There are the ubiquitous first-date foibles, dinners out at fancy restaurants badly paired with terrible movies. Or there are coffee rendez-vous, the busy crowd of a Starbuck’s on 16th Street noisily upsetting a stuttered conversation. If we’re lucky, the coffee turns into a trip to the mall, and the dinner becomes a family and friend affair watching fireworks on the 4th of July. If we’re lucky.
In my mind—and in everyone’s—there is a natural progression to relationships. It begins slowly, or it should, and sets its pace gradually from once-a-week coffee talks to two- and three-times-a-week movie nights at home paired with simple dinners made with a little pomp and no reason for circumstance. I will admit unabashedly that the concept of casual dating is lost on me; I can’t understand the point of developing a bond if the bond is going to be ultimately severed. Even if someone feels the need for a self-confidence boost, seeking the romantic affection of another to get it, I would hope that their moral infrastructure would sound an alarm when intellect confers with emotion and the truth comes out: “I’ve always planned on dumping him.” Does the pain for the other guy matter at all?
But I’m getting off track. My point is: relationships have their own climate, their own bizarre and twisted journey. I can’t help but notice a common pattern, though: the good ones all move forward; the bad ones stagnate or fall apart. Why? Oh I could talk your ear off about sabotaged lovers; you could probably one-up me. But whatever the specific causes, if things aren’t moving in a forwardly direction, I would give the romantic pair a very short time before things fizzle out and die.
I’m compelled, of course, to speak from personal experience. It’s what I know, or think I know anyway. I dream of relationships that take a certain course, that unfold a certain way. I’m smart enough intellectually to know that mapping out a course is constricting and dangerous. Emotionally, however, I go ahead with it—a romantic, idealistic pathway that merges the best of both of us while leaving the dirty, dilapidated parts behind. Or, at least, gives them adequate repair. It’s cliché, I know, but I dream of moments of us alone in the mountains overlooking lush green valleys at sunset; I envision the childlike excitement of boarding a plane, bound for Europe and a month long vacation; I smile to think of homecomings, long hugs, deep and passionate kisses; and Christmastimes spent with ornate decorations and deeply sentimental gifts. These aren’t unique to me; I’ve heard them described in many ways before. And yet, I wonder sometimes if they can truly be real.
So I shake my head, return to the world, and remember that all these dreams are for naught if love isn’t intact. Of course, the dreams presume love is at the core of it all; that’s what makes them so fantastic! But it’s a fickle thing as well, I feel—or so has been my experience. It comes full force and then leaves you hanging on the edge of a cliff, watching the boy you love fall away into oblivion. Go ahead and mock the drama of it—you’ve acted out a similar scene yourself. And when it comes nearer again to taste, you dig deeper than you did before; your vulnerable side has built a wall of skepticism that greets the oncoming emotion. And there, somewhere, you find a problem. Well, shit. What now? And all of the dreaming falls away. Love has been tainted—again.
Am I suggesting that life produces only jaded lovers? Or that love is eventually thwarted, demonized, decapitated altogether? No. But I wonder how two vulnerable people can overcome the walls of defense, the redoubts of cynicism and anger. How do you brush away the patterns of the past and assume with a fully intentional, beating heart that this boy will be different?
I have my dreams, I have my hopes. Many of them are far-fetched and may never come to pass. I think I’m ok with that. Some, I believe, are meant to stay dreams. But there is one I would like to know someday, soon if at all possible. It is a measure of the attention I am given, a symbol of knowing I am wanted and loved and much as I want to love:
I never sleep in. My body has given it up for better things, like running and reading and writing convoluted journal entries like this one. Maybe there are better things to do, but I don’t think so. Ahhh wait, I take that back. There is one!
Saturday mornings, runs abandoned for extra cuddling. 10 o’clock and the sun peeks through the slats in the window like a curious little kid. Smiling, laughing, rubbing noses against chests and tickling so much the sheets fly off the bed. Tangled in a pretzel, not sure which end is up, and slowly roll off the pillow-decked mattress. He stays lying on the ground, reaching slowly for the remote to the TV. It powers on: power rangers saving the world. We giggle as we rub our eyes, tussle our hair, and grope around for consciousness. I walk to the kitchen and pull a pan from the depths of my cupboard. “French toast ok?” I mumble at him. He smiles at me. French toast it is. And as I reach for the bread, the eggs, and the milk, reminding myself in what order they go, I look back to my boy in front of the TV. He sits with his mouth wide open, eyes gazing intently at the cartoon world. He looks like a little kid. A kid. I smile to myself and turn back to the bread. It hits me then, in the nothing and everything of that Saturday morning: “Dammit all, we’re in love!”