Update: the Kickstarter for the Book: Things I would like to do with You is live! Ends May 10th. Get a Thingsie gift: a mug, a lapel pin, watch the video, connect with us on the book tour if it happens…here, now!
Read the first, Things I would like to do with you in the Woods, first. Read the second, Things I would like to do with you this Evening, second. This is the third. Now, there’s a fourth: Things I would like to do with you in Time.
Twenty Things I would like to Remember about the Day of our First Kiss.
None of this happened. But if it did happen, it would be with you and it would go like this.
“Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
I would like to be able to look back, some day far away, and remember these things. So I write them down, here, for me, for you.
I would like to remember my first sight of you in a lifetime.
Perhaps I will be visiting my childhood home out East, just having flown in to the Big City where I went to college and having rented a car and now I am in this little state, surrounded by green hills, and memories. And you will drive over from a neighboring town where you are visiting for a few months, while building a tiny house for yourself.
It is sunny. This was my childhood home when I was young and sweet. Hundreds of people lived here and thousands of people visited. People come here to study Buddhadharma, and wind up falling in love, and doing dishes, and living in tents or cramped little rooms. It is a big sprawling house with other big sprawling houses and meditation halls and children’s play areas and a big kitchen and a big barnred barn and a gift shop and vast fields and gardens and a stream, below it all, and richly wooded hills, around it all. And I have not been back for twelve years. And when you walk up and I first see you I am happily playing basketball, in a dusty parking lot, sweat stinging my eyes.
This was my childhood home, and it was yours, too. We knew each other here when younger, and I lived here for years while attending an old-fashioned high school.
I am playing ball when I see you and I am happy, having finally returned to the old red, green valley home of my boyhood. The sun is warm on my freckled shoulders, shot after shot falling or failing, so happy to play here again that shots missed are as fun as shots made.
And I turn and there you are; all of you at once.
I would like to remember you walking up. Pale blue dress, tan corduroy gold cap with orange letters on it. You are new to me; all grown up. You are tall, and you are lovely. Light eyes, expressive lips. Golden.
A sudden physical manifestation of a hypothetical person. I am surprised by your reality, and relieved: you are beautiful. Beautiful is more than attractive—it means inside is as outside and we discuss this, later, in the night.
From out of the consequential mists of virtual communication, inspired by words, we have met and you are manifest: you are a whole being.
I would like to remember that we hugged lightly and I kissed your wide cheek and I said, “You get lunch, I had a late breakfast. I’ll keep playing.”
Even in that first flush, space.
You go in and get food and you come out and sit where you can watch me. You sit with the tall thin gardener who we have both known since we were children.
And after awhile: sweating and gracefully shooting out my nervousness on the sand court, I stop. I walk to the main house and shower in the same old men’s bathroom, without soap or towel, grinning at the memories in this vast old house. Twenty jumping jacks in my shorts outside in the new sun and I am dry. I go get a little lunch and a lot of homemade Tibetan Hot Sauce and join you, sitting on the old farmhouse front porch where so many of us have spent so many hours, for so many years.
A tall young man is talking to you, and the tall thin gardener and you and I, we all talk, and I eat and make jokes, and compliment the young man, and relax with you. And the young man wants to join us for a swim, and I look down at my food as I eat and wait, waiting to see if you are weak in your politeness. You are not. But you are not rude, either, you simply demur. I am relieved at your strength and surprised by your skillful kindness. I gently smile at the young man that you and I would like to see each other one on one—”it’s been years.”
I would like to remember walking away with you to your little black car. You christened it Pony Boy. I would like to remember our ready repartee, your quick laugh, my constant humor, your sweet voice, your thoughtful enunciation. We meet well.
We ping pong back and forth, talking and sharing, learning and listening and interrupting…getting to know.
We drive an old road through farms and fields…and we are not in a rush, and neither are the ten other small town cars in front of us, driving fifteen miles an hour behind a tractor trailer. It is rare, this not being in a rush: for we are both already where we want to be. I would like to remember the feeling of seeing old sights watering my parched memory—I have not seen these turns, views, homes, barns for fourteen years. But this being the country, it is all as if unchanged.
We laugh a lot. We park. I look at a few whiteblond-haired children preparing to swim, and feel the future looming against the present. I take refuge in the present: future is not real.
You change in the woods because the old building housing the old changing rooms is locked, while I stare ahead at the timeless view of a wide lake with wooded hills framing a sandy beach on which children play and parents sitting beneath tall lonely greenmountain trees.
This is a dream. None of this could really happen, again.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ~ Dr. Seuss
I would like to remember This Lake, with you. How we find our halfsunny, halfshady spot beneath two trees, and you sit up in your bikini and I lean back in my trunks and we talk, laugh, laugh, talk, talk more and listen, and talk more and listen, and laugh more and listen. Getting to know. Asking so many questions. “So how do you like me, so far?” I ask, out of the blue. I am serious, but relaxed now, and confident. And you laugh at me. We laugh together. I appreciate your eyes, and your lips, and your voice, and your mind.
So far, so good.
