I sat across from him,
and over a pint of Rogue I squinted,
trying hard to see him the way my heart saw him.
But my heart was confused about what he was to me, and so even as I stared longer, trying to peer into his present & our future & what this “us” was supposed to look like, he was blurry.
He was a Monet up close.
He was so easy on far-sighted eyes. At a distance, he was easy to delineate. I could sketch a thousand sharp images of him alone; of us together; of us apart. He could be anything my heart desired on any given day. Just days before, he’d been wandering another hemisphere entirely and even then, at several thousand miles’ distance, he had been easier to pinpoint.
And yet here we were,
across a tiny wooden table that did not begin to account for
the real distance between us.
I was shaken out of my reverie and returned harshly to the time-space continuum as his voice trailed off abruptly with,
“…but if you tell me tonight that the door is closed,
I will trust your words.”
The ball was in my court with a vengeance.
I hesitated. How could a simple yes or no bear the full weight of my care, concern and curiosity for this often cofusing, deeply interesting, kind, compassionate, wild poet of a man?
My eyes averted, I glanced up once more to see if I could see him. He was still a blur.
Slowly, haltingly, the words came, each one ringing strangely on my own ears, seeming to come from someone much more methodical and impossibly resolute than I.
“I cannot tell you what to do with your heart,
but for me, the door is closed.”
Decisive. Resolved. Unwavering.
My words hung in the air between us a moment, with all the burgeoning purpose of one journey ending and another beginning.
“Thank you,” he said, pausing,
sighing deeply & then looking up to smile at me again.
I was undone by his seamless transition from lover to friend.
And suddenly I saw him – really saw him – in bright, sharp, technicolor relief.
Oh my dear, dear friend! So dedicated, so overwhelmingly passionate, always filled to the brim with poems & ideas & the faces of the people he’d chosen to love with reckless abandon. And I was one of those people, to my endless surprise and bewilderment.
I was still of use to him! Outside of my value as a potential spouse! He still needed me, and I found, immediately, that I also needed him. He had picked me – with all the inexplicable randomness of grace itself & I heard an ancient voice calling,
the voice of the beloved disciple & my sweet friend’s kindred spirit –
“Greater love has no man than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Stubborn as he very much was & is, my friend laid down his plans & hopes for me that night & in doing so, taught me the Gospel all over again.
And while for years I’ve been blaming men for attributing little value to me outside of my potential as a future spouse, I found that night that I’d been guilty of the same all along.
At first I could not see my friend for who he really was because I allowed him only two possibilities: that of a lover, & that of a “friend” whose number I don’t delete & politely chat with at church functions. I had accepted society’s all-too-popular premise that “men and women can’t be friends”, and in so doing, almost lost a gracious, lionhearted friend.
We drank our pints and we talked till we closed the pub down.
We shared creative ideas & told each other the highlight stories of our respective weeks and erupted every few minutes in wild, uproarious laughter.We were quite the pair, he and I – but not the kind you would assume. This was no kind of break-up – in fact, this was no end of any kind.
This was morning.
Freshly brewed coffee & a coral sunrise.
“Wake up,” my heart cried, “to the newness of love as you have not yet experienced it.”
I used to write carefully constructed, moralistic little stories with persuasive, prescriptive endings. I used to think I should tell people what to do. I used to think if I shook enough shoulders or yelled loudly enough, I could change the world. Oh youthful arrogance, am I right? I used to write equations for timely, effective sanctification and I used to live by them too.
Truth is, I don’t know how to be anyone’s good lover or friend or confidante or any hybrid of those things. I don’t know how to stop putting people into boxes. I don’t know how to turn off the cheery opportunist in my head and allow people to just be, wholly apart from what they can do or be for me.
But maybe let’s try.
Maybe let’s slowly walk away from the fatalistic acceptance of the status quo. STEP AWAY FROM YOUR TIDY BOXES, FRIENDS! I mean, uh, if you feel convicted to do that or whatever. 🙂
Maybe let’s challenge the way we look at each other.
Let’s talk out our romantic inclinations over late-night beers and maybe someday we’ll stop imagining future weddings with everybody we meet the minute we meet them. Let’s learn to love each other without agenda.
Let’s try something new.