I am on my knees with my head touching the floor, in a posture yogis know as child’s pose.
I do not move. I am simply breathing in the subtle smell of wet dog on the carpet and trying to block out the compulsive voices in my head. I am afraid if I move, I am going to pick up that dated land-line phone, also on the floor, six feet away, and call Alan.
Alan is the guy I am trying to let go of.
He caught me off guard one Cinco de Mayo, when I was at a bar eating spicy string beans, in a cafe, two hours North of New York City. He sat down next to me and my blackened fingers, with a fresh-face and an open-mind. Although he is a major real estate lawyer from the city, he didn’t feel like one at all.
I never dated lawyers, doctors or bankers, only writers. Turns out, Alan was a writer, too.
Alan inherited his parent’s cabin upstate and visited on weekends when he could get away.
He took me to a fancy restaurant the night after we met, simply because I mentioned it was my favorite restaurant, in the area, and I happened to be free.
He smiled broadly at me across the table. I smiled back, just as a sip of crisp Sauvignon Blanc landed on a sour spot on the back of my tongue. Alan laughed as my eyes squinted and my lips and cheeks involuntarily puckered. The sweetness of his laughter hooked me. But after that wonderful evening, he disappeared for two weeks.
Just as I was losing hope, he resurfaced.
Alan was an anomaly.
He was attractive in a Midwest kind of way. He was a loner. He was a vegetarian. He drank a few sips of wine, but mostly he was a teetotaler. His favorite movie was “Men in Black.” He could own any car he wanted, but he rented one each weekend instead, showing up that first night in a frightful yellow Mustang convertible, allegedly the only one left to rent.
He was 40 and said that he wanted to get married and have kids. I was 36 and wanted the same.
He was generous with his gifts, and stingy with his time: Alan would never make a plan with me.
He said that the unpredictable demands of his work kept him from making plans, which he often had to cancel and hated to disappoint. 90% of the time we spent together was due to his calling last minute and me saying, “Yes.”
As you can imagine, this soon became tiring and demoralizing, but making known my desires to schedule plans was not effective. As we got closer, his waiting-till-the-last-minute mode made me suspicious. He swore he was not dating anyone else and I actually believed him.
He was dating his job, and he simply needed to be free for her.
One weekend when I was in the city and he was upstate, my first dog died in a tragic accident.
Alan happened to call right afterward, and knowing what an intense loss this was for me, he sweetly tried to console me between gasps and sobs. He drove down to Brooklyn in a purple Mazda Miata, scooped me up and brought me back to his cabin.
It was gallant.
He fed me sushi while I sat silently on his porch, gazing sorrowfully at the buttery, fading sunlight. He nursed me back to a world in which I felt I would be okay. Maybe the loss of my beloved pup would open me to the love of a man, this kind man.
But on Sunday night, when I asked to make a plan to see him again before I left town for three weeks, he would not commit.
Sometimes we have a story about how we want things to go, but life has other plans.
And then there are times when we need to take life by the reins and give it some direction. I wanted a family, and for starters, a boyfriend who could put me on his calendar without it being a big to-do. I needed a man who wanted to be there on Saturday night, not just in the middle of a crisis.
Finally, I summoned the courage to call it off.
Three days after the official “break-up” conversation, I am on my knees in child’s pose, pining for him.
I know he is upstate, nearby. I can feel him almost as if he is waiting by the phone for me to change my mind and call him up to hang out. The ghost of him follows me around the house. “Just call him, “ it whispers. “Maybe he will change. Maybe if you keep going along his way, one day he will want to change rather than lose you.”
This voice taunts me with memories of his marble blue eyes staring deep into me, and the tender way he touched my face when making love.
It begins to rain.
The smell of the wet earth wafts in the windows of the study. Its rawness fuels my desire. Our first night together, it had rained hard. I bring the phone closer. The rain gets louder. It is pouring. It feels cosmically orchestrated. I feel the essence of him breathing down my back and the pressure to call is mounting.
I leave the room and walk in circles. I come back. I wrestle.
“What do you want?!” I ask myself out loud, repeatedly picking up the phone and hanging it up. “I want a relationship with an available man,” I say back, conviction-less, like a schoolgirl simply repeating what the teacher has said without really registering it. I pick up the phone and dial nine digits.
But before I hit the 10th, I force myself to feel the truth.
To remember the pain of his unavailability. To remember what I want: not the crumbs of a relationship, but the whole meal. It’s up to me to change the story. I hang up and return to child’s pose, bracing against the pull inside to contact him just once more, to merge with him again, to laugh at and lie with each other.
Thank god, there is a chick flick on T.V. This will save me, I think. The sound of Cameron Diaz’s whiny voice is drowning out the alluring tickle of the rain.
But there is no escape. The final test comes, as I hear her character read a poem that Alan had once e-mailed. The only poem exchanged in our brief, three-month affair. I cannot believe it. Of all the poems! It is as if the universe is taunting me, beckoning, “Awww, give it another shot! Spend this rainy day in his arms!”
The poem is the “Art of Losing” by: Elizabeth Bishop. It is about loss, and losing gracefully. I let the words wash over me. They fortify me. The stranglehold releases it’s grip. The poem he used to lure me in is now setting me free.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
~ Elizabeth Bishop
Child’s pose finally becomes an asana of rest and not restraint. I cuddle up with the poem’s message and rest there, determined to bear the loss, rather than be the crazy person who does the same thing over and over and expects to get different results.
A new sense of strength surges through.
In tandem, the sun peaks through the clouds.
I slowly pick myself up, dust myself off and move steadily in the direction of the new story I want to tell.
Author: Blair Glaser
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock