the smoldering embers of your precious, wasted youth? Haven’t been drunk enough, fucked enough, arrested even once? So many women to sleep with, and surely if you were single again you’d topple the towers of the city with your awesome libido. Every girl you set an eye on would buckle at the knee if you were unfettered, and you’d welcome yourself to all. New powers need new subjects. Now that you know something about sex—you think you do—how can you not share what you’ve learned?
Liar. Know thyself. You’ve had that chance before and passed it up. It’s not for you.
Or is it some other shadow gives you pause? Some notion of another woman and a better future, that old image of perfection and the time at which there will finally be no fear. You wait for the right woman to make you strong. You think she will give you courage. You think she will make it right. You are fooling yourself, little coward. You are running again. It will not come from without. This choice is yours, no she can make it for you.
An old family friend, a year older than I am, got married the week before Thanksgiving. An old friend from high school just got engaged. My ex-girlfriend moved in with her boyfriend. They’re dropping like flies. And each time I hear of another, I am deeply, deeply bitten by a desire for the same. I am jealous because they seem to know, because they’ve found the certainty I haven’t. What makes them different, I wonder. Why him, why her. Why not me. How do you know, how the fuck are you supposed to know?
I love her. It isn’t over yet. Not yet. The moment has come, though. I suppose it comes to everyone. Relationships must move forward, or they die. Just like sharks. Must remember that line on some future anniversary.
She says her life is always a fight. She is a person of unbelievable strength. She is not afraid. I see her, hear her voice, look into her eyes and recognize that thing I most desire for myself—total fearlessness, the simple knowledge that what she wants from this life she will take, or die trying. She will make it all her own. It will not come easily. Nothing has ever come easily. But she fights. She fights, and never gives in. She never turns away.
Will I fight beside her. Will we take the field, and fall together.
Is it enough.