There's always a man, isn't there? Fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, grandfathers. Former flames and flame-outs; Cupid's-arrow strikes or Pan-sparks flaming your nether regions. The ones who got away and the ones who wouldn't leave; the ones you wouldn't leave and the ones you got away from ... but I digress.
There's a man, there's one man I find myself a little in love with. We were briefly acquainted years ago and there was something ...
Recently we were in touch again, quite by coincidence. And then not by coincidence. I was still in the babbling, bawling and boundless phase of divorce aftermath, incoherently clinging to every kind and soothing presence that spoke through the phone or came into my house. We spoke once or twice, and he listened.
I phoned him this evening on a whim. In my address book, his name is above the number of someone whose call I was returning. I called the person, left a message, and looked at my phone book again. His name, his number.
Reader, I called him.
I'm in a different place now since our last conversation a few months ago. I no longer stammer, sob and stagger around my home when one of my trusted ones calls. I'm happy to hear from them, rather than desperate. There's much more than a loss of identity in divorce -- there's a loss of a whole way of existing with another person; so many little couple-habits and rituals that you did in dances of routine that were yours alone. If you really allow the 'one soul in two bodies' resonance that can pervade you in a deep bond, a lovely symmetry of changes and small, fluid adaptations reshape you ... and in the sweetest of marriages comes a flow to certain routines that make them feel holy ... like the way my husband would give his final yawn on the couch after we'd watched a movie, the colossal yawn that sent him to his feet with a stretch. He was like a little boy when sleepiness took him -- suddenly cross-eyed with fatigue and instantly cranky if he couldn't start his going-to-bed rituals right now. I'd lay out the bathmat, his towel, his toothbrush and paste, and eject any and all cats who might be lurking in the bathtub. He'd undress, hang up his pants and shirt, pitch undies and socks into the hamper, grab something to read. I'd be waiting in the hall, and when he approached me, I'd pull up my pyjama top and we'd embrace, chest to chest, still and soft, then swinging gently from side to side and eventually scratching each other's backs. Then I'd lean down and inhale the scent in the center of his chest, where the little sternum-hollow is. I'd say, "I love the smell of you" or some such, give his chest hair a nuzzle and some more snuffles, kiss his musky spot ... then off he would go for his shower.
All of those little rituals -- gone. No wonder we say, "I don't know which end is up" after a loss that rips every familiarity away; I don't think we're ever more lost ... a certain self is dying.
And we're left alone with this me-person, this suddenly sole person, who isn't the person she or he was before a years-long cornucopia of everyday familiars filled up to overflowing during the nesting intimacies of a long marriage. Suddenly, in a stroke, the cup is empty.
... So yes. I didn't know who the hell I was for months. I'm beginning to discern who's emerging now, nearly a year after my marital KABOOM, so I can carry on a coherent conversation with my friends ;-)
... I called my former acquaintance who twigged my heart way back then. We shared a quiet, occasionally halting conversation, 'cause it had been a while. Both of us still feeling (and having acknowledged to one another) that something. We're a lot alike, I think, in sweet ways and in gravid habitual ways. I've got a thousand voices in my head, each clamouring or whispering her thoughts about this allure that I feel, that he feels --
"Are you nuts?!" ~ "Go for it ... why not?" ~ "He's gentle at heart, you know that ... and he seems to have bunkered his heart away too ..." ~ "I just want to be with him for a little while, no Krazy-Glue attached; just be with him and sense how we might be together..." ~ "Oh God, I'm too tired to even consider it..." ~ "I don't want to waste any more time being alone when there's someone in the world I share this certain feeling and potential with..." ~ "I just want to lie down and spoon with him, and hold him (He's been through a couple of life-altering events very recently) ..." ~ "I want to sit down with him and converse and listen for hours ... I want to learn him..." ~ "Eyes wide open! Eyes wide open!" ~ "We'd both be treading carefully, that's for sure ... and I don't want to live with someone yet and I sure don't want to commit my still-wobbly, emerging, changed-and-yet-not-changed self to the depths of enquiry and intimacy that I know I will want eventually..." ~ and so on ...
I do feel something for this man that is deep, quiet, and lovely ... and of course, alarm bells are going off because that's what alarms do when this kind of interest for another person arises ... and oh, there's this softness of heart towards him that I've felt only a few times in my whole life and I don't want to waste any time. I also don't want to do anything irretrievably stupid! (Hah! Don't we tell ourselves that, every single time?)
I'm teetering here! I hold myself back, and so does he. We're both on the introverted side of personhood; both quiet, homebody creatures; both more likely not to reach out. Both more likely to let this low-lying but potent resonance pass than to enter it and let it enter us.
Anne Popperwell, "Calla Lillies"
What to do? What do do? Bloggy friends, ask me some questions; give me your sense of what I've written here; help me understand how to move with this ambivalence and attraction. I'm still in the 'Who am I becoming now?' limbo-time of post-divorce and I don't want to have any flings, one-night-stands, disasters, or even dates. I want another dear one, eventually ... and I want to share some time with this one man with none of the expectations I once would have had. I just imagine a few gentle days together for two people who recently have had the wind knocked out of them and I, being surprisingly old-fashioned, want him to make the first move toward me.
