“Am I in love? No. I thought I been in love but I guess I wasn’t; it just passed over. I guess I haven’t met the girl yet, but I will—and I hope I won’t be too long ’cause I get lonesome sometimes. I get lonesome right in the middle of a crowd. And I got a feeling that, that with her—whoever she may be—I won’t be lonesome no matter where I am.”
~ Elvis Presley, 1956, just before stardom hit.
Things I would like to sing to you.
I would like to remember that I do not look for love to fill a hole: that is for happy tender bitter mint that I plant in my home’s rain-nurtured dirt this still-sunny, early Spring evening. No: we can not look for a lover to make happiness we do not already know. Rather I would like to learn that love is about partnership, not filling a gap. Love is not a crutch. You do not complete me; nobody can.
Love is a dance! Space, flirtation, tenderness. The elegant sweet actress leaning softly, so tired, into the reserved gentleman actor in an old Silverscreen Romantic Movie. And at the end of the story her regal eyes, and his eyes, wet, still, staring for so long.
I would like to learn if you like beachsand—the feel of it.
I would like to know the strength or smoothness of your hands because I hold them with full appreciation of your gift of who you are; you have chosen to spend some of your life with me. I would like to listen for and trust in your small judgments, and I would like to miss them like a wet breeze before the rain when you are away, which may be often.
I would like to share some of the many things I am passionate about just with you…and feel you feel the joy I feel in these favorite things.
I would like to find respite in our match: for you and I both will be busy, and full of vigor in service, sailing tireless seas all our little long lives.
But: our paths, so briefly braided, seem now to trend left, and bend right and away.
I would like to learn if you like beachsand—the feel of it.
I would like to love you, which will require you to tame me, and which will require that I learn the heavy ocean beneath your young waves: but you are cautious and I am briefly tired and our moment passes through my fingers like water.
I am thirsty but can not drink this salt water.
I would like to tell you my story, but it is not my story: it is ours.
It is mine and it is hers, both, but since it is ended, it no longer belongs to either of us.
This story is not a story, it is a song. For this, our story, has chronology but little reason to it. It is not linear: this story is a hymn. This story of love, of loss is a song and this song is repetitive. It is a mantra that bears repeating, and as I repeat these seed syllables, intoning deeply and yet more deeply, our song echoes against the walls of the heart.
And finally we can go deeper, an inch at a time.
For, as Fitzgerald said,
“Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and so pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories—each time in a new disguise—maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.”
So, like Fitzgerald, I sing out my Things: his story was of his heart, and the opening of it, and it was that simple—sad trouble and revelry.
As a Wise Man once said, a warrior’s daily duty is to attend to the heart and the opening of it—not as a task to be completed, but as a duty to be repeated, daily, in the orange glow of a new sun.
“Oh, darling, please stay by me. Please stay by me and see me through this.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
I met you and you played games, or perhaps you did not, but in any case though you were close by you were far away.
I felt my easy charm fall momentarily into tiredness—not tired of life nor love, but the kind of tender tiredness when I would like nothing more than to rest my head in your lap and have you idly play with my hair. The kind of tiredness Reg dog feels when he circles and circles, curling into a cozy ball, ready for sleep. And oh how I wanted nothing more than to share my joy and curl up into a cozy circle with a girl.
I would like to climb my own hills, jump down my own valleys until I may fully appreciate myself—even when I become tired and boring, when my fast fire is momentarily spent. But I could not yet be tired, with you: it was too soon, and that was my first mistake.
When we play a game against a poolshark, our first mistake is our last mistake—the table is run.
Suddenly I was alone, again, though I had not admitted it to myself, yet. Alone again with my work and Red dog and fickle friends, alone again with that tiredness: I would like to cry, bitterly, not sweetly as the thick local yellow honey that I buy from the white-haired jocular joker at the market. But I can not. The world cries for heroines, and I would like to cry for a single match.
I have learned that love means not playing games. Boys and girls play games with hearts and words, and silence. Gentlemen and ladies, however, do not play games. For games of love, neither side can win: I want to see you, or I do not want to see you? You do not need to win me or lose me, my dear. You do not need to play me: you need to just be you and I care for this you.
I would like to listen: to get to know your stories, your life, your dreams, your daily humors small and large—I would like to read your story until, like a well-read book, your story is well-known to me, the favorite parts wrinkled from the bath, or the rain, or tears, and dried by the eastern sun.
I would like to laugh with you: to joke at you: to whisper to you: to share with you: to walk with you: to run with you: to climb with you: to bicycle with you. To make love with you: to dine with you: to drink your wine: to bathe with you and read with you in the hotel bath.
I would like to kiss you as I see your eyes look into mine.
But they did not. Perhaps we will try again, perhaps not. You are cautious, perhaps because boys have long fallen too easily in love with you.
I am a gentleman.
And so though I fall in love I am old and weary enough to know my charm does not win love—it wins laughter and dancing and singing and love-making. But this is not love, as I explained in your dream.
I know what love is and it is friendship set afire.
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Love is easy. Love is chemistry—a science lab. Love is as simple as connecting this together with that. Her brilliant eyes and my heated heart.
But this is not love.
Genuine love is friendship. Genuine love resides only in the present moment. Genuine love is everyday. Genuine love feels no need to entertain the space away. Genuine love is up, genuine love is down and yet genuine love never wavers.
Love is something else entire: it is caring. It is arguing, but with curiosity—it is giving an inch when the other is certainly wrong—it is teasing, it is empathy, it is respect, it is admiration each morning.
“Funny how a lonely day, can make a person say…what good is my life?” ~ Shirley Bassey
I would like to see you one last time. And then again for another hundred times, or two times, or three times, or whatever the math is on countless times.
I would like to play, but not play games. I do not play games because I can not—they twist my sweet heart like a wet rag, and what feels all right fast becomes unworthy of us.
“Isn’t it pretty to think so?” ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
I would like to love and be loved by one. I admire you for your as yet unknown talent. For now, that is all: you are a sandcastle, your tide has washed you away, I can not tell what you were, and so I shall go swimming hard joyfully up into the salt waves, laughing and relaxed. And though you have left the beach behind you can not swim with me.
I would like to know you, but the game is lost.
This Bitter Earth.