Zora told me not to write this week. For each of us, it’s been a demanding week. We ended it out of town, meeting for one night my brother who rarely heads out this way, out to New England. Take the week off, she said – just one week off. I’m tired.
She’s clutching my arm under the hotel covers. She smells like warm honey bread, like some of my happiest memories. I’m watching Olympic figure skating, the volume turned down so I can pick out pieces of Gershwin. My favorite part of figure skating is the contestants’ faces when they let down their guard, when they’re done and dog-tired and they know they’ve finished strong.
I told her she didn’t have to come all this way to see my brother with me. She said she wanted to. She doesn’t like going to the grocery store alone. But efficiency – I said – and look, I could do the dishes while you shop. But she said her mother and her mother’s ex-husband went their separate ways after years of efficiency. This was during our pre-marital “clarity sessions.” I know now, love takes the slow and scenic route.
And so our stories and que(e)ries and analyses will have to wait a week. But this week, I’m tiptoeing to the window to whisper in a tin can to you.
This week is the confluence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, and Zora thinks this is the funniest thing. But to me, it’s a serendipitous celestial happenstance. (To me, what isn’t?)
Often while she sleeps, and I write or work beside her, I bring one leg against the shape of hers. I wonder every day when I kiss her goodbye in the morning if this could be our last kiss. I don’t have trouble remembering my mortality. I have trouble remembering that I am – right now – still living. Living until I am done living. Living to the end, dog-tired, with the knowledge that I’ve finished strong.
Sometimes I’m already sad for a world without her. Hers is a love that feels like a home.
When I stand still, I fall backward into a reflecting pool. I share my mother’s hatred of sunsets; they make me sad. I don’t like falling asleep. Sometimes I won’t watch the last episode of a favorite show. I’m bad at endings because I’m bad at the feelings that come with them.
Zora knows that. She knows that when I’m scared, when things don’t make sense to me, I turn off my heart and feel with my head. And my head has never been my strong suit (it’s her strong suit), but it hurts less. She’s learned to ask me how I feel. I’ve learned to give her time to think.
I think a good love reminds me that I’m not only dying, I’m not only dead in the scope of eternity, one point (not pointless) in the line (the ray? the segment? the Möbius strip?) of time: but right now, I am also fantastically, uniquely alive. I am a match still lit in a book yet to catch fire.
A good love reminds me that love is not wasted, even when all of it is practice, and that love is inimitable, even when all of it is learned. A good love reminds me that love is not a state of terror. A good love reminds me that we are charged to love, that we are each written to be a prescription, we are each an antidote to the unique wounds of a world awaiting a cure.
Zora sleep-talks. Sometimes she sits up suddenly – eyes wide open – and she smiles and she asks for a kiss. She doesn’t remember these moments. I text her the details so she can read them the next morning. No one makes her laugh like she does. I love that about her. When I turn off the light and slide down the headboard, I breathe her in.
You ever close your eyes, try to conjure your own face, and come up empty? Forget what your face looks like? She remembers for me.
Sometimes I want to fuss through the fascia of other people’s lives like it’s all used tissue paper around a present – into churches with closed doors, into the offices of ill-equipped therapists, into kitchens where families have hushed, head-hung conversations of shame and exile. I want to ask, “What is love worth to you?” But your lives aren’t mine. Your pain is not mine.
And yet while we still live…
Someone wiser said it best – that our own suffering is only background noise in others’ lives. But I want to hear better. So, do I dare to pray for a stronger antenna?
Image by ShadowAlchemy @ DeviantArt