If I were a character in a novel, say by Kawabata, that evening we met twenty years ago, I would have placed my hand lightly on your shoulder, and I would have felt a heat, embers of a passion that would, in hours, leave me consumed by it.
I was a middle-aged, soon to be divorced man on his first date in thirty years, imagine a teenager knowing what not to do, but with no idea of what to do save chatter and periodically gaze at his shoes.
I was, as the evening progressed, bold enough to take your hand, and hoped that my fear and anxiety might be mistaken as romantic, or bold and daring, anything but the reality that was consuming me.
We’ve been together twenty years, and as I read Kawabata again, I recall those first moments, but in this revised edition it was your passion I felt in that first touch, a flame that consumes me to this day.
On this night he walks silently into her dream uninvited, but she is used to the incursions. On other nights it is she who sidles up to him in the depths of dreaming, each slipping away ahead of dawn. On rare nights each enters the dreams of the other, paths crossing at the synaptic border. On those nights she looks for him, he for her, each grows fearful the he or she will be trapped, alone, when dawn arrives and the body gently wakes, she or he wandering lost in a familiar alien reality.
As winter closes in around us, even here, the Great Blue Herons go about building a nest, inviting us to watch as they make a home of gathered branches and twigs, oblivious to the state of our world, of the pandemic gripping us.
We watch respectfully, knowing that in this darkest of seasons, we are about to witness our own little miracle and will soon bear witness to the simple joy of birth.
It is all well and good to believe that you will know it when you find it, that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.
You’ve been down that road before, and on several occasions were certain that you’d found it in her face, or hers, in her smile, or her laugh, or one of their soft touches and caresses.
You were wrong each time, a facsimile at best, an avatar if you wish, so you are determined to be prepared this time, for there must be a this time you are certain.
You have read all the best books, consulted on the internet, careful to sort the wheat from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings, and have practiced reading the tea leaves.
You dare not miss it so you maintain a high level of vigilance and a focus that is not easily interrupted, ready to spring, but know that it defies logic, that the mind is useless in its presence, and that it is the heart not the head that feels true love.
What I want, no, need actually, is to remember the smells of youth. The images I can recall, but they are aged pictures, run repeatedly through the Photoshop of memory, and cannot be trusted only desired.
The old, half ready to fall oak, in the Salt Lake City park had a faint pungency that lingered even as I departed my body as the acid kicked in, and drew me back from the abyss hours later,
and my then wife, cradling our first born in the hospital bed, the scent of innocence and sterility that neither of us dared recognize as a foretelling of our denouement.
Those moments are lost in the sea of time, washed away from memory’s shore, but the smell of a summer oak still promises a gentle return to self.