He sits across from me in the river, exhales a sigh of relief as he puts his feet into the cool water. I back up a few rocks so that I may join him in the stream, but far enough that we are not breathing much of the same air. Love in the time of corona…
The water rushes at this spot, the current speeding up over a very small waterfall, turns into rapids over multiple rocks as it heads down to the big lake. Overhead, cyclists and strollers pass, but we forget about them. “You’re doing it again,” he says with a sly grin. “What?” I ask with feigned innocence, but I know. I get scared, I move further away. But the water is so loud that we can’t hear each other when I do this. Maybe 12 feet is unnecessary. It’s hard to know what’s right in these fearful times.
He says, “I see what’s happening here! This cat and mouse game we are playing. I come a foot closer, you move four feet back.” I laugh. I laugh a lot with him, often because we see life similarly and it’s funny, or he calls me on a behaviour I thought would go unnoticed. Sometimes I laugh to break the tension. The energy between us is unlike anything I’ve experienced since… since… I remember and then fear creeps in.
I was once in love with an intensely creative man who didn’t identify as spiritual. I once experienced energy so profound that my mind’s eye saw a wedding and a future in a flash, and in the next moment I was engaged to be married. There’s a movie trying to capture that experience on YouTube. I know it happened because I was there for all of it, including the slow crumbling of the beautiful thing we built. I don’t trust myself anymore. How do I learn to trust my own voice, my gut, my heart after a lifetime of being told that I am too sensitive, too trusting, too giving, too willing to jump in head first to be trusted.
So I ask questions. So many questions, trying to poke holes in his story. He answers them patiently, explaining with tenderness when I’ve hit a wall he’s not willing to let down yet. He senses my fear, looks me deep in the eyes and asks, “So are you gonna follow rules or are you gonna follow energy?” And I am undone. Everything he says is intentional, he means for it to land. “Your time with me is gonna be good for you,” he says, taking a drag off his joint. He is just looking for someone who can be in the present moment with him, he tells me with kindness in his eyes. I believe him and decide he will become part of my practice, Mr. Right Now.
Last night we talked on the phone as I settled into bed. “Can I ask you a question? Twice you’ve mentioned fear holding you back when it comes to me. What is that about?”
“Could you ask a bigger question at 11:45pm,” I tease, the laugh that follows invoking his face when I light him up. I feel warm inside. “That is the whole onion, buddy! You gotta peel it back a layer at a time!”
But I know the answers. I’m scared I’ll fuck it up again. I’ll choose wrong. I’ll get hurt. I will hurt my loved ones in the process. My mother will hate that I’ve chosen a Muslim man who owns no property. All the voices that Dr. X calls “The Saboteur” converge, causing me to doubt my own heart. I share some of this and he understands. He doesn’t pressure.
We’ve been talking for a couple of months now. On our first date he sat on my front walk for an hour on Eid, a holiday on which Muslims celebrate their gratitude for the patience and opportunity to fast for another year. Our last two dates have been in the river where we are often completely alone, save a lone cormorant. He’s taken an additional job in a hotel-turned-hospital for homeless Covid-positive patients, which adds a layer of complication to an already complicated dance. I look up the cormorant sighting after, because I believe animals appearing are spirit guides, my ancestors coming to deliver a message. The website I’ve chosen for the interpretation says, “People who see this bird should be open to playing with fire.”
I am a water sign and he is fire. He is fire when he lights up a joint. He is fire when he holds my gaze for minutes, seeing into my soul. He is singed and raw and exposes it to me. There is nothing I cannot say. Because of the time we are living through, I am not invested in an outcome for once. I have very few expectations. I have been practicing the “no” — being absolutely OK with someone not liking something about me and also me not settling because I think being with someone means I should just be OK with something that doesn’t sit right with me. I am not hiding. My fear, my stresses, my worries, they are all on the table. “I come as three,” I say. He nods, “It’s all a lot, isn’t it?”
He relishes in the stories of the children, admiring the way I parent with an open heart. He has dedicated his life to children and while he has no children of his own, he long ago decided to live open-heartedly, welcoming whatever comes his way. He owns the shame of his past, and that is where his hurt lies, I see it when he talks about it. But he’s done an incredible amount of work, practicing self-compassion and service to heal. He’s aware of the same things I am. I don’t have to teach him anything about how I see the world.
He says he fears nothing, that if there’s a burning building, he is rushing in. I tell him I’m afraid of that energy, but I’ve learned that if we take a breath or two when in fear, it can transform into excitement. And he IS EXCITING, passionate, creative, fully alive. But last night he admits to one fear, and his fears are around me, around making sure that I’m OK. Around tempering his desires around my fears. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt this close to someone I cannot touch.
I don’t know where this will go, but like the river knows how to move towards the big lake, my practice is now to allow it to flow, without adding obstacles, without damming it up. To let it rush loudly and powerfully and trust that it ends in the big love.