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.
It is an ungainly beast and its cry, as much a bleat as a roar, can pierce the air and is never easily ignored. There are far larger to be found, and far more beautiful. Some have voices that melt anger incite passion, alleviate pain. Some sing in a register so low touch and hearing are merged. Even this beast has its smaller kin, gentler, if not ever soothing, happy to fill a room, not a universe. But the great beast has always known its place, held in the arms of and cradled informal procession, carried forward into battle by the so-called Ladies from Hell.
The Good news about rom-coms is that Hollywood (and occasionally Paris, Lisbon and Madrid, but never Berlin) crank them out endlessly, and each contains that grain or two of truth, like salt rubbed in the wound of a failed first marriage, and the balm of the discovery of true and abiding love. The small pail of rom-com truths is easily carried, sometimes off a too strong wind, but it is never enough to build a dune to hold back the waves of emotion that attend the most fragile and passionate of all human relationships. Yet we sit, smile, and watch hoping that this one’s grain is the one that tips the scale ever so slowly in our favor.
She moves with the fluidity that suggests she has been trained as a dancer, though she denies it, says that she has no interest in dance, barely tolerates music and then only because it sometimes is a requirement. She smiles, though it doesn’t seem at all natural to her, more another thing she does because she believes is quite often required. Hers is a life of requirements and she strives to be compliant, choosing to hide a seething passion deep within, for it terrifies her: this is what she was taught by her mother, how she survived four older brothers, a father who feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle and quickly erased it,, the devil deal with consequences, the pain on her mother’s face, she often too slow to duck. She knows the day is coming when he will be repaid by her, and she hopes no one she loves is near Ground Zero.
The young man says, “I cannot comprehend how karma can be balanced.” The woman laughs, says, “you remember but I was once a stripper, that I took off my clothes, and being naked in the presence of men was nothing, since to them I wasn’t a person, just an object of momentary desire, but that life is behind me, as you know. But as a healer, my therapies take me to the strangest places, like the swingers’ club which hired me to do massages, and there I was the only one dressed, they were naked and I am certain at that moment karma found almost perfect balance.” “Now,” he laughed, “I have two images I will carry in my head forever.”
The sun is preparing still another departure. He moves with a ponderousness that you wouldn’t expect of him, he who should be all passion consuming the sky, painting clouds. We expect his return by morning, he has never yet disappointed but Luna, lingering at the horizon, a diva making her slow entry, shines fully as if saying tonight you won’t miss him — the day may be short, but I will make the long night bright and mine is one you need not look away from.
She isn’t used to the cold, she never will be, and she hates it with the sort of passion she once reserved for people of a different political philosophy than hers. She grew up here, but she left. She has never regretted the departure. She visits only in late spring or in the heart of summer, or early autumn and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates more than the cold this winter. She wishes that the death could have occurred in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer. She is certain she will die in one of those seasons, or at least in the deep enough south that no one attending a funeral will have to freeze and curse the winter. She has no intention of dying anytime soon, for she has a great deal left to do and some of that clearly involves cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.
The room is awash in words, they pile up in corners, form untidy stacks that perpetually threaten collapse, strewing consonants like shards of ill broken glass. It might not be this way, for words need order, a rubric in which they are forced to operate. But here, in a room of poets, anarchy is the sole grammar, and in the face of order someone throws a Molotov cocktail as we are all consumed in the flame of self passion.
Today is my 15th wedding anniversary, and that merits a special posting to the person who has completed me in ways I never imagined possible.
The sheer inadequacy of words
is made painfully manifest today.
I grasp at words: love, passion, joy
and each still falls short of its intended mark.
There is a moment each morning,
each night as the lights go out,
and every moment in between
when I am love, hope and joy,
but separate me from you
and I am none of those things fully.
Fifteen years ago I said to all gathered
that I do, and ever since I say
to myself, I am so lucky that I did.