DELIVER WITH CARE. THIS SIDE UP.
Dear Mr./Fr. Hanh,
Has it occurred to you?
I may have sat a bit on a made bed, a red bed surrounded by fluffy dogs. And pillows. I may close my eyes, dream a while, tune my partial ears to the serenade of a Groban. I would, and I have, let go of that encumbered breath, saying “calm. Sure as something like the laundry sputtering to a stop 48 minutes later, I breathe in. I say, “Smile.” And with it, I do. As when I greet my enemies with a handshake and ask, “How do you do?”
In the impatient, shell-hinged tide of a day, most days, I’m so easily rattled by the insecure. I could be speaking of myself, but that would be too obvious. No, these are those I meet, who say after five short minutes, “I love you.” Indeed, you do. That is what I tell them. And then, they ask for this, this devotion, this utter devotion. Because, they have it in their minds I am the perfect someone that never did come along before. Sheer eyes, some hair, an ear perhaps, or two. And voices! Opinions! That all coalesce into a Jeffrey. Fair name. Fair enough, anyway. I must love him. They think this, and they tell me they have given up the drink-binge clubbing that constituted their formative gay years.
Oh what difference? Does it make? I ask you.
They seem to beg for support. An ear. I lend it.
And lend. And lend. And the lease extends indifferently. Too gracious a landlord, owner, loan specialist. Too forgiving? Never. So I give them another ear, if I can find one.
But never in it, never in the act of doing according to need, is there a love. Oh I suppose. There might be one. Some kind of it, some sort of deep affiliation and honorary membership. But mostly, it floats by on obligations. I need to be generous, kind, open, trusting. Ah yes, to heal. Be mindful, you told me on page 65 and then again on 94. 98. 103. 105. It’s a theme.
You tell me, though: how loving in love unintentional, mindful, practiced like the swing of a baseball bat at practice you hated, despised, loathed, avoided, did because father and mother said “yes, you will,” and you did? Love of that sort is as empty as the air, as empty as choux buns before filling. Who would eat them? No one. But these boys, these men, these persons have all but nothing-so-nothing that they would eat air and be full from it. So they eat my choux buns instead. And I never knew once how to make them. So what do I give? But frothy imagination, the outline of dough, the promise of what will one day descend from the oven with warmth.
The short of it, there’s no love here. What do you do?
I have some saying to me: do away with it. It’s not genuine!
Aye, that it’s not. But well-meant? And intention is something? Something, like a paperclip is something when you need the effects of a staple. I am so intentional, so mindful, the emotion is as absent as a soul from a stone. Talk to it, it will live. Haven’t you thought I would try? It’s a good seat; little more.
It comes to this, then. Do I give up the big brother routine? I’ll sit at my bed a bit longer. It’s eased the great aches in my shoulder—for which I am eternally grateful. It’d make out a check to you or to Buddha, but don’t know the zip codes. Much else seems empty unless it is full. And by my account, that happens as suddenly as cookies burn. A tottering moment, a brief instant between beautifully done, tender and moist. And crisp as a coal, burnt under bastions of steak. That call is His, or Hers, or Theirs altogether. So I suppose I continue with mindful? At least I can say, at the least, that I’m genuine when I am and not when I’m swinging the bat.
Though, the pastor said something of doubting Theresa this morning. It made me wonder if doubt is a drive, after 5th, and certainly over. Fifty years? In the hellish of holes? Satan’s backyard, it would seem? God’s abandoned junk yard? She died in it. Of it. Perhaps doubt is an addiction. You learn to believe in the doubt. Feed it.
Are alcoholics so different from saints?