This morning I gathered purple-red plums. Now I take them out of my upside-down trucker hat (flip the bill into the back and it becomes a redneck purse) and eat five of them and toss the seeds into the bushes, vaguely wishing them to find soil and bury themselves and find water and birth new plum trees. And you eat one. And again and again I bring myself back from my enthusiasm for this present moment with you and back to this present moment. It is hard: the joy of my longing is tart but sweet, I can taste it, but it flowers from the present moment and is rooted there, or rather here, so here I return.
And we go into the water. “I hope nobody notices I’m just wearing my underwear.” I hadn’t noticed, because I was trying not to look. “No one will.” Your bra and your underwear are dark and they look like a bikini. But just to be safe, “I’ll distract everyone.” And so I run in, as I am wont to do anyways, knees high so I can run as far into the water as possible, and I splash and run and joy! And at last I jump and dive and slide into the still shallow water, and with practiced big broad strokes I swim out underwater just about as far as I can, which is far.
Finally, I surface…thousands of feet from the beach. But I can still stand: I am actually only one hundred feet out. And we swim and dogpaddle and stand and talk about love and loss and relationships and parents and seaweed and real estate and work and broken relationships, forever. Getting to know. The sun warms us and the clouds shiver us and the water cuddles with us. And a fish tickles your legs, three times. The first time you yelp!
At one point you take out a sharp, perceptive knife and smoothly core my heart, “You get ahead of yourself. You think five steps ahead. I’m the opposite. I take forever to decide, I’m careful.” And it is true, though I do not understand how you can already tell.
Finally we walk back ashore. I swim underwater again: I love plowing through water, my shoulders remembering their forgotten strength. And we sit and talk for another forever: laughing, comfortable, sad. And we talk until finally you seem to want to move, and I ask. And you say you’d like to have ice cream but I am vegan and I would not want any, and I say “ah I’m fine with other people having fun.”
And you say you would still like that date with me that we had talked about over the past months, writing to one another. And I am pleasantly surprised that one such as you would like one such as me. I am not insecure, but I know myself, and in knowing ourselves we become fundamentally modest. And you are exquisite, and wise.
And I did not take you for a fool. But I am happy to be foolish with you.
Love is foolish, of course: as was last night’s wide orange, white fullish moon, illuminating a thundering waterfall in a small country town into glowing gray.
I would also like to remember our drive back through West Town, passing thirty young runners, and our stop at a general store (it carries saké, being close to our big red green old Buddhist home) so you could go to the bathroom. There is only one organic wine, and that is enough. And you offer to buy it, or pay your half. You drive me to my guest house, and you see the tall gardener who is hosting me, and while you two talk (you garden, too) I run upstairs and change into jeans: I know my old high school town and the locals do not need to see a boy in short shorts.
And: I would like to remember our drive up into the big town of my high school days, where I get us to stop and browse at a store on Railroad Street that I like: the one with bright Pendleton blankets and French wine and local mead and sleigh bells that sound like water, and old-fashioned nighties, and thick cowboy shirts, and moose antlers, and red Persian rugs and Norman Rockwellish old prints. I could buy things there, and I do not often buy things.
But soon you shoo me out, because I am doing an interview with someone important in an hour. And so I belatedly realize that you expected our picnic date to be before my interview. There’s not enough time for that, anymore; I had assumed we would date after. We drive to a natural grocery set in a former Town Hall or Church, I can not tell, and we do our picnic shopping.
I would like to remember how we decided to buy what for our picnic: dates ’cause we are on our date, and pistachios salted or garlic? Salted. And crackers but no let’s get blue organic chips 8 oz not 6 oz, and hot salsa it won’t really be hot, the mainstream only buys “hot.” And then Lily chocolate, yes chocolate is vegan if it’s not milk, and olive tapenade mmmm, and pesto (love pesto), and kale salad, and stuffed grape leaves in a tin. And I joke with the cashier and we drive off, still talking, listening, our minds braiding our lives. Getting to know.
We braided strands of our past into this present: we talked and listened and laughed about our hearts, our parents, our disorganized religion, our friends and their children, our limited memories of one another, my home and my dog, your sisters, the tiny house you are building, and your art and immediate future. We are just about friends, now.
And oh, yes—I would like to remember our first date. Sitting on green grass by the sparkling waterfall, the last sun of the day gold, slightly orange, I sit on my Filson coat, and you sit on your white blue towel and we spread out the dishes, and feast. We only have twenty minutes, yet we take those minutes slowly and live them fully, it is the best date I can ever remember perhaps ever, and I have had many good ones full of connection, humor, hope. But this: it is easy, romantic, just-so. And somehow unrushed.
And we decide to save dessert (the dates, pistachios, chocolate, wine) for a second date, also tonight, after you set up your tent and after I finish my important interview.
And somehow I have not fucked it all up, yet, I think, as I walk away from you and your little car, and off to the work that is my love and life.
“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty…you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.” ~ J.D. Salinger
I would like to remember this second date in our date-work-date sandwich, as you called it.
