Friday, June 27, 2014
He patiently explains that love is a big word and then calls her, drunk, to blurt out he is falling for her. She wonders if this slurred declaration could be a sign of anything lasting. Can the trajectory of a fall be corrected? Isn’t it by definition something that cannot be remedied?
The next morning he calls again to clarify that “falling for someone” and “falling in love” are two very different things, and that he meant the first and not the second. So you can, she thought. You can protect yourself from gravity.
He did say he loved her a few days later, but that he didn’t need her. This defies every love song she’s ever heard. So she takes in a full breath, then another, when he isn’t anywhere nearby. She confirms it’s indeed possible. She can love well and not need him like she needs air.
She asks if he will always love her, and he shakes his head; then points out there would be no way for him to accurately predict that. That is when she truly grasps the value of living in the present. He loves me now, she thinks. And now is all we have anyway. So I have all I need.
The first time she visits his place she sees he comes with stuff. An antique chest, accouterment suited for a chef, leather jackets, raven paintings and haiku books. It’s the narwhal whale sculpture that makes the question irresistible.
“Who are you? And, how are you single?”
"I was waiting for you.”
She nods. It will take her some time to articulate her predicament: she believes him. In particular the very things she knows aren't true.
She notices how messy he is, the coffee stains on the kitchen counter, how his dirty clothes pile up high and spill out of the hamper. He doesn’t put things away or make the bed. He stacks mail everywhere.
This will work, she tells herself, as long as you don’t move in. You are too different. You can’t tolerate clutter; you give away a book after you read it. He owns bookcases.
This isn’t working, he says late one night. We barely have time to see each other. We really need to move in together.
At the end of each day he comes home to their apartment and demands room, even before he can say hello. She realizes that needing space for himself is not a form of rejection but an imperative that has nothing to do with her. It’s through living with him that she learns not to take things personally, that what people do is more related to what they are already carrying than to anything she could incite. This is how he sets her free.
One day, they are strolling through their neighborhood. She notices the wooden posts on every corner, covered in staples. “Who walks around driving staples into posts?”
He stares at her incredulously. “People post signs” he explains. “Signs are removed. Staples remain.”
“Oh.” She pauses. "I wonder how many other things that are obvious to the rest of the world are not obvious to me.”
“Many” he replies. “But a lot of things that are obvious to you aren't to the rest of the world.”
He leaves his motorcycle helmet on the chair, pairs of black boots near the door and under the sofa. He points at used cups and requests they not be put in the dishwasher, since he is likely to need them later. She, once labeled obsessively neat, realizes that evidence of him is more significant than living in a sterile apartment.
Saturday morning. They are sitting on the sofa. He's contemplating breakfast. She’s contemplating life.
“ Are you hungry?” he says. “What would you like?”
“Sometimes” she says “I feel like nothing is in its place.”
“Have you considered that maybe everything is in its place?”
She looks at him.
“OK.” He strides towards the kitchen. “I'll scramble some eggs.”
He is nocturnal and comes to bed late, then dozes off quickly, snores loudly and throws his leg over her stomach, his arm over her neck. She tells him he’s hard to sleep with. He offers to use the couch downstairs. She decides that getting a good night of rest is not the most critical thing.
She accompanies him to the radiologist. He needs an ultrasound of his leg. While looking at the screen she sees that the insides of his veins and arteries have a topography, similar to Earth seen from above. He carries within him the pattern of planets.