ie. what happens after the ‘happily ever after’
The rain is falling for the second time this week, the air just beginning to feel like February, thick with fog and wet enough to carry the whistles of the trains up here into the hills. This morning, out in my pyjamas and a raincoat with the dog, I thought about the evening my new man and I spent last night. How easy it is to be around each other, how lovely.
There was the conversation that neither one of us knows how to have. The one that floats in theoretical abstractions and ‘I feel’ statements that never seem to find their way to the ground. It is a conversation that boils down to: I care; I’m freaked out because I care; I’m happy; I’m scared of being hurt. It’s one of those moments in a new relationship where you acknowledge your connection– a tightrope you’re not yet sure how to walk.
Earlier on the couch I’d told him that I was happy and content, that whatever was going on with our connection was something new and special, that I didn’t have any of the insecurities and jealousy and fears I’ve had in all my other relationships. When I asked him how he felt, he said that our connection was unlike anything he’d experienced. That he felt really good. It seemed hard for him to say; he’d changed the subject halfway through the first line before eventually returning to finish the thought.
When I’d first arrived, scooching up to sit on his kitchen counter while he fried garlic from his lauded freeze-dried Trader Joes cubes, he’d told me about an awkward phonecall with his landlord. I’d listened to the story–how the landlord had agreed to do a reference letter but had said no to compensating him for his Ikea improvements–watching as he looked at the racks he’d installed, then said, “So I guess I’ll be taking those with me.” Then he asked if I thought he’d get dinged for the holes in the walls.
In my head, I went over all the stuff I knew he was dealing with…
“Well,” I said, “to be honest, it seems like you’re getting caught up in things that won’t really matter in the long run. Once the big picture gets sorted,” I went on, my wine glass raised in one hand as we danced around each other and the splattering salmon, “once you have some security and know where you’ll be moving and when and for how much, things like this won’t be a big deal. You’ll be able to patch up those holes in a second.” And he’d looked at me and then the wall and said, “Yah, you’re right.”
Later, back on the couch, my head on his knee facing him, he’d said that intimacy was still so hard. That he felt actual recoil, though he didn’t tell me when. He told me he was worried about boundaries and attachment and being able to keep up his connections with friends, and even though my belly told me just to say, “thank you for sharing” and go back to resting my head on his chest, acknowledging that all of this is a process, a journey, and that we are ok in this moment, the rest of me dove right into worrying about those holes.
I told him a lot, and then I told him I trusted him. And then there it was, all of our insecurities and anxieties and unanswerables out on the table.
I think of that Buddhist teaching, “You must learn to sit with the questions themselves.”
He reached for me when I came out of the bathroom, after explaining how I’d need to jiggle the handle and I’d bent myself over the toilet bowl, attempting to stop the flow. When I turned back around, commenting on the night light, he was there looking at me with a face that beckoned me in, with arms that wrapped around. We hugged, squeezing each other so tight that I could feel the hollow of his sternum and the bone of his pelvis, and we looked at each other and, briefly, softly kissed.
The honest truth is that we do not know. And we never will. I’ve come to realize that the closest I’ll ever come to peace is found in the six inches between my heart and my belly. When I walk from that place, when I trust myself, my body is balanced and my feet are steady; I find the reassurance of rope.
He made a sound after that hug. It was after we released, after he’d asked if I wanted to hear him play guitar and we’d turned, me in front, him behind with his hands on my shoulders. It was like a sigh, a whoosh of air that seemed to say all at once we are good and we don’t know, and then his hands there on my shoulders, and mine on top of his, guiding us forward.
There’s a poem that sits on my desk, its pages folded accordion-style so all you can know is that first page. It reads, “The only true thing is”