We plan to meet on the porch. I am late, but there you are: “Sorry, the interview went long,” but you have just arrived. And we walk up the hill to your tent, it is dark now, and we stumble on a root or rock but mostly we both know our way, having grown up playing in these hills. We have known each other since I was small, and you were smaller. Our parents know each other. We speak the same familial language, the same dialect.
Your tent, set on a wooden platform, has a screened-in porch safe from the flies and mosquitoes.
I would like to remember our conversation. For in it I first found your strength, your earth, your way of articulating criticism: no rush. We do not have glasses, so we drink out of the bottle and I eat many dates, and we eat good chocolate, and I show you how (don’t chew, just place on tongue, enjoy it as it melts) and you do not care. And our words or minds braid until even our hearts touch: everything is a joke, or sad. I ask about your comment that I am ahead of myself, I did not understand it though it sounds right.
I can feel myself falling in love with you; I dig in my heels to slow the fall.
For this love for you is not love, or for you: it is only enthusiasm. Instead, I will give you space. This is how: I return to this moment, where all tensions are solved by not needing resolution, and I listen to you, and make jokes, and share. And yet still I fall in love, knowing it is not real. We will find out how deep the roots wend, if this is more than just mutual projection. But not tonight.
We talk about private things. You are brave in your openness. And I am open, this is one thing that is easy for me.
And I would like to remember that we watched the yellow moon rise behind the black trees. And the occasional flashlights bobbing up the low mountain trails. I ask if I can hold your hand.
I would like to remember that you laugh at me for asking. And I would like to remember how I first touched one of your long hands. And how your fingers enthusiastically yet sweetly explored mine. And how my strong relaxed hand held yours. You have callouses. You laugh when I kiss one of your hands, so in a bad French accent I threaten to curtsy, next—”that’s my deal-closer.”
As we talk, our hands wander but only slightly, and finally I do not ask: we kiss.
It is our first kiss, so we take our time.
I would like to remember our first kiss.
We kiss more, more. I kiss your top lip, a slight bite, your neck. And more. My failure to shave begins to hurt your face and lips. My hand in your nightdark hair and on your chin and your sharp hips and smooth shoulder. And we talk as we do this. And I interrupt you with a kiss: it is fun to interrupt when the interruption is welcome. And I lay you down and I lay beside you and over you and we talk, kiss, more, more, and I touch your sternum, which is close to your heart. And you touch and kiss me, but I do not pay attention to me, I pay attention to you.
You decide that I will leave: it is too “dangerous” to stay. I look forward to the moonlit long walk, though I fear the giddy joy after a first date: joy always precedes heartbreak.
Just before I leave your tent you say something like:
“I may seem impenetrable—but I have to ask you to be careful with my heart.”
“Well, two things. One, yes, I will—and I appreciate that you asked. But I do not see you as impenetrable, and: please be kind to mine, too.” But I say it in many words. “And, that’s just the first part,” I say, and you laugh. I’ve been jokey all night, almost too. “And the second part, I say, is it actually could be good.”
We walk out into the night and it is rich, dripping with joy.
And I thank you for this delicious privilege, which is to spend an evening with you in the woods.
And we walk down and hold and kiss. Your eyes are closed in the moonlight, eager lips.
I would like to remember my long, long, long walk home along familiar country roads over, along, down, up, left, down, across the river, along, beneath two bridges, and to. All beneath the bright white moon. Arriving at the gardener’s farmhouse, I go upstairs to my attic room, meditate, and I work. Finally I fall asleep, fast and deep.
“The sun loved the moon so much, he died every night to let her breathe.”
None of this may mean a thing, and you are nervous, and you want space. It may mean something, and I am not nervous, and I will give you all the space you need. For love if true is caring about another’s heart, not merely one’s own.
But: I would, too, like to remember the next day, and our talk in the water of the stream, you’d had a long night of worry, you tell me—while I feel only joy and sun and slept well.
Your nervousness. You’ve closed, a cautious flower to the night. And my joy turns to sadness as sunshine makes way for rolling fog. Seeing my sadness, you tell a generously sweet, funny story. I ask: “did you just tell that story to cheer me up?” It is rare for a beautiful girl to care about the heart she stabs, as she pierces it.
Our planned dinner date is late, and short, and we do not return to the tent, or laugh, or kiss or touch, much. I say you’re not responsible for my sadness, I’m a big boy, and I will give you space. “But space can be in love. But you do not hear my words. They are just words. You say “I can’t let you in.” It’s too soon.
I would like to remember the final goodbye: “Do what you want,” you tell me, in that voice hearts use when they have closed.
And you say you may visit. And I say I will not ask for it. And we part. And I sing all the way home, so that I do not drown in self-pity:
“Ohhh the winnnnter it is past, and the summmmer’s come at laaast. A-and sma-all birds they sing on every tree-ee-ee…and the hearts of these are glaaad, bu-ut mine it is very saaad, for my truuuue love is pa-arted from me-ee-ee.
Oh you who are in love, and cannot it remove, I pity the pains you enduuure…for experience lets me know that your heart, it is full of woe, a pain that no mortal can cure…” ~ Rabbie Burns, one of Trungpa Rinpoche‘s favorite songs. I’ve loved and sung it my whole life.
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