Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

McKinley Avenue || Monday, 8.12pm

It's been about a week since I've returned to Phoenix from a whirlwind July, and I've made a decision:

I'm going to start being real with you folks.

You've heard me rave, rant, and generally freak out about all manner of things, here. It probably made you think I was just a wide open book, didn't it?

But in fact, I've been eminently silent about something, all this while.

If it makes you feel any better, I was concealing it from myself, as well as you. Thinking that it was my responsibility to remain discreet about it...that unlike every other factor in my life, it would benefit from being kept in the dark, often thought of and never expressed.

I guess I thought it was my duty. It's something, after all, that involves other folks rather intimately...folks whom it would be decidedly awkward to consult, before writing about them. But it's not really their side of the story I'm interested in presenting; that would be easier, because it would require them to talk to me again.

But what I'm on the precipice of doing here is presenting my own very one-sided take on...surely you've guessed it by now...

My looove life.

(I really so much hate that phrase...but if you say it in an Isaac Hayes voice, it's bearable.)

I've been determined that whatever this blog proves a document of, it shouldn't be a love story. Lately, though, I've been thinking, why not let it be?

What I truly didn't want was for it to be the kind of love story I knew...the kind where the intrepid sojourner gets bolted down by true love. I didn't want to give any ground to those folks whose best wishes consist of "I hope you find what you're looking for!" They have a point, at least in negative: most itinerant couples, if they continue into the sunset rather than ending at a picket fence, wind up in tragedy. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: bullet-riddled. Bonnie and Clyde: bullet-riddled. Thelma and Louise: over a cliff. And Dean wanders off into an alcoholic haze, while Sal alone lives to write about it.

But lately I've been thinking, what if this is a love story of a kind that nobody has a category for? That would certainly fit, wouldn't it? And if you factor in the lessening sense that my story is truly mine, there's every reason to think that precisely because I can't imagine how love could work out the way I'd wish it to, it really might stand a chance of doing so.

Here's what I mean:

This story I refer to as "my life" is a corollary plot--a thematic development, maybe--in a Selznick-sized epic. The more I try to take a hand in writing, directing, casting, even things like costuming and location scouting, the less able I am to fully immerse myself in my role.

I bucked against this for a long time, out of pride and fear and probably mostly pride again. But something's changed in the last few months. I'm pushing 32, I can't find my way back to the safety zone, and I'm just tired inside. Too tired to chessmaster my way through life. I'm tired of trying always to know exactly what to do. Too tired to keep trying so hard to construct my life a story that glorifies God. It feels a lot easier to just let it be his story, and let him be in charge of how it plays out. And though I never thought I'd admit it, it's actually a lot more interesting, not to mention relaxing and fun, to just to play the sides as they are handed to me. To respond to circumstances like they're steps in a dance I don't know...

To tone down the Hallmark-y tone of the last paragraph, let's confront the obvious: a misstep in the love life dance could get me pregnant. Or heartbroken. Or just feeling shitty and cheap.

Those are the fears that have kept me from releasing my tight controlling grip on this part of my life...kept me freaking out at every pitfall, thrilling irrationally at every hint of promise, and in between tying myself into oversexed knots with my Kierkegaardian inner monologue.

Recently, I found myself officially too tired for all that, too. So tired that it wasn't even hard to tap out. If it's so important that I hold out for something, I told God, then by all means hold me out. It's your story, not mine.

That was just over a month ago. And since then...

Well, a lady never tells.

That, in fact, is one misgiving that lingers. It seems unfair to reveal someone else's intimate exploits, in the name of honesty about mine.

But let's be real...these bastards never read my work, anyway.

The other misgiving was my fear of becoming yet another Single Chick Blogger, griping about how every man she fancies is a pig for not fancying her back.

But you know what's weird? The more I abandon control in this aspect of my life, the better men I seem to fall in with. I'm serious. I can't account for it, at all--that's just the empirical evidence I've collected. I don't know if there's some Law of Attraction thing happening here, or if it's just become easier to forgive the gentlemen for not being my brand of perfect. All I can say is that I'm not embarrassed of any of the men I've been/made out with, since letting go of my agenda and surrendering to the story.