We had a phone conversation a while ago ... It wasn't long after our quirky, coincidental first encounter online, and yes, I was still in the babbling, bawling stage. I'd written him a letter after an earlier conversation, explaining myself as I seem to do every time I express an authentic surge of emotion toward another. (That's a very interesting habit I've just now clued in to ... a belief that I have to explain an emotional expression to one I've expressed it with. It's almost like I'm trying to make sense of it after the fact ...) I blathered in the letter about how I'd blathered over the phone; made a double fool of myself, I think ...
He phoned me after he'd received the letter. I don't have any kind of 'caller ID' on my phone, so I had no idea to whom I was picking up:
Him: "You couldn't be more wrong."
Me: (** ?? **)
Him: "It's me, C."
Me: "Yes ... hi ... I know ..."
Him: "Hi ..."
Me: "... What couldn't I be more wrong about?"
Me: "... Me."
Me: "Wrong about me. Me wrong about me. Yes?"
Him: "Mm hmm. So very, very wrong."
... Well, this man has a voice that when he says, Mm hmm, I surrender. Or my soft heart inside her shell surrenders. This doesn't happen very often. It happened with my husband and I did surrender to him because my whole body, self and soul felt themselves cherished. I look back on the great loves of my life (there are very few) and what made them great, for however long they lasted, was the pure sensory trust we fell into. Cherishment allowed us to roll off our last ridges of defense and into a state of bliss, at least once. Everything in us relinquished its hold -- we gave over, gave in, gave up in the most heroic way that a person can -- with both the primal trust of a beloved babe in arms and the awareness of an adult whose will has made a choice to fling open the whole heart.
It's happened with me and four other people. Surrender and submission to the surrender. Volition opens like a night-flower to the moon and says, Take me ...
Photo: Johannes Nugroho
So with this one man, the potential for cherishment made itself known to us both, I believe, in one long-ago kiss, shared in a car. It was the most gentle kiss I've ever received from a man, and I lost my ability to hold myself up in my seat. A sound emerged like a zephyr from my throat -- I couldn't imitate it now -- it was a once-in-a-lifetime sound, totally spontaneous, from where I don't know -- it was a sound of surrender ... The whole of me, including my mind, fell back; I lost all volition for an instant and sank, feeling like an animal instantly tamed -- whispered -- by a kiss. Total bodily trust.
So there it is. This sense. With him, still, after all these years. The memory of a moment that my body recalls with pervasive and perfect recall: a cascading radiance from the center of my chest, and a soft fall into trust.
He has a sweet soul, I know that. No wonder that when I begin, so tentatively, to imagine even the possibility of allowing someone close, I want nothing to do with dating sites or bars or speed-dating or hooking up or "singles' events" or whatever's being hawked these days as a way to snatch a man. I have to make a confession here: in the first desperate months after my husband left, I made a list of men I knew / had known with whom I'd felt even a fleeting but pervasive attraction sometime in the past (my adult past, that is). All seemed, from what I sensed of them, decent, kind, good men. All alluring to me, no matter how brief the contact. All men about whom I had this thought: "If he and I were both unattached at the same time ..."
I actually ran into one of them a few days after I'd written up my list. This man was in my top three -- he's just an all-round lovely human being. He's robustly content with his life; gentle; a joy to talk with; gracious and friendly. He'd definitely be my buddy as well as my mate. (What better combination is there, eh?) Well, he's still happily married to his buddy and mate -- I thought that'd be the case, since his character's so true. We caught up for ten minutes or so, and then he had to be off. It was pure delight to encounter him. It's unlikely that we'll meet again, and it's been a joy to know him a little.
But what a hoot! One of my ones who got away, one of my could-have-beens, one of my flames who flickered briefly but with deep resonance -- here he was, three days after I'd composed and tossed up my list to the Mysteries that may or may not arrange an encounter or two.
So ... C was on that list, and we've met up again. I really don't know what to do, even though my feeling of what to do is sure. I don't even know if I'm best to do it, or let it be -- oh boy, I'm ambivalent about any close engagement right now, even among people I love, and with my cats. I still feel, bodily, that whacked. Emotionally, I've got my whole heart to give -- I'm at a point where I know my heart's been broken ... broken ... broken right open. Where love with one as my beloved is concerned, I have nothing left to lose and everything good to give and receive, just from daring to cherish and be cherished.
So here I am, having stayed up all night with these thoughts, after speaking with him on the phone about nine hours ago. Feeling in my heart the urge that means This one is sweet-souled, no matter what else -- I sensed that in my husband -- and it might be time to take a next step.
I don't know what the next step is ... or perhaps the next step's already been taken -- I just passed nine hours in making a step by composing this post ... musing, pondering, wondering ... not sure of anything except that I'm writing my way through some questions, that the sun is quickly rising, and there's a man in this world I share a tender, tenacious, somewhat enigmatic allurement with ... an attraction from the heart.