I see you seeing me…
…leaning against a bar somewhere, surveying, striking flint between us when you catch my eye in the grocery store, at the gym, the park, or any place where strangers walk about each other, once in a while snagging their souls on the time-worn nail of connection.
In those split-second moments when we both turn, catching the faint tune of some elusive song beneath the noise of the crowd, before a decision can be made, there are things that I wish I could say, disclaimers that I desperately wish I could make on behalf of myself and many, many other potential lovers paused in those same moments.
If I could tell you in a flash what I need, this is what I would say:
1. Recognize the wildness behind my eyes. Some souls are like wild things—made to exist within a society that fits like corsets about their torsos, tight and restraining.
These are people who will gasp at the marvel of happenings that most will not even notice. These are people who stop struck at the way sunlight filters through a cherry blossom tree or are moved nearly to tears by a shade of a nameless color that paints the sky at sunset. These are daring, unpredictably spontaneous people whose actions often fly in the face of constructs like “normal.”
Women’s bodies, especially, are tied to the earth through threads of dark poetry and you, lover, will have to learn the poetry of my body and accept the wild that comes with it.
2. Do not attempt to tame what is wild.
An unbroken horse in a round pen for the first time will slam against the barricade and tear about the ring, pounding up clouds of dust and moving phantom-like through the red-clay mist, all terror and rage and mad, mad desperation. So it will be with me and with any creature that has a past replete with memories of metaphorical steel bars. I am far too free for games of easy-patterned conformity.
I do not own you and you do not own me. We must fight against the desire to control our lovers.
3. Learn to love the artist within. Living as an artist looks different for different people, but within every artist there is a tinge of madness and a subtle pre-disposition to anarchy.
For me, being an artist means I am prone to what appears to be bouts of eccentricity, but these are really just bursts of life. I will stand naked in sheets of winter rain if the sky calls and I will lie in the grass at night if stars pull at my hair during the day. These actions look strange to people caught as cogs in the machine of the mundane, but to me they are Life.
Be prepared for oddness, for spontaneity, and all of the strangeness that allows artists of any kind to exist and create in a world blinded by superficiality.
4. Understand that even free things have walls about their hearts.
Often, the wisest, kindest, most interesting souls are that way because they have been intimately acquainted with grief or have at some point shacked up with a shade of pain and depression as dark and black-textured as velvet. If you have the good fortune to cross paths with one of these kinds of souls, understand that no one comes back from war undamaged or unchanged, no one, especially not someone who has engaged in a battle with herself, so be patient and gentle.
Walls about the heart are constructed either of concrete or glass; some may have to be chipped away at a little at a time and some may shatter all at once; either way, those walls will reveal a beauty rare and hard-won.
5. Know that quiet does not mean gone. If your partner needs space, for the love of god, give it freely and generously.
If I am quiet, it just means I am lost in my head, unfurling thousands of observations that pile about me like discarded stones from those soul walls, attempting to pry the universe apart just enough to slip inside it and deconstruct what I think I know. It is imperative to know ourselves before we can ever attempt to know another person, much less a lover, and that kind of learning sometimes can only be done in solitude.
6. Remember that people are inextricably paradoxical. Our words, like our bodies, are often unconsciously coded.
While it is definitely easier (and will save both effort and tears) to just to say to your lover what you it is you want or need, it is important to realize that sometimes those words are far too foreign to be expressed—some people have to go rifling through boxes of years, pulling out and tossing aside disappointments and misunderstandings and frustrations to remember how to say “I need.”
Lovers have to learn each other just as one learns a new language—a clasping of the hands, a darting of the eyes, a tensing of the spine, that language expresses far more than words ever can.
7. It is imperative to be silly sometimes.
We take ourselves entirely too seriously. Laugh uproariously at charred-beyond-recognition-I-really-tried-but-set-the-house-on-fire-instead romantic dinners and then order a damn pizza. Be silly for crying out loud. Like spittin’ verses like a straight white girl gangsta’ silly.
Like random “meet me at the border and bring Tequila” texts silly (personal note to lover: if you actually met me at the border, Tequila in hand, I would marry you then and there, hands down). If you can’t laugh with someone, you’ll never be able to love them.
8. Indulge in sensuality. Sex should be a soul connection long before it is a body connection, but sometimes the soul is revealed through the body.
Know, lover, that a woman who opens herself to you—legs, eyes, heart—is a simultaneously incredibly powerful and utterly vulnerable creature. Loving her with that same kind of open bravery and boldness will take as much courage as anything you have ever done in your life, if you do it right.
9. Cultivate an awareness of your own spirituality.
And I mean spiritual in the sense that everything physical has to be explained through a filtering through what is Real. This has to happen in order to decipher the braille of the world—fingers feeling for a heart-language that defies rationalization.
For me, what is spiritual is a communion with the earth that is lit when my own hands converge with rich soil, turning it over to grow leafy plants and ambling vines that go places I cannot, wrapping themselves like legs around a beam on my porch. That is tranquility and divinity. Whatever that soul-body-mind kind of spirituality looks like for you, do it or think it or be it as often as you possibly can.
A person can only really love another person when one is cognizant of the galaxies within his or her own soul.
10. Demand Real.
Real does not necessarily equal commitment or exclusivity or any of the societal relationship trappings that have blinded us from what relationship really is. Real means a willingness to see beyond ourselves into a place where time ticks slowly, into a place that defies shallow cultural representations of love and relationship.
Real means risk.
You may get hurt, but if the connection is authentic, even the ruins will be beautiful and the minutes you spent together in intimacy will only deepen and affirm your soul and give you an a remarkable appreciation for the mystery that is connection and crossed paths.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Joe St. Pierre/Flickr