Please note that I didn't say surrender, categorically. As in, this isn't me launching a mission to lose my cherry. I'm just tired of treating love as if that were all it is.

Okay, so that's the rationale.

Now for the part you've all been waiting for:

I had an assignation with a hospitality industry professional in Nashville.

A dude who looked as though he'd showed up twenty years too late for the Matchbox 20 audition. His rockstar hair and tribal earrings that made my inner California punker go all weak at the knees. He had warm, boy-next-door charisma, and eyes that betrayed an underlying eagerness to please, which he protected with a cocky humor that danced between charming and obnoxious, including an affected accent that he later admitted to be a spoof on Kevin Spacey's "House of Cards" character.

What happened wasn't really earth-shaking...just a makeout outside the Patterson House speakeasy, with an all-too-brief reprise in the hotel stairwell.

I spent the days that followed trying to sort out how it happened, and how I felt about it. I was elated, and then I was fidgety, and then I was sad. So sad. Not regretful of what I'd done…not in a way that I could understand, at all. It felt somewhere between the lugubrious ending of a flu virus, and the endorphin plunge after off a sugar high.

I couldn't sort it out at all.

And then Thomas Tallis came into the rotation on my playlist.

I'd been telling him (Nashville guy, I mean) about that time in New York last winter...I'd started out telling him about the motorcycle ride, but found myself instead explaining the situation in the Cloisters, the faces of old men and hard women and little children cast like church frescoes in attitudes of holy meditation, while the 40-Part Motet surged around them like violent winds, like the limbs of reckless lovers.

Listening to the motet again, on the hot drive on Interstate 10 through Texas hill country, I found myself feeling again what I'd felt when explaining it to him: the alluring, tentative insinuation of its first measures, experimentally finding their way along a safe central point on the scale, then how it reaches suddenly high, sliding back down almost guiltily, edging into a note surprisingly tender, suggestive of past pain long held in secret, but there coupled in a harmonic interval of notes lingering conjoined for a moment before veering away into separate solitary joys at the discovery that company might be found in that place. Which may be the catalyst for the unexpected burst of fury that comes at the turn, not two voices but twenty, or more, surging and seething against each other, severally insistent to throw themselves through this channel all at once, voices that have their own business and have been held back too long for temperance or courtesy. Until released they suddenly grow serene, and shy, let out into the light makes them bashful again, and eager to please, and so they assume an orderly submission, finding their own gentle paths, twining individually like a cat's prehensile tail, quick and halting like drops of rain coursing down a window, quicksilvering with thn incandescent force from neck to ribs to index fingertips, like sunwarmed mountain mist against ears and collarbone, stirring you with a marathoner's strength even as you fight to stand still, still, hold everything in loose balance so that it doesn't break apart like clouds after a draining rain. Airy shrieks barely noticeable among the dulcet interlocked notes lilts you up as if by ocean waves even as you sink down into the warm watery recesses where thought can for once be happily dispensed with. Safe down there, you feel the second surge break over you, rallying just when you thought it would peter out, in a chaos of strident bass and bitter treble and plaintive tenor and resigned alto and angelic, forgiving soprano that splinters you like a sail in a storm, while the throbbing harmonies grasp whatever hard places lie beneath your ribs and wrings them until you can't draw breath, leaving your outer parts threadbare and reducing your inner being to its liquid fiery essence, naked and gloatingly alive in despite of your cowering, admiring reason, and abruptly vanishing in the very midst of its full-throated glory, leaving you panting, drained, slowly releasing the white-knuckled grip on whatever kept you alive.

This is what I was trying to tell him, or rather what was behind what I was trying to tell him, and I believe he heard some of it, because his cocky little smile loosened into something uncertain and he murmured, maybe more to himself than me, "I'm kind of getting aroused right now."

And I said, "Well, yeah--you should be."

And I thought, "There's hope for him."

It's to hope I attribute what happened next. And what might happen from now on. I'm helpless in the hands of hope.